Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Church! The Hope of All the World!

I feel strongly that as 2006 approaches, the thing that God is laying on my heart so strongly is a passion for His church. Every song I seem to hear has it in; "We are the people of God ... It is the church, the hope of all the world" etc etc. I suppose listening to Newfrontiers CD's all the time will make that happen!! But I was reading a great passage in Genesis and had a whole stream of thoughts. The text was Genesis 28:17; "How awesome is this place ... the House of God". As usual with most of my thoughts, it is lengthy so I will divide it into two which happens quite naturally. To keep in context, I firstly wondered what was "this place"?

i) It Was a Place of the Prophetic

(v12) “He had a dream”. We must be open to the fact that God will speak to His people in differing and various ways. We are entitled, I think, to ask why He chooses the methods He does? He is God of course and can do whatever He will; yet God rarely does anything without reason especially in communicating to His people. A dream is a visual message. Furthermore Dr Jack Deere wrote; “Dreams have always been an important means of divine communication”[1]. God of course can speak in words, yet one can ask how could words communicate the glory of this vision shown to Jacob. A dream is a memorable message. Words come and go yet we all can testify to dreams that have affected us and stayed with us for some time. God had something to show His servant and it was glorious.

ii) It Was a Place of Promise

(v13) “I will give it to you”. Not only did he see the glorious ladder or stairway of which we will address in time, but above all and most importantly he saw the Lord God. And God spoke a promise. Too often the evangelical church sees the promises of God as complete along with the canon of Scripture. Yet quite rightly Simon Petit addressed the Stoneleigh Bible Week in 2000 and said: “Our hope is this: - that there are many prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled!”[2]. The promises of God are a whole topic in and of itself yet what did God specifically state here? He firstly restated His sovereignty. “I am the Lord”. This was the foundation of His promise to Jacob indeed the foundation of all His promises. We can believe what He says because He is God. He restated His relationship to His people: “The God of your father”. And then secondly He restated His promise – that He would give “the land” to him and His descendants. What a glorious promise!

iii) A Place of Progression.

The one danger facing so much of church life today is stagnancy. God shows how much He hates stagnancy and lukewarmness by His comments in Revelation to the church at Laodaecia. “Would that you be hot or cold!”. Hence we are faced with a dramatic representation of heaven invading earth. This is a highly biblical concept and one that is laced throughout Old and New Testament. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!”. So what can we notice?

a) Heaven and Earth Are Connected.

This is an awesome revelation. Once sin occurred a split – a divide, shook the whole Bible. Man was driven out of the Garden of Eden and most importantly from relationship with God. God cannot tolerate sin and had to withdraw, yet Christ has gloriously paid the way – God the Just is satisfied. Therefore God has completed the process of reconciliation, and He alone could do that. Man tried to get to heaven and the most he could manage was the Tower of Babel. When God made peace we can see that its “top reaches to heaven” and the ladder reached to earth. Heaven and earth are connected! The Book of Revelation further suggests that at the climax of the ages after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that a new heavens and a new earth will be instituted and we can therefore presume that the connection will be complete and there will be much travel between the two – for example: (Revelation 21:2) “I saw the holy city the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven”.

b) Mobility is Two-Way.

(v12) “Angels of God were ascending and descending on it”. If we were only to read of descent, then the message would be affected – namely that heaven can come down but we are not worthy to ascend. The Psalmist asks a similar question; “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?”. Similarly if only ascent were mentioned, then we could assume that God was a formal, cold God who demanded that His subjects approach Him – but He could not really be bothered to come down to earth. Yet this is not the case. There is ascent and descent on this stairway. We can go up – and heaven will come down.

c) Those Who Travel Are Angelic.

When angels are mentioned in the Bible it is always a matter of keen interest to the reader. Theologians are content that angels are often seen as messengers and as employees in the service of heaven. So we may assume that the angels in this vision are not merely walking up and down the stairway for the sake of it – they are setting an example to those who are watching. We are meant to learn from them and follow their lead. They ascend and descend and therefore so should we.

It is clear therefore that we are strongly of the opinion that this dream is not only written for historical notoriety but for us today – for our example and for us to learn from. So in my next post I want to consider what this verse has to say to us today!

[1] Dr Jack Deere (1996) – “Surprised by the Voice of God”. – Kingsway Publishing, Eastbourne.
[2] Simon Petit – Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 – audiotape.

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