A Prodigal’s Dream
Fred Elliott, London
Unconverted reader! We have felt constrained to include a message for YOU.
GEN. 28. 10-13, 15. In the lives of men and women there are certain days that stand out as “red letter days,” “days of crises,” “epochs.” There are times in our past life when we made a seemingly trivial decision and that trivial decision changed the whole bent and current of our life. In the words of Shakespeare, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
In the life of Jacob there were two outstanding crises: first at “Bethel,” and secondly at “Peniel.” “Bethel”—which means “the House of God”; “Peniel”—which means “the face of God.” Jacob had bought his brother’s birthright. He stole his brother’s blessing and because of that he was driven from home. In the story he lay down to sleep with a stone for a pillow and dreamt of a ladder, the top of which reached to heaven. We have no hesitation in saying that the ladder spoken of in Genesis 28. 12 is Jesus Christ. Here is the proof. This vision came to an Israelite indeed. He was the first “Israelite” and was full of guile. He was always scheming and planning and working for that definite purpose. In John 1. 47 we read of “an Israelite indeed in whom there was no guile.” Philip said to this Nathaniel, “We have found Him . . . Jesus of Nazareth.” The moment he said “Jesus of Nazareth,” we can see the contemptuous curl of the lip. He replied: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (v. 46). “Come and see,” was Philip’s reply. He came, and as he was coming Christ turned to Nathaniel and said, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee.” This must have been a mighty revelation to Nathaniel. It revolutionized his life. What was he doing under the fig tree? We have no positive proof, but we suggest that Nathaniel, while under the fig tree, was reading the very story that we have just read; the story of Jacob and the ladder. It must have been a mighty revelation to him. Immediately there was a change and he turned and said, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel” (v. 49). When this testimony was given to Christ He turned to Nathaniel and said, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (v. 51). It is a well-known principle in Holy Writ that the Spirit of God always lays hold of any portion of Scripture that a man or woman has been meditating upon. Christ gave the New Testament interpretation of this Old Testament text but substituted the words “Son of Man” for “ladder.” Nathaniel was won for Christ Jesus our Lord. There is only one ladder in Scripture, but God be praised there is one.
Newberry describes the ladder as “a way set up.” Here a few thoughts concerning ladders:—
I. THE LADDER MUST BE LONG ENOUGH.
This ladder was “set up on the earth” and “the top of it reached to heaven.” Rom. 3. 23—“There is no difference for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” That is God’s charge against humanity as a whole—they have come short. Dan. 5; 27—“Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” “Found wanting,” “come short,” not of your own standards but “of the glory of God.” It must be long enough.
Here are some ladders men are trying to reach heaven with:—
(1) Good Works. In Gen. 11. 4 we read, “Let us build a tower that the top of it might reach to heaven.” Seemingly they had a fear of coming judgment and wanted to evade it. They began line upon line, precept upon precept, up and up. Everything was going well when suddenly God came, down in the cool of the evening hour and crushed that tower to atoms. It became “the tower of Babel”—“confusion.” “They had bricks for stone,” we read in v. 3. What does that mean? They built with bricks of their own making. Stone is “God-made,” but brick is a “man-made” article. They turned away from stone and began to make their own bricks and after making them they burned them, and with the bricks of their own making began to build the tower. There are men and women who refuse to take God’s way. They want to make their own bricks, of their own making, and build. It is “not of works lest any man should boast.” Give up working your own way. Remember it will never bring you to the glory land. You will be lost eternally on that great day.
(2) Ladder of PROTESTANTISM. Many are simply resting on the fact that they are Protestants. This will never save you. There will be Protestants in hell as well as any other if they reject God’s dear Son as their Saviour.
II. THE LADDER MUST BE STRONG ENOUGH.
“The angels of God were ascending and descending” upon the ladder. Legion upon legion of angels. (Heb. 1. 14.) Angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” Jesus Christ is long enough and He is strong enough. He is the strong Son of God. “Behold the Lamb of God that beareth . . . the sin of the world.” “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” (1 Pet. 2. 24.) He is strong enough to bear and to break our sins. He can break every fetter and set the captive free. Is your cry the cry of Rom. 7. 24—“O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this dead body?” The cry for somebody strong enough to loose the bonds and set you at perfect liberty? Jesus Christ can do this for you.
III. THE PURPOSE OF A LADDER IS TO REACH SOME GIVEN POINT THAT CAN NEVER BE REACHED IN ANY OTHER WAY.
But to reach that given point the ladder must be “raised up.” Jesus Christ was raised up by men on Calvary’s accursed tree, but by the power of God He was raised from the dead. The gospel is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but the Christian religion emphasises the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what makes it different from all other religions. We serve a living Saviour. Buddha lived; he died. Mohammed lived; he died. Confucius lived; he died. Jesus Christ lived; He died, but hallelujah, He “rose again.' “He was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4. 25). In 1 Cor. 15. 3 we have a definition of “the Gospel,” but Paul never speaks of the life of Christ. In all his writings you never get one reference to the life or the miracles of Christ. It begins, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” The ladder rests in an empty tomb on earth and against an eternal throne in heaven. Christ died for you on Calvary, and we have the assurance of eternal life in the fact, “God raised Him from the dead.” Trust Him and know the joy of His Salvation.
In conclusion, God made three promises to Jacob.'
(1) “The land whereon thou liest I will give thee” (v. 13)..
(2) “I will keep thee whithersoever thou goest” (v. 15).
(3) “I will never leave thee” (v. 15).
Are you afraid to “step out” and “step on” this ladder? If so, read again these three promises.
1. He will give (v. 13).
Our god is a giving God. He never robs the soul of anything that is for its good. In the days of His flesh “He went about doing good.” He wants always to give, and He does—“good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Read very carefully Rom 8. 32 and step out boldly on this promise.
2. He will keep (v. 15).
No matter where our lot is cast He will keep us. Here are a few of God's promises. Kindly read them: 1 Sam. 2. 9, Psalm 121. 5, Isaiah 42. 6, 1 Peter 1. 5, Jude 24. God's Word is full of promises to the soul that trusts Him.
3. He will never leave or forsake us until . . . (v. 15).
He has promised to be with us alway. At no hour of the night or day will He leave us. He is always within call and His grace is ever present (Psalm 46. 1). When all others fail (and must fail), He will be with us—that is, in the hour when we pass from this world to the next. No friend can help us then, but He can and He will. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me” (Psalm 23. 4). He will be with us right through to “the end of the road,” which is the beginning of that eternal life, sin apart.
Hear our Lord's last message—Matt. 28. 20, “Lo . . I am with you—all the way—all the day—even unto the consummation of the age.” (Bishop Moule's translation.) Accept the Saviour now and enter into the joy of salvation. The first rung in the ladder is the rung “of decision.” Get both feet on it right now—not simply one—and the moment you do the angels will begin their heavenly work of ministering to you of those heavenly things which satisfy.
(The writer is at present on a preaching tour in Canada and U.S.A. and would value readers' prayers.)