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Buying a Stairway to Heaven

Buying a Stairway to Heaven

by Linda McMillan

Genesis 28

What would you give to have all your dreams come true? What if every little hope could bear fruit, if all that glittered really was gold? What would that be worth to you? 

I want to tell you a story about a lady, it’s a lady we all know. She’s sure all that glitters is gold. You see, she’s buying a stairway to Heaven. There are signs all around telling her that you can’t actually buy your way into Heaven, but she knows that sometimes words have no meaning. She wants to be sure about it, though. Besides, even if the signs are true, she knows she can get what she came for with just a word. She’s sure of it. In the end, though… Well, it just makes me wonder. It makes me wonder about a lot of things.

You are probably humming OoOoOoOoooooo, OoOoOoOooooOo, about now. Yes, I am riffing on the Led Zeppelin song from 1971, Stairway To Heaven. Let’s be honest, if you didn’t think of that song at least once this week… Well, maybe you’re not really a last-century rocker.

What the song is about, though, what it might be about, is someone who thinks they can buy their way into Heaven. They are working a scam, doing a con job, trying to slip in without a ticket.

It’s sort of like Jacob in our story from last week. You’ll remember that he did a con job on his father Isaac to get the wealth and privilege that came with the birthright of being the firstborn. A supplanter from the beginning, he and his mother plotted it all out. He would supplant his brother as the rightful heir. It was a glittery thing, it looked like gold, or at least a golden opportunity. Jacob would be a rich man and enjoy the wealth and status that were not really his. He was a grasper, and this was the ultimate grasp… to change one’s destiny! It sounds great, doesn’t it? But, as you may imagine, this led to trouble and Jacob had to run for his life.

Jacob fled his father’s house and ran to his Uncle Laban. On the way, he came to the place. That’s right, the place. The Hebrew word for that is HaMakom. It means the place, not a place, not a random place, the place; and it is also a name for God. In other words, Jacob came to the place where God was. The actual location could be anywhere, as if the stairway lies on the whispering wind.

In the morning Jacob proclaimed the place, “Awsome,” and maybe there was a feeling he got as he looked toward the west… er, I mean toward Haran…  and waited for God to speak. Finally, God blessed him with the blessing that was rightfully his as a descendent of Abraham and Isaac: the land, descendants, a great nation. It wasn’t anything very surprising. 

Here’s what is surprising. God did not repeat the blessing of the firstborn. On this there was silence, and it must have been deafening. Imagine thinking that you’d gotten away with what must have been another con job, that you were about to inherit two-thirds of your father’s considerable estate and you’ve had a divine dream except that… Uh-oh… You are talking to the Lord God, the One, Adonai Echad, and he is not giving you the blessing you expected. 

Jacob may have conned Isaac, but he did not con God. For all his grasping, clawing efforts of dressing like Esau, lying to his father, and finally having to run for his life, Jacob didn’t get anything. But, by going to the place where God was and resting he was able to reframe his life and receive the blessing meant for him.

All that glitters is not gold. You can not buy your way into Heaven, or into anybody else’s blessing. Those things can’t happen. But, if you can get to a place where God is, it could be anywhere, a tune will come to you at last and you will see that all of us are one and that the one is in all of us.  

Maybe you have some space and you can find twelve stones and make a circle around yourself like Jacob did, maybe all you have to do is sit still, or perform some small ritual… whatever it is, the music is there, the blessings will come. 




Linda McMillan is enjoying the final days of vacation in Sanya, Hainan Island, China. 

Image: By William BlakeWilliam Blake Archive, Public Domain, Link

Some Notes of Possible Interest

You can read more about the Stairway To Heaven song by Led Zeppelin here

You can read the lyrics to Stairway To Heaven here.

Sanhedrin 95… We read that the place Avraham saw when he went to sacrifice Isaac was HaMakom. In today’s reading Isaac’s son will have a vision at the same place, HaMakom. So this is the site of the akedah, the future site of all temples, and the place where God created the world. By using these impossible spacial parameters, the writer is giving a clue that something beyond the dimension of space is about to happen. It’s a clue. When reading the Bible you must not get too caught up in geography — though there are clues there, to be sure — but sometimes place names are clues about God and not about location. 

Jacob means supplanter

Of course I’m going to give you a link to the song. You didn’t think I wouldn’t, did you?


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