“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Gen. 28:12).
Concerning this, C.H. Mackintosh said: “The ladder ‘set on the earth’ naturally leads the heart to meditate on the display of God’s grace, in the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. On the earth it was that the wondrous work was accomplished, which forms the basis — the strong and everlasting basis — of all the divine councils in reference to Israel, the church, and the world at large. On the earth it was that Jesus lived, labored, and died; that through His death He might remove out of the way every obstacle to the accomplishment of the divine purpose of blessing to man.”
The “top of the ladder reaching to Heaven” proclaims the medium of communication between Heaven and earth. It, in fact, would, in essence, show the way from earth to Heaven. That way would be Jesus Christ.
In fact, Christ alluded to this when Nathaniel said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (Jn. 1:49).
Jesus then said to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:51).
In essence, one could say that Jesus Christ was and is that ladder.
The “angels of God ascending and descending on it,” proclaim all the resources of God, which are now at the disposal of Jacob. It is the same for every modern believer, that is, if we properly understand Jesus Christ and look to Him exclusively according to what He has done for us in the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross.
“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 whereon you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed” (Gen. 28:13).
The words, “above it,” in the original Hebrew, actually should read, “beside him.” Not only did the angels descend by it to him, but God Himself descended this stairway of glory, and standing beside him said, “Behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go” (Vs. 15).
When He said to Jacob, “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac,” He was, in essence, telling Jacob that as He had been with them, He would be with Jacob, also. As well, the promises that He gave to both, He now gives to Jacob.
The patriarch, destitute and with a stone for a pillow, and literally having to leave this land, is now told by the Lord, “To you will I give it, and to your seed.”
Only faith could accept such a promise, especially considering the condition in which Jacob presently found himself. However, most of the time, the great promises given to us by the Lord come when they seem the most unlikely.
“And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).
The first portion of this verse speaks not only of Israel but, as well, of every single person who has ever been born again. Considering that this seed would be “as the dust of the earth,” we are speaking here of a tremendous multitude.
The spreading abroad in all directions tells us that “this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Mat. 24:14).
The seed expressed in the last phrase of this verse speaks of Christ (Gal. 3:16), and to Him and Him alone “shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Thank God my family got in on this great blessing.
THE WORD OF GOD
“And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you of” (Gen. 28:15).
Several things are said in this verse:
I am with you.
I will keep you.
I will bring you again into this land.
I won’t leave you until I have done all that of which I have spoken to you.
As the Lord spoke these great promises to Jacob, through Christ, He has spoken the same thing to us.
Concerning my own personal life and ministry, I claim these promises exactly as given to Jacob. I believe I have the spiritual right to do this, and I believe that you do, as well, at least in the context of that which the Lord wants you to do.
If the Lord has spoken anything to you, irrespective as to what it might be, and you are sure of that voice, if you will only walk in obedience and continue to look to Christ and His Cross, He will not leave you until this thing comes to pass.
As we understand the terminology as given to Jacob, he wasn’t personally, at least at that time, to own all of Israel, but his seed definitely would. In fact, this is at least one of the reasons that he charged his sons to “bury him with his fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite” (Gen. 49:29).
THE PLACE OF THE LORD
“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16).
How happy and free from care would Jacob’s life have been had he let God plan for him! Yet, I’m not so sure but that all of us have to take the same course in some way as did Jacob.
Incidentally, the vow which Jacob vowed is the first recorded vow in the Bible.
For the first time, Jehovah reveals Himself to Jacob. Quite possibly, one might say, on this very night Jacob was born from above.
Isaac and Esau refused subjection to God; Rebekah and Jacob refused cooperation with God. The rebellion of the human will is seen in the first pair and its wickedness in the second pair.
What place was this?
It was not the geography that counted, but rather Jacob’s present condition. He was at his weakest here. Whatever the material blessing from his father’s flocks would have been, it is now lost. In fact, financially, he is, for all practical purposes, destitute. As well, he doesn’t have the comfort of his family on which to lean.
Once again, the fact is, his brother is seeking to kill him. In this lonely, destitute condition the Lord meets Jacob and gives him the greatest promises that could ever be given to any man.
