OK, I admit it. When I was a kid, I was scared of the dark. Every night was a struggle for me to go to sleep. I did not want to turn out the lights in that big dark room all by myself. To my child-like mind, every shadow hid a monster . . . under every bed lay something fierce . . . inside my closet lived who knows what. I was scared, and so my parents devised a strategy to assure me of my safety.
First of all, they allowed me to go to sleep at night with my lamp on. This night light would remove the shadows and provide me with assurance of my safety. Second, if I really got scared, I was allowed to come sleep in their room from time to time. I have heard my parents tell stories of how I would jump over the side of my crib and then run down the hall to their room. They often recall knowing I was coming because they could hear my Pampers swishing back and forth down the hallway! With this two-fold strategy, I made it through my early years and now actually prefer to sleep in the dark, not needing their reminders of my safety. Truth be told, I was never in any danger sleeping in the dark when I was a kid. My parents were always there to protect me, even if I could not see them, or they were in the other room. My safety was never in doubt, but my parents were kind enough to give me these two reminders of their presence to help me sleep at night.
As I look on the pages of the book of Genesis, I see a story that reminds me of a frightened kid, who is scared of the darkness of the unknown. In Genesis 28, we get the story of Jacob, who recently had left his homeland, and was heading to his uncle’s house to find a wife. Now if we do not examine this story very thoroughly, we would assume that this trip was one of adolescent joy, one crazy kid finally out from under his parent’s scrutiny, enjoying the freedom of the open road. In reality, I don’t think this was the case with Jacob at all. I think Jacob was scared to death of the darkness he saw before him.
First of all, Jacob was not a man of the open road . . . he was a man of the house. This “mama’s boy” is never pictured outside of his house in the previous verses of Genesis, and is usually pictured with his mom and doing domestic tasks. Suddenly, in Genesis 28, he is outside the tent, away from his mom and dad, and sleeping with his head on a rock. This is hardly a picture of comfort for a “city boy.” Second, Jacob did not leave his house because he was looking to go make a name for himself in the world. He was leaving his house because his brother wanted to kill him (Genesis 27:41)! I think that when we come to Genesis 28, we see the man Jacob on the run, scared of the unknown that lay before him and running away from the threats that lay behind him. Behind every boulder, he heard his brother lying in wait . . . in every hole lay a poisonous snake waiting to bite . . . under every bush crouched a hungry wolf waiting to devour. Jacob was scared of the darkness he felt around him.
Given this scared state that Jacob found himself in, what does Jacob’s Heavenly Father do to reassure him of his safety? That is the story of Genesis 28. Listen to what the Heavenly Father does for Jacob in Genesis 28:12-15. “He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and He said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”
There at that place, in that dream, the Heavenly Father gave Jacob a couple of things to remind him of his safety. First, He “turned on the light” through a vision to show Jacob that God was not absent from the situation. The stairway that stretched from heaven to earth was a reminder to Jacob that no matter where Jacob went on the earth, that God was involved in the events that went on there. There was no place on the earth that Jacob could go that was beyond the sovereign protection of our God. The vision of the staircase was to remind Jacob of that. God was involved and His angels would be able to protect Jacob in any instance. Second, the Heavenly Father spoke to Jacob and issued him a promise that he would be the child of promise carrying on the covenant that God had established earlier with Abraham and Isaac. In this instance, God was reminding Jacob that though he saw darkness and uncertainty, his safety was never in doubt. The Heavenly Father was kind enough to give Jacob these reminders so that he could rest in the plan of God for His life.
How about us? Do you ever look at your life and see a myriad of darkness and uncertainty? Do you ever see your future as a set of dark question marks? Do you look around your life right now and wonder where your close friends will come from? Do you ever feel alone and isolated from others . . . isolated from God? Do you wish that God would just turn on the light until you could get some rest?
If that is the case for you, take Genesis 28 to heart. God came to Jacob and reminded him of His presence in this world wherever Jacob would go. Jacob got the message. He named that spot Bethel, which means “house of God.” Did you realize that though we may not see a staircase with angels ascending and descending, God has given us several promises which paint for us the same picture that the Jacob’s ladder did for him? Look at these promises which apply to us.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there, if I make my bed in the depths You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is a light to You.” Psalms 139:7-12
“[Jesus said] And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
“[God speaking] Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
May these verses shine like night lights for your soul. Regardless of how we feel, we are not alone in the world. Our Heavenly Father is kind to us, and we will always live securely in the comforting grip of His hand.
Christmas is a time when we remember that God came near. In a sense, Jesus birth is like “Jacob’s Ladder” a reminder that God is close and not far; that we are safe and not alone. Be encouraged at the night light that God has left on for us in Bethlehem.