Weekly Devotion for July 24, 2023
By Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 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. 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. 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; 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. 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." Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place--and I did not know it!" 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." So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first (Genesis 28:10-19a).
This week’s lectionary text is based on Genesis 28:10-19, which depicts a dream Jacob had of a ladder stretching to Heaven. Jacob had just tricked his father, Israel, into giving him his twin brother, Esau’s, blessing and inheritance. Jacob fled from Esau’s wrath. Traveling to Haran, Jacob came to a “certain place” and laid down to rest for the evening. He dreamt of a marvelous ladder that was a connecting point from earth to heaven. Jacob witnessed angels traveling up and down the ladder, moving freely between heaven and earth. He then saw the Lord, Who 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 your offspring.” The Lord assured Jacob that God would be with him wherever he went, and that God would lead him back to this place, where he was resting. Jacob awakened and declared that this place was both awesome and the gate of heaven. He renamed the land, “Bethel” meaning, “the house of God.”
This is a story often told in Sunday school, and has lent itself to a fun song about climbing Jacob’s ladder – higher and higher – and rising to shine for the Lord. Sadly, for many, this is a story that is left to childhood faith, with implications rarely explored in adulthood.
Yet, the story speaks to the significance of faith in every time of life. It reveals our human condition of running away or avoiding the consequences of choices. God boldly enters in and speaks in a powerful image of a ladder – joining this earthly world to that of heaven. We enter God’s abundant promise of God walking with us through separation, selfishness, and pride. God continues to offer a path towards reconciliation, forgiveness, and new life – the path to heaven lived on earth. Praise the Lord!
Prayer: Show me Your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God and my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long (Psalm 25:4-5). Amen.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).