And now for some good news...
Week 3, Day 5
Genesis 28. 10-17
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that 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 promised you.’
16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17 And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
Jacob has conspired with his mother to deceive his father and betray his brother. When Esau breathes murder Rebekah steps in again. She arranges for Jacob to go home—to her country and to her brother, Laban.
Rebekah tells Isaac that she is weary to death of these Hittite women who live in the land. Esau has married two of them, remember; the first because he wanted her and the second because he really wanted to get under his mother’s skin. “If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women”, she tells her husband, “what good will my life be to me?” (Genesis 27:46)
Isaac send Jacob off to his mother’s family to find a good cousin to marry. He will eventually end up with two cousins, and two servant girls, as wives; but that’s another story.
There is a deep irony that results from Rebekah’s conniving. Jacob runs to save his life. He will be gone for at least 14 years. Rebekah will die before he can return. He has gained a blessing, but she has lost her son; and Jacob has lost his mother. I wonder if she would have taken this course had she known the full outcome?
Jacob flees, heading north out of Beer-sheba toward Haran. He runs as far as the remaining daylight will allow. The sun sets, he lies down, with only a rock for a pillow.
He is utterly alone. He has disrupted or destroyed his most important relationships. One hopes he is feeling some responsibility for his plight—though with Jacob, you can’t really tell. Responsibility was never his strong suit.
He sleeps. He dreams. On a stairway to heaven he sees the angels—the messengers of God, ascend and descend.
God has not abandoned the world. That’s what the dream means, obviously. The link between heaven and earth is wide and permanent. That is good news.
Perhaps, in this low state he was in, Jacob wondered whether this was good news for him, as well.
In his dream he looks to the side when he hears the voice of God: “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham and Isaac”, God says. And then come the promises; the same promises already made to his father and grandfather—a homeland, children “like the dust of the ground”. And most importantly right then, the promise that he will never be left alone: “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you”.
"First there is the fall, then there is the recovery from the fall,” Julian of Norwich said. “But both are the mercy of God”.
Jacob has fallen—hard. That fall, Julian suggests, was God’s mercy in action.
Jacob has hit some kind of bottom. That bottom—that lowest low point, Julian says, is the place of God’s mercy.
Jacob is lost—has lost everything. That “lostness” is God’s mercy felt.
The bottom, the end, the darkness, the lostness—all these are gifts of God. Each is the manifestation of Divine mercy. Each is the place we find Divine mercy.
“I will not leave you”.
Hear the good news.
Prayer: Lord teach us to trust your mercy when we stand, as we fall and wherever we land. Teach us to see your mercy in our mistakes and your strength in our weakness. Amen.