Last Sunday's Celebration was an occasion where God decided that He wanted to do something different in Trinity. We had a guest speaker, Noel Kenny, from Liberty Church in Dublin 8, and Noel spoke from Genesis, focusing on Jacob.
I've learned that there are no such things as coincidences when God is involved so I wasn't surprised at Noel's topic, as I'd been learning about Jacob earlier in the week. Reading from verse 10:
10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel;[a] but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
We learn about Jacob's dream. In this dream, he sees a ladder reaching up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, and the Lord standing at the top. The Lord spoke and Jacob named the place Bethel when he woke, because it is the house of God.
There are a number of things to consider from this:
Firstly, Jacob was asleep when he had his encounter with God. So often, we try to make time for God in our lives by moving things around, by giving Him a few minutes in the morning or talking to Him on the bus on the way to work, or even making sure we have our 'quiet time' every day. It's great that we do this, but I love it that God decided when to talk to Jacob and He did it in his sleep. There were no distractions, just the two of them. Jacob probably didn't expect this at all but many Christians will admit that the times when God caught them off guard were the most intimate and special times they've ever had.
Secondly, there were angels ascending and descending on this ladder. Jacob was in a place where God was not only talking to him but God was working, His angels were descending to Jacob with new missions and tasks, words and blessings, wisdom, encouragement and whatever else God wanted Jacob to have. The angels were also ascending back into heaven, something they only do when their task has been completed. They were doing their work in Jacob and then returning to the Father for a new mission.
Thirdly, God spoke using the name He reserved for those whom He had an exceptionally close relationship with in the old testament: "I am". Jacob knew that this was definitely God and not a fancy dream he was having as a result of eating too much cheese before he slept. Jacob also knew how much God treasured him, as he was given the same promise that Abraham, his grandfather, had been given: His descendants would be like dust and spread in all four directions.
After all this, God then told Jacob that He would be with him wherever he went and that He would keep Jacob. God had told Jacob that he was safe and that nobody was going to harm him. When God tells you He's going to keep you, you know you are in a place of exceptional blessing. (Anyone reading this who knows God as their saviour, has been given this promise too!).
When Jacob awoke, he had a sudden realisation that:
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
It's funny how we sometimes realise that the Omnipotent, Omnipresent God is in the same place as us! Jacob decided to name the place 'Bethel' which literally means 'House of God', and he built a pillar using the rock that had been his pillow which he then anointed with oil.
Isn't it interesting that Jacob used his pillow as a pillar? He knew that the place where his head was at was where God had met him. His head had been free of distractions when he had his encounter with God. The place where he had this encounter was given a new name, but here's the question:
Was it the physical place which had been called Luz that received the name of Bethel or was it also representative of Jacob himself?
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he says in chapter 6:
"19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[c] and in your spirit, which are God’s."
Since Jesus died for us and opened up a new line of communication between us and the Father, we have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the house of God. We are constantly in a place of intimacy where God is sending His angels on missions in each of our lives. He is providing us with each of the tools we need to complete the tasks that are ahead of us and has ensured that we have full, uninterrupted access to Him at all times.
God is no longer standing at the top of the ladder. He came down the ladder and did everything He could possibly do to enable us to have a perfect relationship with Him. He doesn't need to speak from on high any more, now He can whisper. He isn't far away any more, now He dwells inside us. He goes everywhere we go. He does the same for us as He did for Jacob. He wants you to know that He's with you, like He was with Jacob, for keeps.