The Dream of Jacob

Do you dream? I guess the more accurate question would be, “Do you remember your dreams?”  Those who know tell us that we all dream, but do not always remember them.

  • If you do have dreams, how much weight do you give them? Do you wake up and have trouble getting back to sleep? Do you adjust your schedule or make decisions based on what you dreamed?

I.   Dreams in the Bible: The Bible references the dreams of some. In fact, God in the times past of imperfect revelation, spoke through dreams. In the Old Testament, two special cycles of dreams, with exact interpretation, occur:

  • Joseph (Gen 37:5-10), or his officers in Egypt and  Daniel (Dan 2:14-45), and the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  The dreams in each case pertained to events of the future. As God’s special servants, Joseph and Daniel were given the gift of interpretation.  Dreams, as a form of revelation, were associated with the prophets. In Deut. 13:1-5 Moses warned against the false prophet or dreamer of dreams, who would interpret his dreams as a revelation from God and lead the people into idolatry.

A.   God even revealed information through dreams in the N.T. , (i.e. Joseph, the husband of Mary was told in a dream to flee to Egypt to protect the infant Jesus; Matt 2:13-14) Joel prophesied about the time of the Messiah when pouring out of God’s Spirit would cause sons and daughters to prophecy, and old men to dream dreams (Joel 2:28). This pointed to the revelation of the gospel through the work of the apostles during the period of the N.T. (Acts 2).  God no longer speaks to people in that manner.   Hebrews 1:1-2 –  God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,  has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

B.   That being understood, we will not attempt to interpret any of your dreams today.  But there were those in Bible history whose lives were changed by some very unique dreams and their subsequent interpretation.  Consider the dream of Jacob in Gen. 28.


II. Jacob Grasps: Jacob was seemingly a rascal from birth. Born as a twin, he came into the world grabbing the heel of his brother, Esau, and thus was named Jacob, literally meaning “one who grasps the heel, or metaphorically, “a supplanter or deceiver”. In his adult life, Jacob made a career of reaching out to grasp the rights and possessions of others – his brother Esau’s birthright (25:29-34), his father Isaac’s blessing (27:1ff), and his father-in-law, Laban’s flocks and herds (30:25-43; 31:1)

A.  In today’s language we might describe Jacob as a take charge kind of man. When he wanted something he did what he needed to do to get it. He learned to manipulate others to his advantage.


III.   Jacob Dreams: After stealing the blessing of Jacob that was intended for his brother, Esau, Jacob was forced to flee for his life. As he left for his uncle Laban’s house, he stopped for the night at Bethel. There he had the dream.  Read Genesis 28:10-22

A. The ladder of God: The language is careful here.

  • This is not man’s ladder, it is set up on earth (comes from somewhere else)
  • and the angels are not descending and ascending, but ascending and descending. The angels are traveling from earth to heaven.
  • the Lord stood above it – God is at the top looking down. It would seem obvious that He is overseeing the angels as they make the journey back and forth. 

B.    This image, leads naturally to verbal promise of God to Jacob:  Gen 28:13-15“I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” There are several applications that flow from this dream, but consider just a few that are suggested:

1.  Some suggest that God wanted Jacob to know that he could not escape the presence of God. Although he was leaving home and fleeing the wrath of his brother, he could not travel beyond the presence of God.

2.  The ladder was a type of the coming Christ as the true mediator between God and men. Even though Jacob was being separated from his family and land, God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations was still in view.

a.  In John 1 when Nathaniel made his bold confession that Jesus was truly the Son of God and King of Israel, Jesus said “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:50-51)

b.  Burton Coffman wrote: “The ladder is therefore a perfect representation of Christ in that in him God came down to men, and in him men themselves may go up to God and be in heaven with him forever. Christ is the only avenue of communication between God and men (1 Tim 2:5), just as this ladder in the dream was the only way to God’s presence. To miss this significance of the ladder is to lose the most important thing in the chapter.”

