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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:In today's reading, there are many points which bear notice. Personally, I wish to focus upon Jacob's amazing dream, for I find it filled with rich principles and points of wisdom to strengthen one's Walk with God. Jacob's vision of the ladder with the angels ascending and descending will be the focal point of my thoughts for today.
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However, I would be remiss if I didn't first pause to address one of most misunderstood parables in the Bible - Messiah's Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, which we read about in Luke 16. This parable has been used as a main support for Christianity's common understanding about life-after-death and going to Heaven or Hell when we die. And because it is so misunderstood, I cannot just pass over it without providing some direction for Bible study and clarity on this subject. Thankfully, it has been very well presented by others already. If you are interested in looking into Christ's intended Message in this parable, please check out Dennis Crews' online article titled The Rich Man and Lazarus. The following is an excerpt (the link to read the full Bible Study is found at the end):
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The Rich Man and LazarusMuch argument has taken place over whether the words of Jesus (Yahshua) in Luke 16:19-31 were intended to be understood literally or as a parable. Some Christians feel that in this story, Christ was offering His hearers a glimpse of what existence in the afterlife is like. Others, citing numerous passages of Scripture that seem to contradict the portrayal of heaven and hell contained in this passage, feel that Jesus (Yahshua) was teaching an altogether different kind of lesson. Unfortunately, many modern religious teachers have isolated the story from its original context and used it as a device for scaring people. Religious “conversions” resulting from a fear of hell as it is depicted in this passage have indeed occurred, but are based on a foundation sorely in need of the strength that comes only from a genuine appreciation of God’s character and a proper understanding of Scripture. To begin this study, we’ll take a closer look at just what a parable really is, and then examine the setting in which Jesus (Yahshua) told this story. Perhaps then we will better understand what lessons there are for us in the story of the rich man and Lazarus... (Read the full article).
Now, let's turn our attention to the amazing story of Jacob's dream. "Jacob's Ladder (Hebrew: Sulam Yaakov סולם יעקב) is the colloquial name for a connection between the earth and heaven that the biblical Patriarch Jacob dreams about during his flight from his brother Esau, as described in the Book of Genesis," (wikipedia.com).
The reality that Heaven is connected with earth is one which is cause for great joy! It is only because Heaven is connected with earth that God's Light may penetrate our darkness, that Heavenly angels may minister on behalf of sin-sunk souls, and that any of us have hope of a Better World - a Heavenly! Clearly, this "Ladder" which was revealed to Jacob that night, is our Heavenly Life-Line. But what is it? By what Means is Heaven connected with earth? What is signified by this amazing "ladder" in Jacob's dream/vision?
The connecting "ladder" is our Saviour Himself. Messiah was God come to earth to save humanity. Not only did Christ reveal Himself as this "ladder" through His Messianic Work for lost mankind, He actually said it outright in John 1:51:
"And He (Yahshua) said to him, 'Truly, truly I say to you, you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'" (ESV)What a vision! And it was through this vision that Jacob was forever changed. Up until this night revelation, Jacob was a "wannabe" heir of the Promises. We can know this because his life did not bear the Fruit of transformation yet. He valued the spiritual birthright, desiring the priestly role, yet he went about getting it by intentionally manipulating his brother, Esau. Jacob valued the spiritual blessing, desiring the Hand of God to be upon his life, yet he went about getting it by deceiving his father, Isaac. But now, God dealt with Jacob's carnal impulses in a way which rocked him to his core.
What was so powerfully revealed to Jacob that night? So clearly was the Message portrayed to him that it was as if God spoke outright, "Jacob! You are in My Presence!"
In that simple revelation, God said everything else as well. His unstated Message included a full awareness of who Jacob was - warts and all. It was as if God also said, "You desired the birthright and the blessing. It was My Will for you to have those things. I even foretold that you would receive them (Genesis 25:23). Yet, you stepped outside of My Will and went about getting them in ungodly ways. You need to see Who I Am. You need to follow Me and rely upon Me. Most importantly, you need to live your life aware that you are in My Presence."
Jacob got the Message. He took the stone which had served as his pillow and erected it as a memorial of his amazing encounter with God that night. He called the place "Bethel". Beth is Hebrew for "house" or "house of" and "El" is Hebrew for "God". Bethel means the House of, Tabernacle of, Dwelling Place of... the Almighty God. And the stone pillar served merely as a marker of where this powerful revelation had been given.
What does it mean to be in the Presence of God? Scripture says:
His Presence Gives us Life, Strength and Gladness
1 Chronicles 16:26-27 "For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD (Yahweh) made the heavens. Glory and honour are in His Presence; strength and gladness are in His Place."
Psalm 16:11 "Thou wilt show me the Path of Life: in Thy Presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right Hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Wickedness and Idolatry Cannot Abide in His Presence
Isaiah 19:1 "The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD (Yahwe) rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His Presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it."
Revelation 14:10 "The same shall drink of the wine of the Wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the Cup of His Indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the Presence of the Lamb."
When we are Aware of His Presence, We will be Humbled, Giving Him all Glory
1 Corinthians 1:29-31 "That no flesh should glory in His Presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus (Yahshua), Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (Yahweh)."
Habakkuk 2:20 "But the LORD (Yahweh) is in His holy Temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him."To live in the awareness of God's Presence is truly life-changing, just as it was for Jacob. I remember a minister once asking his congregation how they would spend the next week if they knew that everything they did or thought was going to be broadcasted on the giant screen in front of the whole congregation the next Sabbath. Secret sins, practiced in that week, would be up on screen for all to see. True motivations would be known. Nothing which was done during that week would be left unknown the following Sabbath...
Honestly, consider it. Today is the Sabbath. What if such a thing were going to happen to you? How would you live this coming week knowing that your every thought, motive, action, or habit would be fully exposed upon the screen in front of the whole Body of Christ? Most of us would seriously consider making some dramatic life-adjustments for that week, rather than be exposed and humiliated the next Sabbath! If w e would be motivated to change to keep the good graces of people, how much more should we care - and pray over - how our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions appear before our holy God?
This is what God wanted Jacob to know - along with all of his spiritual descendants (which includes you and me). We are all in the Presence of God all the time. If we run, as Jonah did, even the depths of the sea or the belly of a whale cannot remove us from the Presence of God.
Psalm 139:7-12 "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy Presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy Hand lead me, and Thy right Hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."The awareness of God's Presence changed Jacob. And it can change you and me. By God's Grace, let's personalize the revelation of Jacob's Ladder. Let's live always in the awareness that we are in the Presence of God. As we do, we'll be transformed from the carnal, failing creatures we used to be, into the sons and daughters of God.
Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, Will of God."