“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4
Bethel is translated “house of God”. The word first appears in the Old Testament through the mouth of Jacob. Jacob is a man who wrestles with his brother in the womb, steals his brothers birth right, steals his brothers blessing and is loved by God. This chosen thief runs away from his family to his Uncle Labon to escape his older brothers wrath. On his way, he lies down on a rock and dreams of “a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And Behold, the angles of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like 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 your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (Genesis 28:12-15)
When Jacob awakes, he rightly proclaims: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17)
There are four reasons I chose this text and this word, Bethel, to be the title of my blog: 1) Jacob, 2) the ladder, 3) the promise, 4) the response.
1) Jacob, who will later be named Israel, is going to father twelve children who will make up the people of Israel. He is the father of the “chosen people” and a patriarch of the bible. He wrestles with God and requires a blessing. However, Jacob did not earn the many blessings the Lord poured out on him. The blessings he inherited should have gone to his older brother, Esau. However, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls- she [Rachel] was told, ‘the older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” (Romans 9:11-13)
Although it is tempting to bring the character of God into question, this verse must be accepted with joy as a divine truth of God: God chooses to bestow his blessing upon the underserving such as jacob.
2) So how does an undeserving person such as Jacob (and Danika) require such a blessing from God? There is a ladder that extends from heaven down to earth and from earth up to heaven and upon that ladder are we ministered such gifts. The Old Testament does not define what the ladder is, but the New Testament gives a very clear answer: “And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angles of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.'” (John 1:51)
Christ is the ladder that allows sinners such as Jacob and me to receive the blessings of God.
3) What are the blessings? “I am the Lord, The God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offering. Your offspring shall be like 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 your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)
There are four great promises in this passage that are fulfilled toward the offspring. Notice it says offspring, referring to one, as opposed to offsprings, referring to many. The offspring is Christ and the promise is his. But all the promises of God find their yes in Christ towards us who believe and so the four promises that God will fulfill toward us are: 1) all the families of the earth shall be blessed, 2) I am with you, 3) I will keep you, 4) I will not leave you until I have done what I promised.
This is God speaking to Christ and Christ extending the promise to us if we believe that Christ’s blood alone can reconcile us to God:
1) all the families of the earth shall be blessed: This means that the promise is not just for the children of Jacob in flesh, but the children of Jacob in faith. It is a prophesy that not just jews, but also all other peoples will have the ability to believe in Christ.
2) I am with you: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20)
3) I will keep you: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24)
4) I will not leave you until I have done what I promised: God is faithful. He never goes back on a promise. He never leaves us. Although we may feel- due to our lack of perseverance, or because of the love of God- that the Lord has forgotten his promises towards us, we must cling to verses like these with a hopeful faith, knowing we will attain what we are promised.
And so for these reasons, I have titled my blog “dwell in Bethel” because more than I seek to have people read something I write, more than I seek to write down my thoughts, more than I seek to have fingers to type, more than I seek to have the comforts of this world- this one thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in Bethel all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.