This is the first in a sequence of dreams that Jacob is to experience with an encounter with an unknown being. Dreams often wake us up with a powerful sense of having experienced something important. God is not immediately knowable. It is only in the wrestling, the sleeping and the awakening, that our thoughts and our preconceptions are transformed.
We do not finally get to know God on our own terms, or even in our own terms. Although often this is all we have, for as one of our prayers reminds and forms us: “God, we worship you in wonder and love. Our minds cannot contain you, nor our words express you. Yet in Christ we see your glory, hear your word of truth and know your forgiving love.”
Jacob has sense enough to call this place what it is: “Beth-el,” the house of God, the gate of heaven, an awe-some place.It is that “thin” space where earth and heaven meet. He is yet to meet the strength of this awe. The same can be said of Jesus, in the fullness of his humanity and his divinity, heaven and earth. Just how close is God after all? What happens when we meet God and how this is going to affect and shape the rest of our lives is what we will observe in Jacob and his next dream. But first, there is the awesome realisation of the presence of God and our growing, and at times, sudden awareness.
There is a deep aloneness that Jacob is experiencing, isolated from mother, wife, and brother by fears and threats, under an open sky which seemed so empty and distant, four words, four utterances are about to change all of that, ‘behold, a ladder,’ ‘behold, angels of God,’ ‘behold, the Lord stood beside him,’ ‘behold, know that I am with you.’”
When Jacob wakes it is with a transformed awareness and preparation for what is to come. Where he will finally meet his brother Esau, but not before having wrestled with “God” all night (Gen 32).
Having faced God, he can now face his brother.