a. The earthly setting. We begin with Jacob leaving his family behind in Beersheba on the southern border of Canaan. The goal of his journey is Haran, where the descendants of Abraham’s brother still live. Jacob is traveling to a place he has never been and to family he probably has never met. There is no indication that he was traveling with anyone else. There is no mention of servants. No plural words are used. Jacob seems to be on his own. He can’t turn back. He must keep plodding ahead. Jacob has lost everything. One night, as the sun begins to set, he gets ready to sleep. There is no inn or hospitable stranger to take him. He takes a stone as a pillow and the dirt as his bed. This is a far cry from leading such a prominent house as the house of Abraham and Isaac. He received the birthright and blessing but now he is homeless. b. The heavenly setting. Remember that God put Abraham to sleep when he cut the covenant with him. Here we see Jacob sleeping and God appearing. The passivity of Jacob in this situation should not be overlooked. Jacob is not seeking God. We have no indication in the life of Jacob that he is seeking after God. But God takes this opportunity to invade Jacob’s life. Jacob sees a ladder or a staircase. The base of it is on the earth and the top reaches into heaven. On this staircase are angels ascending and descending, going between heaven and earth. Jacob has a lesson to learn about who the God of his father and grandfather is. As William Cowper wrote, “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace. Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” Just looking at the bare facts of Jacob’s life it might seem to be spiraling downward but hidden from view is the care and blessing of God. Jacob is not alone on this path that God has set him. There is an interesting story in the book John that is connected back to this vision. When Jesus meets the apostle Nathanael he tells him that he saw him sitting under the fig tree. Knowing that Jesus was not there at the fig tree he, in apparent awe, confesses that Jesus is the Son of God the King of Israel. Jesus says, “you will see greater things than these.” Then he says, “you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Philip and Nathanael were probably familiar with the story of Jacob and would have made the connection. The amazing thing is that Jesus makes himself the ladder. He is the way, the means by which heaven and earth are connected. He is the one that the loving providence of God is centered. JR Miller put it this way, “As down to Jacob in his sinfulness came the ladder, so down into this lost world came the Savior. The ladder reached from earth to heaven. See a picture of Christ’s double nature: the Incarnation was the letting of the ladder down until it touched the lowest depths of human need; at the same time, our Lord’s divinity reached up into heaven’s blue, above the tallest mountains, above the shining stars, into the midst of the glory of God.”