This tells us, as previously stated, that all hopes of the flesh must die before the Spirit can properly be revealed to us. As long as Christian man has a frail arm of flesh on which to lean, that he will do. So, the Lord has to bring us to a place to where there are no more arms on which to lean, and our dependence is now totally in Him. Regrettably, we do not come to this place and position quickly or easily.
The gist of this particular verse is, at the very time, moment, and place where and when Jacob least expects the Lord is when the Lord appears to him.
PUNISHMENT OR BLESSING?
It is ironic; the Lord never mentions here the wrongdoing of the patriarch. There is no reprimand, no upbraiding, and definitely no punishment. But yet, I think if this situation was brought into the present, the modern church would think of nothing but punishment.
It thinks in this vein simply because it little knows the path of faith, but rather functions mostly in the realm of law. Of course, law demands punishment while faith demands grace.
The modern church, as well, would never even dream of admitting that God would speak to someone who, just a few days before, had practiced great deception on his father Isaac and his brother Esau, and who plainly lied. Once again, such thinking is because the church functions mostly in law. As it regards God speaking to such an individual, such would shut the door, but faith builds a ladder, and on that ladder, God descends, along with all His holy angels.
As we have previously stated, Jacob merited nothing, and God promised him everything. Such is grace!
THE HOUSE OF GOD AND THE GATE OF HEAVEN
“And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven” (Gen. 28:17).
“How dreadful is this place!” could have been translated, “how awe-inspiring is this place!”
Jacob was afraid and in such a case, rightly so; so were Moses (Ex. 20:18-19), Job (Job 42:5-6), Isaiah (Isa. 6:5), Peter (Lk. 5:8), and John (Rev. 1:17-18), at similar discoveries of the divine presence.
Considering what Jacob had experienced, it is no wonder that he refers to this place as “Beth-el,” i.e., “the house of God” and “the gate of Heaven.”
Presently, under Christ, the house of God is believers. Paul said, “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Cor. 3:16).
Now the gate of Heaven is Jesus Christ, as it always has been. However, due to the Incarnation and what Jesus has done for us at the Cross, the gate of Heaven can be found almost anywhere, for Christ can be accepted anywhere.
“And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it” (Gen. 28:18).
I think the stone would have been looked at by the Lord as a type of Christ, with the oil serving as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Incidentally, the stone claimed by British Israelism to be the stone which served as a pillow for Jacob could not be such. That particular stone is Scottish sandstone, and all the stone around Beth-el in Israel is limestone.
“And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first” (Gen. 28:19).
The place that Jacob named as Beth-el, which means, “house of God,” was a little ways from the town then called Luz. It was then a Canaanite town but came to be called Beth-el, after the conquest by Israel (Judg. 1:26). Beth-el is actually a suburb of Jerusalem at present. The last time I was there, a Jewish army base was the principal part of the area.
“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on” (Gen. 28:20).
This is the first recorded vow in the Bible. George Williams says concerning these statements by Jacob: “There is much to make it appear that the word ‘if’ in this passage means ‘since.’ Personal salvation is not a matter of education, but of revelation (Mat. 11:27). And Jacob no doubt had received a good religious education from his parents; but, now, for the first time, Jehovah reveals Himself to him.”
The path of faith has now been opened up to Jacob, and he, for all practical purposes, understands what it is. There is every evidence, as stated, that Jacob truly was born again this particular night.
In fact, millions are in the modern church who have never been born again. They have received some religious education exactly as did Jacob, but they’ve never had a revelation from the Lord. What would that revelation be?
In its most simplistic form, revelation is the Holy Spirit dealing with the heart, even as the Word of God is preached or proclaimed in some way, creating alarm in the sinner’s soul and, as well, bringing about the need for Christ. In fact, such revelation is a must if an individual is to be saved. Otherwise, he merely has an education, which definitely will not suffice.
Such a revelation will always come, providing the Word of God is faithfully preached, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit accompanies such a Word. Without fail, if the heart is open at all, the revelation will then come!
