Patricia Hofer

Ever recognized “the face of God” as Jacob did?

The Old Testament became more meaningful to me when I realized that it recorded how a people built a relationship with a God they could not see. How difficult that is! Unlike pagan gods that took their form from visible natural forces and animals, God revealed Himself to Abraham as an invisible, but living, Presence or Person, with the capacity not only for power and purpose but for great love.

Maturing into such a spiritual worship wasn’t easy or natural for Abraham or his followers. And it isn’t easy or natural for us either these many, many centuries later. For example, Abraham’s grandson Jacob experienced two life-changing visions—insights that changed not only his life but ours as well. Jacob’s first dream was of “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven” (Gen. 28:12). This introduces an inspiring image, not only movement from earth to heaven but from heaven to earth. This “ascending and descending” that appears in Jacob’s first vision is an indication of a continuing interaction between human beings and God, a continuing relationship between who we are now and who we will be later than now.

Jacob’s second vision or dream showed him, and us, something about the divine Spirit that powers forgiveness (Gen. 32-33). Although he hoped his brother Esau would accept his peace offerings, he feared his brother’s retaliation. Jacob was alone in the desert the night before the meeting. And yet “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” Viewed through the lens of recent research into consciousness, we can now describe this struggle as Jacob’s consciousness, his God inspired individuality, wrestling with nature’s instincts—the instinct to run, the instinct for self-protection and survival. Jacob interpreted what had happened this way: “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” The significance of this second vision or dream was borne out the next day. In the forgiving face of Esau, Jacob recognized “the face of God.” And still today, God forgives, and the Spirit of that intention moves the human heart. (chapters 3-4, “Can Reincarnation and NDE’s be Christian?”)

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