A stone? What was Jacob thinking? Of course he would have odd dreams! Regardless of his pillow choice, this was one whopper of a download, compliments of the Sandman.
Would you like to have an encounter with God like this, something that would establish and confirm you, a promise-laden word that would direct and motivate you? If you are prepared to jump at this offer, here’s some spiritual-investment advice; “Hold steady.” In today’s MwM post, I will offer a complimentary side-by-side comparison of our deal with God and Jacob’s, which will explain my counsel.
I confess, it is tempting to want to see angels in my dreams and hear words in my sleep and to find physical places on earth where I could point and say, “That place is sacred because God met me there” so that I can then say, “I will always remember that day!” There is nothing wrong with these things. I know people who have had encounters with God at least as dramatic as Jacob’s. However, those who have and who go on to walk with the Lord do not look back on those events as the sustaining forces of their lives, they look forward to ongoing encounters with him.
While we look in awe at Jacob and the Old Testament Bible characters, I think they look down upon us, that great cloud of witnesses, and look forward to the day when we take a closer and more appreciative look at the covenant we have now with God. In truth, the great men of old knew they were only getting a foretaste of something that was to come. Jesus once confided to his intimates:
Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them. (Luke 10:24)
Why would Jesus say this? Wasn’t this demeaning to his forefathers? It might seem so unless, like Jesus, you knew that you yourself were the fulfillment of all God’s previously spoken words however they were expressed, be they dreams, visions, fire or wind.
We have so much Jacob would have loved to possess. We have new hearts that have been cleansed, rendering the need for animal sacrifices unnecessary. He didn’t. While Jacob was a nomad living in fear of marauders, we are not. Instead we’ve been joined together in one body in Christ. At Bethel, a ladder bridged heaven and earth for angelic travelers. Real estate equipped with heavenly portals is admittedly rare, but we should not mourn. While Jacob had an isolated visitation from God, we have become the temples of God. Our hearts have in a real sense become Bethels in their own right, where the overlap between heaven and earth happens to be our very own (significantly overlooked) hearts. Of all places! We are now conduits between heaven and earth.
I believe there is a day coming for Christ’s Body, whose members have all been sovereignly joined into existing networks, when our vastly superior identity and covenant will dawn upon us and we will jointly say: Surely the Lord is in this place, and we did not know it!
God’s kingdom has come and is coming; its expansion will always rest on the mysterious revelation of Christ in us, the hope of glory. That human beings—instead of temples, places, or events—have become the habitation of God is the scandalous, mysterious truth we have yet to corporately embrace. Someday in our future it will come into full view that it is Christ alone on whom the Kingdom is being built.
Every haughty human idea, which discounts Christ alone, which has exalted itself above the knowledge of God, is destined to bow its knee to Jesus Christ. We are not incorrect in saying that these vain, godless philosophies make up the spirit of this age. One thing between our current status and a kingdom growth spurt is the darkness that still blinds the Bride of Christ. We will have to humble ourselves and acknowledge that many of these haughty ideas are lodged in our own hearts where we have insisted on putting our temporal spin on eternal things so that we can manage and control them. Seriously, can we harness the wind?
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
To Peter (and, I believe, us) Jesus said:
“When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” John 21:18
Let’s wrap up our cost-benefit analysis on the deals we have with God. Jacob was negotiating. “If you’ll do this, then I’ll call you my God. And, if these conditions are agreeable to you, then I’ll give you a tenth of all that I have.” The if-then spirit of this negotiation is alien to the new covenant we’ve been offered by God in Christ.
God does not promise us earthly treasure if we do this or that. He does not bless us because we adhere to Old Testament calendars and precepts. The old covenant, with its Law and traditions, were all completed in Christ. Everything that was promised in those old agreements is now available to us around-the-clock and around-the-calendar in Christ. Those who tie anticipation of blessings and prosperity to the faithfulness of their tithe are undermining the grace of God and the fullness of Christ as all in all. How can Christ be our all in all when we feel we must always do more and more to lay hold of his blessings?
While Jacob’s deal has been negotiated for 10%, Christ will require 100% of us to receive and live out the free gift of grace he’s given us. The cost will seem like nothing one day. He offers us an eternal inheritance that includes a new identity in Christ. That is much more than his promise to Jacob! On the merits of Christ alone (without a single if), he still says:
I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
I believe that when our hearts grasp the now-ness of our current deal, our stories will consequently reflect the now-ness of our Father’s kingdom intentions. When this happens, something will shift in the battle God is waging through us for this earth. When we hear the Body of Christ say with increasing unity, “Surely the Lord is in this place (our hearts), and I did not know it,” the winds of warfare will shift and the kingdom of God will expand in an unprecedented way—as it was forecast to so long ago.
Father, While it is surely ongoing, help us to see that there is something far better than the comings and goings of angels as we realize the import of the Holy Spirit’s immediate presence in our lives. Help us to look in awe at our own hearts and to realize our eyes are truly blessed to see Christ, the mystery of the ages. Help us to see that in Christ, we have been established and affirmed, motivated and directed to see that we are co-heirs with Christ, is our elder brother and our all in all. Help us grasp that in Christ, there is nothing that can be added to the fullness of what we have right now, in this very moment. May our weary hearts breathe those long and overdue sighs of relief and say with great joy, “Surely the Lord has been in this place.”