As well, this passage proves that Jacob had basically forfeited the double portion which came to the one having the birthright, at least when the father died. In fact, both Jacob and Esau were expecting Isaac to die at this particular time. He didn’t, incidentally!
In Jacob’s mind, all of this inheritance was gone. So, he asked the Lord to provide for him. As stated, he was now totally dependent on the Lord for everything.
“So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God” (Gen. 28:21).
The patriarch is asking two things:
Would he ultimately be able to come home?
Could he come in peace, i.e., free from Esau’s avenging threats?
The Lord did all of this with Jacob, plus much more. He gave him far more than bread to eat and raiment to put on.
“And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that You shall give me I will surely give the tenth unto You” (Gen. 28:22).
Jacob set up the stone for a pillar and designated the place as God’s house.
In fact, this definitely was one of the greatest revelations thus far that God had given to any man. From this tremendous experience, Jacob claimed his part in the great appellative, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.”
His vow is that he would give the tenth, or tithe, unto God.
Just exactly as to whom he would give this, we aren’t told. So, more than likely, when he came into possessions of herds, no matter how large those herds, Jacob gave a tenth unto God, which he, no doubt, offered in sacrifice. If that was the case, and it, no doubt, was, we now find Jacob offering up sacrifices to a degree as no one else. This would have greatly glorified God, with all the sacrifices being a symbol of the coming Redeemer who would die on the Cross, shedding His life’s blood (Eph. 2:13-18).
JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED
In effect, if the tithe we now give to the work of God doesn’t go to proclaim the Message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, then, in reality, we are not giving to God but to something else entirely.
This is the second time that giving to the Lord in the form of tithes is mentioned in the Bible. On the first occasion, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ as our Great High Priest. Jesus would become this by dying on the Cross as a sacrifice. So, both occasions of paying tithes speak to the Cross; therefore, our tithes presently must go for the same benefit, to proclaim the grand Message of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 1:23; 2:2). Otherwise, we really aren’t paying tithes!
“Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east” (Gen. 29:1).
Grace forgave Jacob and confirmed to him the promises. We will find in this scenario that even though Jacob has had a great revelation from the Lord, still, spiritually speaking, he has yet a ways to go.
Self is the culprit; no one can really enjoy God until he gets to the bottom of self.
This journey, even as we shall see, was to last for some 20 years. In it, Jacob would learn much but would still need another revelation before the total change would come. More than anything else, these 20 years were to make him see the need for change.
God will not really begin to reveal Himself until the end of the flesh is seen. If, therefore, I have not reached the end of my flesh in the deep and positive experience of my soul, it is morally impossible that I can have anything like a just apprehension of God’s character. Regrettably, it takes a long time to come to the end of self-will.
This is what this journey is all about!
We will find in the coming scenario that the problem of deception is still with Jacob, and an old sin is an easy sin!
Jacob was now in Mesopotamia, about 450 miles from Beer-sheba.
“And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth” (Gen. 29:2).
As we shall see, it is obvious that this well could only be used at fixed times. A great stone covered its mouth, which probably required two or three men to remove it.
From the way the scenario unfolds, more than likely, Laban, the father of Rachel, owned this well because immediately upon her arrival with the sheep, the stone was rolled away. Her sheep were watered first while the rest yet had to bide their time until her sheep were watered though they had been there long before her.
Considering the value of wells of that particular time, this is probably the truth of the matter.
Jacob comes upon this well and sees sheep and shepherds gathered by it. They are evidently waiting for the stone to be rolled away so their sheep can be watered.
“And there were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place” (Gen. 29:3).
This verse plainly tells us how the sheep were watered at this particular well. As stated, it probably belonged to Laban and was only opened at certain times.
Jacob is now coming to the end of his journey, but yet, spiritually speaking, it is a journey that will continue.
To be brought to the place where the Lord desires that we be is not done quickly or easily. As it regards the child of God, every action plays a part in the sanctification process. Wells with their water always presented a place of refreshment, especially in a climate such as that in which Jacob now found himself. Thank God the Lord always has a well at the desired place.
See Part II next month.