Day 7 – December 7
Ornament – Ladder
When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. Genesis 50:10
Patriarch of people, parson of places, tie of tribes. Jacob. No surprise is it that he was laid to rest in the land of his fathers. But first, a threshing floor. I’m so moved by this moment. A man, sifted since the womb. A sojourner ordered by his odyssey from Jacob to Israel.
The hard floor of threshing was the best place for tents–to rest. The threshing floor is an interesting place. It is slept upon, because thieves will surely come for the sorted grain. Jacob, well he was one. A thief. Before, he came upon a threshing floor on his journey to Haran. A floor, not so named, but so used.
As we join Jacob’s story, he is still panting from a run-in with his brother, Esau.
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Genesis 28:10-11
Out of his brother’s grasp, Jacob stopped. The text reads “because the sun had set.” But Jacob didn’t stop because it was dark. His travel ceased because he had an appointment. Genesis 3:8 describes this as the cool of the day, which is when the sun rises and sets. It is the watch the Hebrew people wore.
As the sun nestled into its cradle for the night, Jacob enjoyed an intermission in his trip. Like Adam and Eve, his temple was creation. He didn’t know he was in a certain place, a place where he was certain to meet the Lord. Or that he was soon to be given a threshing tool, a ladder.
Jacob rested his head upon a rock. Generations later, a priesthood extended from a tribe, descended from this very man, would do the same at the door of the temple. Their heads, too, would rest upon a rock covering the keys to the door, in prophecy of the Cornerstone to come, who would carry the keys to the Kingdom.
Jacob slept as Heaven invaded. Within a dream, Jacob saw something similar to a ladder or a stairway. The Hebrew word is ‘sullam’ which holds the meaning of “connection or connected”. One of the derivatives, is the word ‘selah’ meaning “to pause in the Presence of God.” It is also part of a root meaning “to raise, to lift; a musical direction to raise the voice.”
Though there are many significances related to this ladder, one Pappa placed on my heart was that of revealing who God is through praise. Jacob was reminded that he was part of a family whose covenant was to declare the knowledge of God, even as the stars uttered it.
And God spoke, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Genesis 28:13-15
Jacob declared the site a place of worship. A place where God would be lifted up.
Years later, Jacob would come back to this place with his two wives and his children (Genesis 32). His previous dream would become an encounter. Upon his return, Jacob bore the manifestation of who he had been in order to see who he was becoming. The grappler gave it everything he had, contorting and stretching himself past any exertion he had yet known.
Possibly there was a moment he felt he had the upper hand and he breathlessly proclaimed, “I won’t let go until, you bless me.” But this was not a pursuit of an earthly blessing or firstborn’s share. Those, he had already obtained for himself. Victory is empty when won in a vain attempt to please ourselves.
No, this was a desperate plea for something he could never gain through his own strength or cunning. His words, translated, become, “I won’t let go until I see you clearly. Until we are face to face. Never apart.” As his words collided with the atmosphere, a calm came, the storm died down and even creation entered into a respite. No movement, no sound. Wrestling turned to rest. Renamed and reformed, Israel called the land Peniel, meaning “face to face.”
Here, he belonged. To the God who met him. This man who had grabbed and snatched, no longer belonged to that which he tried to take or all he tried to get away from. He belonged no longer to the bowl of strew and unbroken bread, to his brother’s hate or his father-in-law’s trickery. Nor to his whims, worries and wrestles.
Life would no longer be about what he was after, but Who he desired. Here, on ground for his grain, he could return to who he had always been.
The Talmud tells a story of Jacob, while yet struggling in Rebekah’s womb. It says that whenever Rebekah would pass a place where God was being worshipped, Jacob would move, he would be moved and he would reach out. He was always meant to stretch towards Pappa. He just got stranded in all he tried to seize from Esau.
Now, he wouldn’t let go. His wrestling days were done. What he had ever reached for was in his grasp. His gain was greater than wife or wealth. Now, he had had it all. All he was meant to. For his generations. For generations. True blessing. The kind that causes you to take a knee because you know from it, every knee will do the same.
His life was long, though he limped though the last portion. The limp didn’t slow him down much. Just reminded him to rest.
My pause. My rest. After my threshing. The ladder Jacob saw is the ladder Jesus is. An implement to sift and sort all that keeps me from being fully present in His presence. He doesn’t want to go anywhere I can’t. Goodness!! He’s so good.
When I pause, I can see the Ladder before me. The ‘sullam’ and the ‘selah’ remind that there is rest that comes from being connected to God. Ever rest, perfect rest. The kind of rest you don’t want to rush.