‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not … This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven … And he called the name of that place Bethel’, Gen. 28. 16-19.
How different is the setting of these verses from that of Genesis 24. There we see Abraham sending forth his servant with pomp and ceremony, gold, silver and raiment, to seek a bride for his son Isaac. The servant admirably performed his task, never speaking of himself, but speaking well of his master’s son, for he told of his glory, riches and splendour, 24. 35-36. Rebekah chose to go with the servant with a view to becoming Isaac’s bride ‘whom having not seen, she loved’.
Here in chapter 28 Jacob is alone; no pomp and ceremony, no gold, silver and raiment. His only possession appears to be his staff, Gen. 32. 10. Yet he is journeying to the same place as Abraham’s servant had done some years previously.
Whilst en route, he lighted upon a certain place. His experience here was memorable indeed, not even forgotten in his dying hours, Gen. 35. 1-3; 48. 3. It was here that God met him. Lying down to sleep with heaven as his canopy, earth for his bed, and angels as his attendants, he had a dream or vision. Bridging the distance between the Lord above and the object of His mercy beneath, a ladder was seen which, though set up on earth, brought it into contact with heaven. May we not see the incarnation of the Son of God here? He passed by angels on that stairway from heaven to earth, becoming for a little while lower than they, Ps. 8. 5; Heb. 2.9. What amazing grace we trace in His becoming what He had not been before:
Apart from the Christ of God becoming flesh, salvation’s plan would yet be unfinished. He is the only way to God, John 14. 6. The ladder, set up on earth at His incarnation has reached right into heaven through His crucifixion and exaltation. Salvation implies, as it were, that we put our feet on the rungs of the ladder, Acts 4. 12. As the children of God we boldly enter God’s presence by a new and living way, Heb. 10. 19-20.
It is now that the God of Abraham and Isaac renews the covenant promise to Jacob, who was to become the channel of blessing, 28. 13-14. Note the four wonderful promises given, v. 15:
Jacob’s future lay entirely in God’s hand, thereby leaving no place for anxiety. God had promised and as such
This enables us to take courage, since this God ‘is our God for ever and ever’, Ps. 48. 14, and His great and precious promises are for us today. Oh that we might appropriate them and ‘be anxious for nothing’, Phil. 4. 6 R.V.
Finally we read of Jacob waking out of sleep, v. 16. Someone has said Jacob never slept more sweetly than when he laid his head at this spot. He became fully conscious of being in the presence of God, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’, v. 16. ‘This is none other but the house of God’, v. 17, he remarks. Filled with awe in the very presence of Deity he realizes he stands on holy ground.
May we not see by way of practical application a parallel in Matthew 18. 20? There the Lord said, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’. Here is a New Testament place where the two or three, gathered together to the person ‘in my name’, find their joy and privilege in claiming His promise ‘there am I in the midst of them’. When we gather, for example, to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup, we should be consciously aware that ‘the Lord is in this place’. His presence makes all the difference. It did on that first Lord’s day when the Lord appeared to the disciples in the upper room. They had gathered behind shut doors for fear of the Jews. Yet when He manifested Himself, what joy flooded their hearts at His word ‘It is I myself’, Luke 24. 39. What calm filled their souls, when He said ‘Peace be unto you’. As we gather together ‘where the Lord Jesus is resident, the Holy Spirit is president’ to lead us to appreciate that ‘Amidst us our Beloved stands’. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; … This is none other but the house of God.’