Summary: Jacob, following an amazing dream in which he saw a ladder or stairway extending between heaven and earth, with the Lord standing above it, exclaimed "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Note: I have developed a simple set of slides in PowerPoint to use in the delivery of this sermon. They're not fancy, but they do help to keep attention focused on the points being presented. If anyone is interested in having the PowerPoint file, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "slides" in the subject line and the title "Bethel" in either the subject line or the body of the message, and I will email them directly. (Please allow 2-3 days for met to get back to you.)
Tell the story of Gen 28:1-2 - Isaac told his son Jacob not to take a wife from among the Canaanite women, but he sent him to Paddan-Aram to find a wife from his mother’s kinsmen, specifically from the daughters of his uncle Laban, Rebekah’s brother. Paddan-Aram was at least 500 miles from Beersheba, where Jacob started his journey.
Jacob came to “a certain place,” which we understand to be about 10 miles north of Jerusalem, and stopped for the night. He placed his head on a stone for a pillow and slept.
*Click for BETHEL while reading
Gen 28:12-19 – read
* Click for “Surely the Lord is in this place
"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not."
—Gen. 28: 16 (read KJV)
Jacob exclaimed “this is none other than the house of God, the gate of heaven.” Could someone use a GPS and try to locate where Jacob slept, and find there the “house of God, the gate of heaven” on a set of coordinates (like finding the back of the wardrobe as the entrance to Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe)?
A traveler to the place observed that it was: “An, unimpressive scene, almost indistinguishable, even to the curious eye of the archæologist, "in the maze of undistinguished hills which encompass it--with nothing to attract the eye, and nothing to fire the imagination; large slabs of bare rock traversed by a well-worn thoroughfare."
This is the site of Bethel described by a traveler.
It was an unimpressive scene still more commonplace when contrasted with the grandeur of Colorado, the rocky spires of southeastern Utah, or the redwood forests and coastal cliffs of California. No beauty, no grandeur, nothing of loveliness and nothing of awe, nothing exceptional of any kind can explain or justify its selection. Why should this one spot in this bleak wilderness, amidst these bare rocks, be chosen to plant the foot of the ladder which connected heaven and earth?
Yet Jacob saw it as none other than the House of God; the very gate of heaven.
*Click on picture of ladder/staircase
In the original language, the word ladder equally means “stairway,” so what Jacob saw in his dream could easily have been a “stairway to heaven” with no distortion of the text.
What is that connection between heaven and earth represented by the staircase in Jacob’s dream?
?It has been thought to represent the providence of God, by which he watches over the earthly realm and works his will, in large part by the ministry of angels,
*Click for “God-man came to earth…”
?and in larger part through the ministry of his Son. It is to the second of these that I would like to invite your attention.
I. GOD CAME TO EARTH AS MAN TO MAKE A WAY FOR MAN TO COME TO GOD
This ladder or stairs linking earth to heaven, whereby angels ascend and descend, how can it not represent the incarnation of Christ the Eternal Word, wherein God is made man, and man is taken up to God? This is what establishes the legitimate claim of Christianity as the absolute and true religion of the world--this union of the human with the divine, the earthly with the heavenly—and the only adequate response to the deepest needs and longings of mankind. Hence the church has ever clung tenaciously to the wedlock of heaven and earth in the God-man. And to those whose sight is by faith, the vision of Bethel will be endowed with a far greater glory, unrelated to its natural features.
Upon Philip’s brother Nathaniel’s confession of Jesus as “the son of God, the king of Israel,” Jesus said to him, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (John 1:51)
“Angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man!” Just as Jacob had seen about 2000 years earlier, in a bare and unremarkable rocky place that he named Bethel.
Angels are heavenly beings who perform earthly missions. Christ is that access, for he opened the door of heaven:
“…we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…: Heb 10:19-20