BIBLE STUDY SERIES #245, 246 and 247

28 July, 1996

BETHEL - PART I, IN THE NEWS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies has to this point led down the centuries from the Call of Abram to the gathering of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses has received the instructions regarding the construction of The Tabernacle, and the preparation of the service of the Priesthood within the nation. Although we had just arrived at the end of Leviticus 8, and I would in the normal course of events have proceeded today to a consideration of the next Chapter of Leviticus, I feel impelled, in light of the recent world-wide prominence given to a news item concerning the Coronation Stone in Westminster Abbey, to digress for a few weeks in order to review the essence of some broadcasts which I first delivered during the months of December, 1991 and January of 1992 concerning the background history of that marvellous stone. I intend to pick up the present series again thereafter.

In regard to the history of this Coronation Stone, also known as Bethel Stone, we are seeking to present evidence, sufficiently compelling to persuade even those holding only a casual interest that the Almighty God of the Bible has been, and is, in control of events down to our own day and beyond.

If God has made promises which later became unconditional, as He did to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to King David, and then proceeded to fulfil these promises to the letter, the implications for a logical thinking person must be very great indeed, and involve life-challenging and life-changing commitments, for the subsequent developments down through history will go a long way towards proving that God exists, that He is Almighty, and that He is honourable in His dealings with mankind. Christ's promised Salvation is shown to be a credible reality, and the hope of mankind is enhanced.

The purpose of our Federation is to present such evidence as will yield God all the glory, and persuade His people to take His further words seriously under their consideration. Particularly is this so in the case of those of Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred racial background, for we perceive that these are the seed promised to those Patriarchs by God, and their development as a people thus becomes a proof of God's holy word.

From the Book of Genesis we find that God promised that the aged Patriarch, Abraham, and his seed would inherit the blessing of multitudinous seed, of land, of the gate of their enemies, and many other promises which form God's part in a sequence of contracts with the Patriarchs.

As these Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob met their parts in those contracts, these promises on the part of Almighty God became henceforth unconditional.

In Genesis 28 Jacob has just recently, through subterfuge, received the heritage of those special, God-promised, peculiar blessings from the aged Isaac whose eyes were dim, and angered his brother Esau who had expected to receive them. Now Isaac and Rebekah have sent Jacob on his way back to the home of Laban, Rebekah's brother, in Padan-aram, to obtain a wife, and Jacob has now started out on that journey.

We should read the account from Genesis 28:10-22, for it forms one of the outstanding high-points of promise to the succession of the Patriarchs, and in particular, in the life of Jacob. We begin with verses 10 to 15.

10. And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

At this point, I might make some comments before we continue. When, in the course of our studies, we come upon the name of some geographical location, it is usually helpful to look up some background information concerning it, for this helps us to thread our sequence of historic developments like beads upon a string attached to that locality on the map. In the case before us, we find that the name "Bethel" means "house of God", and Young's Concordance adds the following notation which I am now quoting:

"A well-known holy place of Central Canaan. Two accounts are given of the origin of the name: 1. It was bestowed on the spot by Jacob under the awe inspired by the vision of God (Genesis 28:19);..." (That, I should point out, is the occasion before us now.) "...2. it received its name on the occasion of a blessing bestowed by God upon Jacob after his return from Padan-aram, at which time his name was changed to Israel (Genesis 35:14-15). Luz was the ancient name. Bethel was in the tribe of Benjamin. It is 12 miles N. of Jerusalem on the way to Shechem, and was the seat of one of Jeroboam's golden calves. It is now called Beitin. Luz was perhaps the city, and Bethel the holy place close by it."

So we find that this is not the last time wherein Jacob will have reason to hold the spot called Bethel in holy awe, as a place where he met with God in a personal encounter. On the occasion of our present study, Jacob has found himself out on the road to Padan-aram, and night has come on him near a city of the Canaanites called Luz. We must remember that, while he has received the words of blessing from his aged father, Isaac, he also fears, and is fleeing from, the intense anger of his brother, Esau. Having left his parents and his familiar home for the dangers of the journey, he is probably feeling very much alone. No wives or children are as yet a part of his life to comfort him as he proceeds upon his way and he has chosen the option of staying away from the city, perhaps fearing to sleep where treachery is possible. It is suggested by some that he spent the night in a local stone quarry where building stones were prepared, and some of these, if cracked or otherwise thought to be unsuitable, would have been rejected and moved aside by the stone masons.

