Stairway to Heaven

Genesis 28:10-17

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Introduction

Has God revealed His will in your dreams? God spoke to individuals in dreams. In his dream, God warned King Abimelek to return Sarah to Abraham. Joseph’s brothers interpreted his dream that they will bow down to him. The Lord spoke to Solomon in his dream. The Lord warned Joseph husband of Mary in his dreams when they escaped to Egypt and when they returned to Nazareth.

The Lord said in Numbers 12:6, Listen to my words: When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.

Talking about the last days, the Lord also said in Joel 2:28, 28 I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

Dream is one of the many possible ways of God when revealing His will. Have you ever dreamed of something in which you heard God speaks to you? For sure, some people cannot believe when people claim that God speaks to them in dreams. Are we supposed to believe or disregard such claim?

When God reveals His will to a person, it’s very personal. When Joseph had a dream about his siblings bowing down to them, he told them about it and they did not like what they heard. When God speak to an individual in a dream, should it be shared with others? It should be for personal benefits not communal.

The Lord could have spoken to Jacob while his father, mother and brother were listening but He preferred to tell His plan for him in his dream.

1. Dream

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

To include the term “certain” that described where Jacob slept implies a chosen place where God speak to him in his dream not random place. Why did he use a piece of stone as pillow to support his head? Using a stone as pillow implies that he planned not to sleep very tight. He’s concerned of his safety.

Yet, he dreamed of stairway to heaven which suggests that he slept tight.

In the succeeding verses, Jacob called the place Bethel. He travelled from Beersheba and rested at Bethel. That distance is more than 130 kilometers journey. He must have good night sleep when he dreamed of angels ascending and descending on the stairway to heaven. He also saw the Lord in his dream.

Why did the Lord speak to Jacob in his dream? Did Jacob feel anxious of what may happen to him on his journey so that God assured him of success?

Stephen

One of the seven men who were elected deacons of the Jerusalem church was Stephen. He was a man full of God’s grace and power. He performed great wonders and signs among the people. The elders and the teachers of the law seized and brought him before the Sanhedrin.  After responding to the charges against him, the members of the Sanhedrin were very angry.

It says in Acts 7:54-60, 54When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.  59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

The presence of God gave Stephen peace amidst tragedy. God appeared to Jacob in his dream to encourage and assure that his journey will be a success.

Life in this world is uncertain. We don’t know what the future brings. When we accepted Him as personal Lord and Savior, we trust that God has given us eternal life. So, what problem is too hard for Him to solve? Death is the worst problem that mankind cannot solve. Yet, Christ has defeated death.When God appeared to Jacob in his dream, he may have been anxious of uncertainties ahead of him. Will he reach his destination and return to Canaan safe, sufficient and successful? Sure, disclosure of God’s plan has inspired him.

2. Disclosure

13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Jacob may have heard his grandfather and father narrated about their personal encounter with the Lord. Jacob was more or less 15 years old when Abraham died. Surely, he had heard much of Abraham’s conversation with God.

Storytelling about their experiences was common practice among Israelites to preserve their family legacy and personal encounters with the Lord.

Jacob had never personally encountered the Lord before. And, the Lord introduced Himself as the God of his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac.

Jacob has grown stronger when the Lord appeared to him in his dream. Faith in God assures us that whatever God has promised, He will surely fulfill it.

It says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, 20For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

It also says in Numbers 23:19, 19God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

And in 1 Samuel 15:29, 29He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.

Punctuality depicts Faithfulness

Are struggling with punctuality? Accordingly, in Mexico, turning up 30 minutes late is acceptable. In Malaysia, if you say, “I’ll be 5 minutes late!” it means you will be late for 1 hour, and being late is an accepted norm that does not require an apology. In China it is not considered late if you arrive within 10 minutes of the agreed time.

In Nigeria if a meeting is scheduled at 1 pm, that means the meeting will start any time between 1 pm and 2 pm. Similarly in Saudi Arabia, time is not such an important commodity, with people frequently turning up 30 minutes late to meetings. Looking at your watch during an event is also considered to be discourteous.

