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Synopsis of A Born Liar and a Great Leader
Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from: ~Jacob’s Dream Genesis 28:10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone for a pillow and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from earth to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down on it. 13 At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said, “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I will give it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will cover the land from east to west and from north to south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. I will someday bring you safely back to this land. I will be with you constantly until I have finished giving you everything I have promised.” 16 Then Jacob woke up and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God – the gateway to heaven!”
In 19th-century America, a generation of oppressed slaves sang a spiritual about “Jacob’s Ladder.” The repetitive, rhythmic lyrics about climbing higher and higher helped them envision themselves on a hard journey to a better place.
The original story, as we just read, is about a great stairway, or some versions refer to a ladder reaching up to heaven, and it’s as down-to-earth as the man who dreamed it. According to the book of Genesis, Jacob is not the kind of person you’d want to do business with. Nor is he someone we’d want around the family table. He is described by the Bible as a born liar, Jacob’s early years are marked by fraud and deceit. After boldly lying to his dying father in order to get his father’s blessing; which truly belonged to his brother, he leaves home to avoid being killed by the older brother he has cheated.
With this as background, let’s go forward 2,000 years. Rumor has it that the long-awaited hope of Israel has come. A few Jewish fishermen of Galilee, living in the lakeshore village of Bethsaida, have come to the conclusion that they have found the long-awaited Savior of Israel. One of these men, Philip, finds his brother Nathanael and says, in John 1: -46 “ ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’ ”.
What happens next surprises Nathanael. As he approaches the teacher from Nazareth, he hears Jesus say, in verse 47, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” What did Jesus mean? Why would he refer to a common man like Nathanael as an Israelite who wasn’t lying? At this point, it might help to imagine Nathanael’s ancestor Jacob, the father of Israel, standing quietly in the background. As if to match Nathanael’s question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus seems to say something like, “Well, look at this, an honest man from the likes of Jacob.”
In other words, Jesus makes a point to affirm Nathanael as someone who says what he thinks. Then seemingly to tease such straightforwardness, the Teacher says things about Nathanael that a mere man would not have known.
Nathanael hears enough to show that he understands why his brother has brought him to Jesus, and declares: “Rabbi, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!,” John 1:49
Take notice, that in different ways, both Jesus and Nathanael help to show the wonder of a God who can use some of the most unlikely people and unlikely places to show His love for all of us. That is what God had done with Jacob, and Jesus goes on to show that He wants Nathanael to make that connection. Working with Nathanael’s sense of wonder at having found the Son of God, Jesus promises that in the future Nathanael would see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” John 1:51 So…. just as Jacob dreamed of a ladder bringing heaven to earth, Jesus predicts that Nathanael will see heaven coming to earth in “the Son of Man.”
Finally, in Jesus, we understand the meaning of Jacob’s ladder. Now, check this out…. From the beginning, God planned to show His grace to a world of people who are more like Jacob than we’d like to believe. In Jesus, the truth of heaven would come to earth to offer mercy and forgiveness to people who are born with bad blood running through their veins. Jacob’s dream foreshadows, that is it predicts, how far God would descend to bring people like Jacob and us into His family.
Recently, in an article written in “Basics of Faith,” I read of a person telling her story as follows: “When I was in my twenties I was dating an atheist. I thought I was in love and I was very lonely. I asked God if I could please marry this man. God spoke to me, even though I was in open sin, and told me a Christian cannot be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. I was amazed God even considered me to be a Christian since I was sinning. I didn’t marry that man and I’m so glad I waited. I’m married to a Christian and have been for 36 years. What a blessing it is. God did descend to bring me into his family as I was. It amazed me at the time and still does.”
I am amazed that we can become distracted by worries and daily chores, both large and small, that we lose the awareness that the movement of heavenly messengers to and from the presence of God is an ongoing reality today. Messages of comfort, guidance, healing, and many other wonderful spiritual things, are entering the world through Jacob’s Ladder minute by minute.
Surely the Lord is showering us with little packages of grace brought by heavenly messengers for our transformation. How does pesky Jacob transform into being Israel, the patriarch of the twelve tribes? It cannot be explained except by the grace of God. Grace showers us continually! As we are reminded in Psalm 65:9-10: You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The rivers of God will not run dry; they provide a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.10 You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. May the Lord awaken us with such a gentle shower falling on our heads.
Something very personal between Nathanael and his requests to God had taken place under that fig tree and Jesus had declared He had witnessed the whole matter. Nathanael, awestruck, surrendered to Christ. I believe that each of US can remember, having had awestruck moments with God, but being human we soon lose the special feeling that accompanies those moments and start being skeptical all over again, looking for proof.
Jacob sees a ladder, and we know that he will ascend step by step as God was going to make him holy and pure.
At least, that was the immediate thought that came into my head. God is making us holy, as long as we look up to Him in full desire. “hunger and thirst”. But the fact that God chose Jacob, a born deceiver, that must be of comfort to all of us: no matter how bad our “blood” WOW!, God can work with us, as He could with Jacob. That is also the reason why God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If God would call Himself only the God of Abraham and Isaac, we could easily feel defeated, but as God attaches His name to a born liar, Jacob; and not even to his new name Israel; while for Abram God chooses his new name Abraham. He is so gracious, so merciful, thank God for being as He is.
The connection with Nathanael is something we need to meditate upon, that it will sink in our hearts.
Think about this also. Jacob’s deceit seemed like a family issue. I mean, Abraham was a liar according to Genesis 12:13 when he lied to the Pharaoh, saying that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. Then so was Isaac in Genesis 26:7 Where he lied to the King Abimelech. Abraham was tested for trusting God with the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22:12 but then again lied after realizing God would provide. But God’s plan for the people of the world to be blessed through his offspring was not thwarted by the failures of the man.
I remember that when I first studied the Bible it gave me such a sense of relief that through God’s grace He used so many imperfect people, as if there were any perfect one’s, to accomplish His Kingdom work. When we understand that, God knows us so completely yet loves us in spite of ourselves because of His awesome grace and mercy we are brought into His family. That alone should turn a hardened heart into one full of love for God and others. Because He first loved us before we even knew anything about him, He knew us.
We need to notice also that Jacob did not dream of building a ladder with his own hands. It was made in Heaven by the grace of God. Far too many people and false religions today try to “build” their own ladders to heaven: thinking that they can climb up what they have made. And as I have said over and over in these messages…. you cannot “good” your way to Heaven.
Jesus told a parable illustrating the absence of “guile” in the human heart. He speaks of the kingdom of God as though it were a material matter – Lets look at Mark 4:24 And be sure to pay attention to what you hear. The more you do this, the more you will understand – and even more, besides. 25 To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them.”
My friends, the things of the unseen God are not material, but rather spiritual. The Rev. Dr. Eugene Peterson translates in his own words, Jesus’ telling of the parable this way: “Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.” –
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