In his flight from his murderous brother Esau, Jacob spent the night at Bethel, where years earlier his grandfather Abraham had heard God promise that he would receive all the land as far as he could see. There, Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven, and the Lord repeated to him the promises Abraham received.
Shaken, Jacob awoke and said:
How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. —Gen. 28:17
Jacob named the site Bethel—“house of God.” The dream gave more than a vision of God’s house.
It offered a foreshadowing of how to get there.
Bethel—The House of God
At Bethel, the place where Abraham built an altar in worship, Jacob responded in kind. He never forgot the place, for even on his deathbed he told his sons how God Almighty appeared to him there and promised to give the land to Jacob’s descendants for an everlasting possession (Gen. 48:3-4).
(Photo: Jacob’s Ladder, painting by Salvator Rosa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Jacob’s sons became the 12 tribes of Israel, and centuries later they re-entered and took the land God gave them.
Their first victory after Jericho occurred in the region of Bethel and Ai—the very place where centuries before God had promised the land to Jacob.
Thus, Bethel became not merely Jacob’s “gate of heaven” but also Israel’s gateway into the land they would inherit.
Bethel—The Gateway Points to the True Gate
Many centuries later, the Lord Jesus would tell Nathaniel:
You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. —John 1:51
By comparing Himself to Jacob’s ladder, Jesus revealed that God’s means of connecting with mankind would now come through His Son—a means and a mediator we still enjoy today (Heb. 1:1-2; 7:25). Jesus became the new Bethel, God’s dwelling place.
Just as Bethel became Israel’s gateway into Abraham’s land, so Jesus has become the gateway into Abraham’s blessing.
Indeed, Jesus is “the gate” by which all Israelites—even anyone who believes in Him—may come to God (see John 10:9).
One Way Always
I’m often amazed at those who balk at Christianity’s claim that Jesus is the one way to God. The Bible has always been exclusive. There has always been only one way to God.
Tell me what you think: What makes it hard for us to believe there is only one way to God? To leave a comment, just click here.
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This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible. • These 90 devotional readings, each based on a specific place in the lands of the Bible, will help you apply the truths of God’s Word to your daily journey of faith. • You’ll enjoy pertinent Scripture, inspirational quotes, photographs, maps, and a daily prayer.
After going places with God, you’ll never be the same.