In Brazil, you are not required to be there on time for social appointment unless the phrase ‘English time’ is used, which means you have to be punctual.

In Ghana and India, most meeting times are considered to be flexible.

In Morocco, time can mean being anything from an hour up to a day late for a personal meeting. Over in Greece punctuality is not considered that important but foreigners are still expected to turn up on time for meetings. Socially you should be at least 30 minutes late. In Kazakhstan, it is acceptable to turn up late to a wedding celebration. In Russia, a foreigner is expected to be on time but do not expect the same, or an apology, from your Russian counterpart.

Japan and Germany are sticklers for punctuality. South Koreans people view being late as a sign of disrespect.

Why do nations where people observe punctuality are more developed?

Many Filipinos arrive late in social gatherings, and it’s called Filipino time.

But many Filipinos who immigrated to Canada have adopted Canadian culture of punctuality. Punctuality should also be an attribute to believers. Punctuality is a picture of faithfulness. Really?

When the Lord promised that Abraham will have a son, Sarah was past the age of childbearing. Sarah was 90 years old and Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. It stated in Genesis 18:12-14, 12Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

The term “appointed time” is exact and right timing for God. The 100 years age of Abraham implies complete and perfect time for God to fulfill His promise of son to Abraham. Abraham was the father of faith. And by faith, he believed God will fulfill His promise. It was not late. It was not early. It was exact time.

Punctuality is faithful observation of proper time. Christians with Filipino culture background may struggle with punctuality. Punctuality reflects a practice of faith in Christ. Will Christ wants us to be punctual? God gives blessings at His proper time. With Christ’s empowerment, be punctual and not miss His blessing.

The Lord’s assurance of blessing to Jacob was given at certain place which implies that God had planned it to happen at the time when Jacob needed encouragement to continue on his journey. In response, Jacob verbally declared his faith and acknowledgment of the Lord’s presence.

3. Declaration

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

The term “afraid” simply describes Jacob’s feeling after he dreamed of the awesome beauty of God. He sensed reverent fear and respect of the Lord. Jacob did not think of running away from that place. His mixed feelings of astonishment, respect and reverent fear were more like unworthiness before God. Unworthy because he was deceitful toward his brother Esau but God has spoken to him.

Such is God’s love to believers. God loved all His creations and believers experience more of His love and care. Jacob was not worthy but God appeared to him. Similarly, it was when we were unworthy that God showed His love.

We are reminded in Romans 5:6-8, 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Observe that God’s timing is right timing. It was when we can’t do anything to help us that His grace becomes more apparent. The practice of faith becomes more personal and appreciated when we can rely on nothing else but God alone.

So, if you are anxious of what the future may bring into your life, it is the right time to evaluate and check how strong your faith in Christ is.

It says in Revelation 1:8, 8“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The Lord created everything in this world and in heaven out of nothing. We are God’s creation, too. Every event will depend upon His right timing. It includes future circumstances. By faith, we believe that He is in control of every aspect of our life. He allows a series of different events for us to practice our faith.

Jacob may have been very anxious of his future. He knew his destination. He was going to the relatives of his mother but he may not know which path to take. But, when the Lord appeared to him in his dream, he was encouraged to keep on to his journey. Likewise, it’s proper to seek God’s guidance in our life.

It says in Proverbs 16:9, 9In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Jonah

Such reality has been proven true by Prophet Jonah. The Lord told him where to go but he went to the opposite direction. It says in Jonah 1:1-4, 1The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. 4Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.

The story tells that Jonah ended up preaching in the city of Nineveh. God allowed him to run away for a while to experience a storm of his life. Such is an example of what many believers may experience when running away from God.

When God tell us what we should do and we do exactly the opposite, God may send storms of life, problems to redirect us to the path He designed for us.

What is it that the Lord has been telling you lately? What instruction you’ve heard from Him that you still resist? Instead of trying to reason out with God, pray and ask Him to help you fulfill His command. Admit and tell God that you can’t do anything to obey His instruction. The Holy Spirit helps. It says in John 14:15-17, 15If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

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