And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And, behold, the LORD stood beside him, and said: ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. – Gen 28:12-13
Vayetzei וַיֵּצֵא — Hebrew for “and he left,” the first word in the parasha: Genesis 28:10-32:3 & Hosea 12:13-14:10.
As we read the first few lines of this Parasha we find Jacob the hero of our story on the run for his life. Why? Because, he and his mother conned and cheated his big, mean, physically stronger, albeit not-so-intelligent, older brother out of his birthright and blessing as a first born. Yes, this is the hero of our story. Yet the difference between the two brothers, besides their athleticism, is that Jacob has a heart after God even if in his younger days he was a little bit of a swindler. As he is fleeing for his life he spends the night sleeping under the stars and has a life-changing encounter with God. Jacob sees in the dream angels going up and coming down a ladder from heaven. As the dream continues God speaks to him and says:
And, behold, the LORD stood beside him, and said: “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” – Gen. 28:13-15
This powerful word of promise that has flowed down from the blessings and life of Abraham and Isaac, and will now rest on the newest generation Jacob. Jacob walks away from this encounter with a deep sense of who God is and in the next few chapters he gives God the credit for his ongoing blessings and prosperity. In fact, after about 20 years of service to his father-in-law Jacob speaks to him and says:
“These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” – Gen 31:41-42
Just like Jacob our blessing, life and salvation comes from The Lord Most-High. Often we can trust in the strength of our youth, our education, the size of our bank account, or even in our own cleverness, but in the end it is only God that causes the works of our hands to prosper and succeed.
Israel, as always, is the apple of God’s eye and ever before Him. Israel is blessed because of the faithfulness of God and not because of any cleverness of her own accord. Just like Jacob, who tried by wit to create his own prosperity, but later looks backs and says, “had not God been on my side.” Israel needs to look back and say the same and acknowledge that God has blessed them and caused them to prosper. They shall be like it says in the Prophet Hosea:
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit. – Hosea 14:7-8
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Header image: Dreamer by Peter May