Jacob has selected some stones, wherewith to make himself as comfortable as he may, and one of these stones in particular, will, in the centuries ahead, become an important stone of testimony, a great treasure, because in this night it is chosen as Jacob's pillow stone. In the verses that follow we will find it taken by Jacob as a witness to God's words of promise in the night vision, and it will for the same reason become a stone of testimony to God's faithfulness to the nation and company of nations which will later develop from him.

This block of rough sandstone, of granularity peculiar to the area not far from Bethel, is attested to reside today beneath the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey. It is the Coronation Stone, with its ancient worn iron rings, testimony to years of wanderings, and the title deed to a kingdom nation, blessed by the Almighty God of Jacob-Israel.

But first, let us look again at those promises granted by The Almighty in that vision. There are a number of aspects. The vision begins with the identification of the figure standing above the ladder which stretches between earth and heaven. It is the same God who is the God of Abraham and of Isaac Who now speaks, so the promises conveyed form a continuation of the same promises given to these Patriarchs, but these are now further amplified.

The land whereon Jacob lies will belong to him and his descendants. These will be multitudinous as the dust of the earth, but now they are promised to spread abroad to the west, east, north and south. It has been noted that the British and related peoples have so spread in subsequent history, and the directions taken were followed in that order. The promise is further confirmed that in the seed of this line of descent shall all the families of the earth be blessed. In Jesus Christ, descended of this line through Mary, this certainly can be seen, for His selfless love provided the means of Salvation to all sinners. There is added for Jacob's very personal assurance, the promise that God will protect him and bring him again to the land which he is about to leave, and further, that God will continue to be his protector wherever he goes. How much that last promise must have meant to Jacob on this night of loneliness and nervous questioning regarding the future!

We shall have more to say concerning that marvellous rugged sandstone block in future episodes of this series, but our time is fast slipping away and we must quickly review what we have begun to learn thus far.

God is a God of promises, and, to His glory, He fulfills those promises. To attempt to construct a world order or government on any other basis is sheer folly, for time will reveal the structural faults where man's system is inconsistent with God's Great Plan. We shall continue our studies next week.

4 August, 1996

BETHEL - PART II, A KING'S THRONE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Of late, we had been following a sequence of Bible Studies which, beginning with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12, had led us down the generations and through the Book of Exodus, and now the first part of Leviticus. However the topicality of recent news concerning the Coronation Stone in Westminster Abbey constrains us to review a short series of talks first delivered back in December 1991 on the subject of The Bethel Stone and related promises.

On the most recent programme, therefore, we had considered the great covenanted promises which The Almighty God made to the ancient Patriarchs of the Bible, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the present day fulfilments of those covenants which we perceive to be reflected in the histories of the various segments of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon peoples of the world today. When He speaks in covenant, and the man with whom He makes that covenant fulfills his part, the covenant becomes, on God's part, an unconditional commitment. That which He promises will surely come to pass, and nothing which man can do will change that from happening. The God Who makes those promises is the LORD of history, and the King of all creation. It is wisdom on the part of man to observe and to obey, for in doing so, there is great peace, and perfect contentment.

This ancient coronation stone, chipped, battered and riven during the many centuries which have taken their toll upon its rough-hewn facets, would have only slight antiquarian value at best, except for the amazing importance which tradition places upon it. Its intrinsic value would be of no great account but for the connection with the great promises of The Almighty God to the Patriarch Jacob (Israel), stated to have been granted as Jacob's head lay in sleep upon its hard gritty surface.

