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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

What did Jacob’s Ladder look like?

I have always been fascinated with the story of Jacob’s magnificent dream of the “ladder” connecting heaven with earth. Honestly, I have read that story more than a dozen times and feasted on it all week long each year. The thought of a pathway up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending, is enough to imagine – but I am convinced that the vision Jacob saw could not be communicated with mere words. For years I tried to draw it. I am a mediocre artist on my best day, but what I truly desired was to SEE what he saw. What – to the human mind – could be reduced down to what he could even compare it to on earth? No one has ever seen the face of God and lived, so it had to be SO tall! Some draw it as a staircase, but that seems ludicrous, how steep would they have to be to reach heaven – an insane thought! This dream was so powerful that it caused Jacob, the deceiving scoundrel, to suddenly decide he’d give this God of His forefathers a try after all! You see, this is what Jacob called the “gate of heaven” and I doubt the entire vision simply looked like a good ole’ barn ladder or even a rope ladder. So, since this vision moved Jacob enough to commit to follow God AFTER suddenly abandoning his family and inheritance, I longed to know what changed in Jacob. This vision began changing him – it was a ‘holy moment’ that opened his understanding. We all need those God encounters. So, I started hunting for what Jacob’s ladder looked like. Years later, my answer came in the most unnerving personal encounter. I had been lying in bed next to my husband trying to get to sleep after an ugly fight. My adult son was nearing Bar Mitzah training, and I had found some justifiable reason at the time to pitch a fit at my husband. Even now, I know how quickly a bad attitude and exhaustion can let in just one fiendish thought, and left unchecked by the “fear of God,” I can ruin an evening by making my husband miserable. Worse yet, we both lose sleep – and peace and productivity, and so on. Back on that day, I made a foolish choice to pick a fight. We argued for over two hours and I finally agreed to “do it his way,’ but WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WAS A KISS FROM GOD. As I lay in bed, fuming over nothing, feeling convicted that my behavior was deplorable, I started to really feel ashamed of myself. I knew that “going to bed angry” was not okay. So, as Mark slept next to me, I cried out to God in a desperate whisper saying, “just help me stop thinking about this – give me something else to think about!” I heard a voice inside me, with a different tone and no explanation say, “the ladder is a DNA strand.” Now, God? I am a brat and NOW you answer me about the splinter in my brain? God knew exactly how to REACH me.

 I was instantly transformed, my self-hatred gone, and I jumped up to get my hands on my Bible. I spent the next several hours gloriously studying the story again, now at His request. I mused that after over a decade of studying it, maybe the “Jacob’s ladder” could have been a foreshadow of DNA after all. I have no way of proving this, save for three common ideas. First off, since when can we describe a supernatural event with human vocabulary? How many naturally occurring ladders – or staircases – are so magnificent as to make them worthy of being the star attraction in the supernatural presence of God Himself and His heavenly hosts? Secondly, I do think it is fascinating that in this dream Jacob was promised “seed” and instead of one son, or two, God gave Him 12 sons. His “seed was blessed” and maybe God did somehow renew Jacob’s DNA that day. I know God’s grace is strong enough to bypass genetics. I have seen those kinds of miracles of grace personally. Thirdly, does genetics factor into the “gate to heaven?” As I studied that overnight I realized that Jacob had used genetic engineering to trick Laban out of his best sheep over 14 years later! And, by the end of twenty years, with eleven children of his own by four women, I am sure Jacob knew a lot more about genetic engineering than most of us can figure out through our own limited experience. The interesting thing for me is the possibility of the timing of this epiphany in Jacob’s long journey back to God 20 years later. Jacob did not have a microscope, nor a biochemistry degree, but life experience over time showed him the difference between what you think you are born with, verses how disciplined behavior modification can strengthen your character.

For me, I know that nature verses nurture is still an age old argument. Jacob started as a “deceiver,” and became the patriarch of the chosen people, fathering the line of both kings, and priests, and even Messiah Himself. God changed who he was through the trials AND somehow physically inside – maybe even his actual DNA. I like to think God can bring shalom to any human life that cries out to Him for a new beginning. True shalom is the “destruction of chaos” which can set us on the road to a peace-filled restoration of our minds, our health, our family relationships, our provision, our circumstance and our fruitfulness.

I will conclude by saying that, when we accept Messiah, we receive “sonship” not by works, but by grace alone. We become heirs of the promises of Abraham’s seed – we somehow receive a spiritual DNA straight from the Father in Heaven. We are His, and He can change us in an instant, right down to the cellular level. •

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