Genesis 28:16-17+19: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ 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.’ He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.”

A place in the Middle East called “Luz” became very special to a man named Jacob, so special indeed that he changed the name of the location to “Bethel”.  Here is his story:

Jacob was on the run because he had angered his brother Esau to the point that he was planning to kill him. And so he had to leave his childhood home in a rush and was now headed to his uncle Laban, who lived in Harran. It was a long trip and eventually he had to stop for the night. Camping under the stars and in lack of a pillow he chose one of the stones in the area and put it under his head. Probably not the most comfortable way to go to sleep, but since Jacob was completely exhausted he soon nodded off.

In his sleep he had a vision. He saw a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Above stood the Lord and He affirmed Jacob’s faith by saying that He was with Him. He also promised him and his offspring the land on which he was lying and told him that His descendants will be many and bless all peoples on earth – a powerful prophesy that has been fulfilled in the nation of Israel.

What a surprise this must have been for Jacob to hear God speak. He probably felt bad about the family crisis he had caused earlier and couldn’t have imagined that God was with Him. But God is faithful and merciful and He gives us new beginnings and another chance. Jacob was deeply moved. When he awoke from the dream he exclaimed: “I have slept on holy ground. I had no idea that this place was the gateway to heaven!” So he got up and took the stone he had placed under his head, set it up as a memorial and poured oil on top of it. He called this place “Bethel”, “House of God” because he was visited by God there.

There is a stairway resting on the earth connecting us to God’s home. The Lord is closer to us than we might think. Often unbeknownst to us we are accessed by travelers from heaven who climb up and down this imposing ladder. Angels travel between worlds to draw us to God. When the Lord reveals Himself to us He will impact the way we see things. Jacob memorialized the place where He saw God. It is good to remember the Lord, especially when life gets overwhelming; He reminds us where we come from, where we are headed, and who we are.

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