We were considering that magnificent vision of Bethel, the account of which is found in the latter part of the 28th Chapter of Genesis. It is that vision which is commemorated in the well known religious camp song, the first line of which is "We are Climbing Jacob's Ladder". I am not sure where we obtain the precise theology found in that song, incidentally, for the Bible clearly shows us that, in the vision, it was angels who were ascending and descending upon this ladder or stairway to heaven, and I imagine that some campers would find difficulty in persuading even the most patient camp counsellors of their qualifications on that score. Be that as it may, most people who have even slight knowledge of Bible stories from Sunday School know the general account.

After having obtained the blessing of God in Esau's stead through the hands and failing eyes of their old father Isaac, Jacob was now fleeing the wrath of his brother Esau and had stopped for the night near the Canaanite city of Luz. There he had taken of the stones of the place for his pillows.

The stone upon which Jacob was to rest his head that night was destined to serve as a stone of witness throughout millennia to follow, for as Jacob rested himself into sleep, there occurred that vision of the angels ascending and descending upon a ladder which reached to heaven, which is described in Genesis 28:10-15, a passage which we read on our last programme.

You will recall that God had stood above the ladder, and had there given marvellous confirmation and elaboration to the blessings which Jacob had now inherited concerning his descendants for all time to come. Let us not forget to include in this the promises to both Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 17:16, "...kings of people shall be of thee".

Those promises given by The Almighty must find their fulfilment in history, or God is not a God of truth and power. Jacob took that stone upon which his head had rested while the vision was granted, and made it a stone of witness to those promises. We shall have reason to make further reference to that wonderful stone as we progress, for it will, if we correctly understand the situation, be seen to have a remarkable and indeed central place in the Coronations of the kings and queens who have ruled over Israel even to this present hour!

It was in carrying forward His response to those same promises that God moved in a very special way to enter the world of human systems at the hour appointed, in the First Advent of Jesus the Christ. It was thus that He moved to fashion the only possible remedy for Israel's wayward departure from her peculiar status as His wife. The Northern tribes of Israel had been divorced, as Hosea 1:9 and Jeremiah 3:8 show us. Somehow God, as Israel's husband, had to die in order to break the grip of the Law which stated that no wife, once divorced, might re-marry her former husband. There could be no marriage supper of the Lamb at His Second Advent without that death of Israel's husband to clear away the impediment of the Law found in Deuteronomy 24:4.

In Romans 7:1-2, Saint Paul reminds his readers of that relationship, saying "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband". (We should note in passing that those whom Paul addresses are those who "know the law" and these would in all probability be Israelites.)

In thus moving, God also opened the way for the creation of a means of access and a way of escape for all mankind who mourn their sinful condition.

Jesus Christ also came to undertake the part of a Kinsman-Redeemer to Israel, and therewith to express God's love towards all mankind. Those who are willing to place their trust in Him, with sufficient firmness to altar their natural tendencies to deviate from Gods Law, may receive Salvation through Christ's First Advent, for, as has been so succinctly stated of that marvellous act, "He came to die" that these purposes might be fulfilled.

So now let us look for a few moments at the Biblical record of that First Advent. We will read the account in Luke 1:26-33:

26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS.
32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

We shall find a connection between this account and our previous and on-going theme as we progress. It is that of God's great promises and purposes for mankind in and through His chosen instruments. Those instruments are both the people of a Christian Israel, developing progressively from the family of those Patriarchs whom we have been visiting in our readings, and Jesus Christ the Saviour, their Redeemer and coming King.

But if Jesus was to be given the throne of His father, David, and to rule over the house of Jacob, as stated by the Angel Gabriel to Mary, let me leave a question with you. Where is that throne which God shall give to Jesus Christ? He didn't receive it at His First Advent for in John 19:15, John tells us that the chief priests answered Pilate "We have no king but Caesar".

The story concerns that fateful stone called Jacob's Pillow, which is also called Lia Fail, and The Stone of Destiny. We shall return to this question on our next programme. May the true spirit of association with our Redeemer-Saviour and our coming King fill your life with the peace and joy which was expressed so long ago to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem by the angelic multitudes.

