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Jacob’s Ladder

The Bible in Art: Jacob’s Ladder

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Verses for Consideration: Genesis 28:10-22

 

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.”

 

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

 

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

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“What would be a good name for our church?” Christians wrestle with that question every time a new congregation is organized. Sometimes they choose a tried-and-true name of a New Testament hero of faith -Saint Peter or Saint Paul- with good reason. The name often focuses on the Lord himself -Redeemer, Good Shepherd, or Our Savior. On occasion, Christians will choose the very name Jacob chose for his “church” -Bethel, which means “House of God.”

“What will make our church a church?” is another question such Christians ask. Will it be the majestic steeple they have planned or the state-of-the-art organ? Will it be the enormous quantity of programs they will offer?

Jacob’s church did not have any of those things. What it did have was only a stone set up with oil poured over it in a ceremony of dedication. It wasn’t much of a church by most standards.

Yet by the standard that mattered most, it was a church. It was a place where one of God’s people (and, later, more of them) heard God’s promises proclaimed. To the casual observer, it did not look like much at all. Some even may have laughed if they had been told that this place was a place of worship for the glorious almighty Lord.

So it is today. A house of worship may not look that impressive. Certainly, to give God glory, church members will want to make it look as nice as they can. But they will also recognize that the true beauty and glory of a church comes from the message that is proclaimed there.

As the beautiful message of sins fully and freely forgiven in Christ Jesus is shared, God’s people grow in faith and grow in their desire to build, do, and say beautiful things for their Savior.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, help me desire, seek, support, and establish churches whose primary mission is to proclaim your holy and saving Word. Amen.

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Title: Jacob’s Ladder (1650)

Artist:  Jacques Stella