Read This Week: Genesis 28
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. – Genesis 28:10-13 NIV
Kairos is a Greek word that means “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” It is one of two words the ancient Greeks had for time, the other being Chronos. Whereas the latter refers to chronological or sequential time, Kairos signifies a specific, proper, or opportune time for action or a divine encounter. In this sense, while Chronos is quantitative, Kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. In this section of Genesis 28, we find Jacob on a physical and spiritual journey, and he has a dream and moment that will shape the rest of his life. Many people refer to this passage as Jacob’s ladder or an illustration of the significant divine connection between God and his covenant people, specifically Jacob’s family. Jacob’s ladder is his kairos moment, where something unexpected and extraordinary happens.
Having left Beersheba at this point, Jacob is at a crucial juncture in his walk, and God chooses this moment to reveal Himself to him in a profound way. His departure from Beersheba to Harran comes after some challenging circumstances in his family, specifically with his brother, Esau. But it also takes place after his father, Isaac, blesses him and asks God to make him fruitful and increase his numbers until he becomes a community of people (v.3). As he sets out, this blessing and the choices he makes set the stage for the kairos moment and divine encounter at Bethel and becomes kind of a metaphor for Jacob’s life.
When Jacob gets to Harran, the Bible says that he reached a certain place, stopped for the night, and fell asleep (v.11). He then had a dream, and in this dream, he witnessed a divine revelation. He saw a stairway or ladder resting on the earth, with its top reaching heaven and the angels of God going up and down on it. The image of a ladder connecting heaven and earth is as beautiful as it is incredible. The angels ascending and descending symbolize the communication or connection between God and the earth and His continued willingness to have a relationship with His people. God’s presence is tangible, and the dream carries a promise when the Lord tells him that He is the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and that He will give Jacob and his descendants the land on which he was lying (v.13).
This revelation of the covenant land will be the inheritance for Jacob’s descendants and points to God’s commitment to the promise with Abraham and Isaac. Upon waking, Jacob recognizes the place’s sacredness and acknowledges the Lord’s presence. His reaction reflects a profound spiritual awakening. By consecrating the stone he used as a pillow, Jacob is committed to setting this encounter apart as holy. This transformation in perspective and reverence marks a turning point in Jacob’s relationship with God. He responds to the divine pronouncement with a vow. He sets conditions, seeking God’s protection, provision, and guidance. This vow reveals Jacob’s growing awareness of God’s role in his life and his desire for a reciprocal relationship.
We have similar kairos moments and divine encounters. The God of the universe, by His good pleasure, through His son Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit, chooses to reveal Himself to us. He speaks to us through His word and other ways that make us aware of His presence and orient us again to His power and provision. Like Jacob, our divine encounters also point us back to God’s truth and promises that are real, relevant, and effective for our lives. These kairos moments also inspire our hearts to deepen our relationship with God through Christ and come near to Him. Genesis 28 is a narrative of divine encounter, transformation, and commitment that should have us joyfully anticipating the special moments with God in our lives.