Posts Tagged ‘Bethel’

Jacob half-walked, half-jogged mile after mile toward Paddan Aram, to escape his furious brother, Esau. (You can read about the circumstances of Esau’s anger in Genesis 27-28.)

Finally, at sunset, Jacob had to stop and rest. In a grassy meadow surrounded by trees, he spotted a low, flat rock, perfect for a pillow. He folded his sash into a smooth bundle, to add a bit of softness under his head, then wrapped himself in his outer robe, and promptly fell asleep.

That may be the impression we’ve acquired from such art work as this:


The truth is, the area where Jacob rested that first night as a runaway, was far from pleasant. The landscape was scrubby, rocky, and desolate, which surely accentuated how very alone he was.

I doubt that Jacob rested comfortably or fell asleep quickly.   For all he knew, Esau was in hot pursuit. And though Jacob was headed to the ancestral home of his mother, it’s doubtful he’d ever met any of those relatives. What would they be like? How would he be treated? Between the uncomfortable “bed,” and the worrying and wondering, who could rest?

But Jacob had covered many miles that day. Exhaustion finally took over, and he slept—soundly enough to dream.

You know the story.  Jacob was witness to a glorious sight: angels of God, ascending and descending on a stairway that reached all the way to heaven.

At the top of the stairway stood God Almighty himself, proclaiming glorious promises to Jacob:

  • The land on which he lay would one day be his.
  • His descendants would be as numerous as the dust on the earth.
  • All the peoples of the earth would be blessed through Jacob and his offspring.
  • God would be with him to watch over him wherever he went.

Jacob awoke, astonished by his dream. Perhaps he was a bit disoriented by the darkness and desolation, when just a moment before he was surrounded by ethereal light, gazing at angels on a glowing staircase, and listening to the voice of God.

“The Lord is in this place!” he breathed.

Jacob took the stone pillow and stood it up on end as a pillar-reminder of the momentous occasion. And he renamed the location, Bethel, which means house of God (Genesis 28:10-19).


We may not be runaways like Jacob, forced to sleep in a wilderness. But we’ve all faced rough, rock-strewn places in life when:

  • Marriage is more disappointment than delight
  • The growing pains of our children become our pain too
  • Friends prove unfriendly
  • Circumstances turn our lives upside down
  • The day-to-day routine is unpleasant and boring

Amidst the desolation and darkness we forget:

God.  Is.  With.  Us.

And that is huge.


“God’s presence with us is his greatest present to us” (Joanie Yoder).

The problem is, we’re often unaware just as Jacob was.

But we do have numerous assurances of God’s presence with us throughout scripture, and indications of what a sublime treasure that is:

  • Hundreds of promises in the Bible. (Jacob received only five that night at Bethel!)
  • All of God’s incredible attributes at work in and around us: his power, wisdom, loving kindness, and much more
  • His guidance, provision, protection, and empowerment–whether we currently see the evidence or not
  • His blessings, even in the desolate places of life

May we awaken to full awareness and the full meaning of his presence, because:


(Art credits:  www.keyway.ca; http://www.bibleencyclopedia.com; http://www.amazon.com; http://www.izquotes.com.)

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