Back to Bethel

We all read our Bibles with admiration and respect for its characters, but the odds are if you met a man like Jacob today, are you probably would not like him. Jacob was a backstabbing, conniving, opportunist if there ever was one. He was all about Jacob, all of the time.

The bad news is that we are all much like Jacob in this way. We tend to be selfish and self-serving every day, in every way.

If we were to start in the Genesis account of Jacob, would find a man that had tricked his brother, and instead of facing the consequences he ran away from the family drama that he just had created. On his skedaddle from his brother, Jacob stops to rest, laying his head on a rock near a place that would later be called Bethel.

Now keep in mind, Jacob was not running towards God, or even looking for God, but (SPOILER ALERT) God was looking for Jacob.

Jacob saw a vision of a ladder that was linking heaven and earth! Contrary to popular opinion, this was not a way for Jacob to begin to work his way to God; He was not even looking for God. This was a foreshadow telling us that God was going to be coming down!

God comes to Jacob and says, “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee” (Gen. 28:15). When Jacob wakes up, he exclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16).

After this encounter, Jacob calls this place “Bethel”, which means “the house of God”. As Tim Keller notes, “It spoke of justification by faith in the promise made by God apart from human initiative. It spoke of grace.”

Here is where we come in. We like Jacob are born running from the Word of God, the will of God, and even God Himself (Romans 3:11). But just as God came to Jacob to dwell with him (remember Bethel?), when he was not expecting it; Jesus came to dwell with us when we were not looking for Him.

John the Baptist draws the same picture that we saw in Genesis 28 when he said of Jesus, “And he saith unto 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)

Although Jacob was able to see a glimmer, or shadow, of what was to come, we have been given the full substance in the person of Jesus Christ.

May we see clearly what Jacob saw! A God who has loved us enough to robe Himself in human flesh and came to us when we were running from Him. So, when we are weighed down by this life, and the sins seem too often entangle us, may we follow Jacob back to Bethel (Genesis 35), and look at the gospel again!

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