3.  The image of the dream pointed to the continuous care and concern of the God of heaven toward the activity of earth. His angels, though hidden from normal view, were constantly ministering on the earth.  He, not Jacob, is the true architect of what has happened and will happen yet.  This seems to be a significant element of the dream’s intent to Jacob persionally.

a.  The God of his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac, was there with him in that desolate place. Jehovah was still in charge, and his ministers were going to be with Jacob wherever he journeyed. He would fulfill all that he had promised!  (Genesis 28:1515 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” )


III.  Jacob Wakes Up: Jacob was awakened from the dream, but he was also awakened to an awareness of the presence of God.  His response to the revelation of his dream reflects his new awareness.

A.  vs. 16 – “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” Jacob had a real awareness of the presence of God. What emotion flows from such an awareness?  Notice vs. 17 – “He was afraid”. This is scene is repeated often I scripture.  The one who is given the opportunity to view or even sense the presence of God Almighty is brought to their knees in fear.  It is not a casual thing to be aware of God and His power.

  • The people of Israel at Sinai – Ex 20:19 – but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
  • Isaiah in chapter 6:5 – Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”
  • Peter at the witness of Jesus miracle in Luke 5:8 – Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
  • John at the vision of the Lord in Rev. 1:17 – “when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead”

1.  First, recognize that there is no excuse for people to not know that God is alive and active.  God’s presence and activity can be clearly seen in the material universe around us. Can we fail to marvel at the complexity of life itself? Doesn’t such design demand the presence and upkeep of a designer? Rom 1:19-22because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (NKJ)

2.  How did Jacob come to know that God was in that place? It wasn’t because it looked like a religious place.  There were no religious looking people around, no shrines, or altars. There wasn’t even a soft place to lay his head. He might have thought that he had left God behind.

a.  Jacob knew that God was there because He had spoken. His word was evidence of His presence. Vs. 13 – “I am the God of Abraham and Isaac.” God reaffirmed His love & care for Jacob, and promised to be with him wherever he went. Do you think that this information changed his perspective on what was ahead, and what his life was all about?  When he woke up he was still in the same physical place, but it had a whole new meaning. Because he had heard God speak in this place it was the “house of God” and the “gate of heaven”.

IV.  Jacob Worships – (v.18-19) The place where Jacob spent the night becomes a place consecrated to God in the morning. He takes the stone on which he had laid his head and pours oil on it in an act of consecration.  He renames the place Bethel – the house of God. (Previously Luz – perverse) God’s words of promise and assurance move Jacob to worship God. Worship is the natural response of a thankful and faithful heart.

V.  Jacob Vows – (v. 20-22) Jacob’s dream and the words of God also move Jacob to make a personal commitment to God and His purposes.  If God was willing to commit to Jacob, even in this difficult time, then Jacob would commit himself to God.

A.  vs 20 – “if God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going” – Although the English translation may suggest that Jacob was exhibiting a doubtful attitude and a conditional approach to serving God in the future, the word “if” is probably best understood as “since”. Jacob’s vow was based on his confidence that God would fulfill His promises.  The setting up the stone as a pillar was also in anticipation that he would return there again and worship God with sacrifices.  Later he did just that (Gen 35)

B. vs. 21 – “Then the Lord shall be my God.” – Jacob was willing to accept all the implications of that fact.  The dream changed everything.

Conclusion: God’s word has that awakening power. Have you ever been awakened and changed by hearing and understanding God’s word? Suddenly you realize this is what it is all about – there is something spiritual here.  Consider the spiritual awakening of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Luke 24:27-34 – And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

  • What does God need to do to awaken you to His presence?  To His concern & love?  Would the vision of a ladder and angels do it?  After Jesus miraculously made Himself known to him, Nathaniel said, “You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel”. Jesus told him he would see greater evidence than he had seen.  John 1:50-51 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (NKJ) Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth.  God is in this place through the work of Jesus. He is the connection between heaven & earth. Do you do see Jesus in the Word of God?  Just like the ladder of Jacob’s dream, Jesus changes everything. His act of atonement opened up a connection between heaven and earth. It was God’s greatest act of mercy and love.  Are you moved to worship Him?  Will you vow to serve Him today?



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