11 August, 1996

BETHEL - PART III, THE STONE THAT WITNESSES

by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have digressed from our ongoing series of lessons to examine matters relating to The Coronation Stone in Westminster Abbey, which recent news releases have once again drawn to public attention, and with that, the theme of God's Great Plan for the redemption of Israel and Salvation of repentant mankind through the progeny of the aged Patriarch, Abraham and his exquisitely beautiful wife, Sarah. We have already seen how this line descended through Isaac to Jacob, and how great and magnificent promises were made by God, with further amplification, to each of those Patriarchs in turn. When Jacob received the blessing in God's message, it came first through the vision in the night when he fled from the anger of Esau, the brother who had expected to receive those blessings.

Following the vision of the ladder which reached to heaven, Jacob decided to commemorate the granting of the magnificent promises he had just received. He set up the stone which had formed his pillow and anointed it to mark it as a sacred witness to the event. Let us see how this was done, picking up our account at Genesis 28:16:

16. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19. And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21. So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22. And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

Thus did Jacob mark that Covenant which the Almighty God there made with him that night. The atheist might attempt to dismiss this account by stating that Jacob was simply facing a difficult period in his life, and had recorded a transient dream of no substance, but there is a way to test that assumption also.

Note that Jacob's testimony corresponds to the witness of others among the Patriarchs, in that it is one of a sequence of such visitations by God in which a progression in the scope of the blessings can be traced. Also, the witness of history does supply confirmatory evidence that this was indeed no idle dream of the night, for what was therein promised has come about in subsequent centuries as the course of history unfolded the destinies of Jacob himself, and of the tribes which descended from him.

There is, in addition to the witness of the whole tribal history of ancient Israel and Judah, the subsequent history of Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples which corresponds, in their times, down to our own day, to a progressive outworking of the matter.

Neither let us forget the witness of Jesus concerning this promised blessing. For the Christian, the authority of Jesus should be unquestioned.

And then there is that matter of the stone of witness, that pillow stone which Jacob had set up as a "pillar". What became of it? It was a heavy block of sandstone, as subsequent history evidences. Early in the morning (and let us remember there were no street lamps to light up the area and permit his doing this at the moment of awakening) Jacob had set this stone up and poured oil upon the top of it. The act of anointing this stone was important, for such an act would set this particular stone apart from all others in the vicinity as the chosen stone of witness.

In after centuries, St. Paul, in writing to Corinthian Israelites in I Corinthians 10:1-4, was to state a marvellous parallelism, concerning this symbol, and in doing so, was to provide the observant reader with an important clue as to the whereabouts, at the time of the Exodus, of this anointed stone upon which Jacob had laid his head at Bethel. Paul wrote:

1. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2. And were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3. And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4. And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Paul's reference is obviously intended to elicit a spiritual teaching from what must, in his day, have been a well known historical fact. Physically, the Exodus record shows that the water which the tribes of Israel drank at Horeb (Exodus 17:6) and at Kadesh (Numbers 20:11) was from a certain "rock" which, as Paul's words indicate, must physically have "followed" them; being no doubt carried along on their journey. This, bears every mark of being Jacob's pillow stone which Jacob had left in the care of his son Joseph in Egypt when he was dying, (as seen in Genesis 49:24). That stone had been truly an anointed stone, and hence a most apt symbol to represent Jesus, for the title, "Christ" means "anointed". That word, "Christ", is number 5547 in Strong's Concordance, and it is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "Messiah", which also means "anointed". What other rock of such total and over-riding significance in the history of Israel could this "Rock which followed them" be but that rock called Jacob's Pillow? It was the "Christ Stone", the Stone which was anointed by Jacob the Patriarch of their tribes, and upon which Yahweh (Jehovah) stood at .Horeb to bring forth water for the people.

In order to carry such a stone conveniently through the occasional gritty blowing sand, it would need to have some attachment, such as iron rings stapled into it, to allow of its transport while slung on a heavy pole. We later find just such a heavy block of stone, of the greatest antiquity, matching the sandstone of outcrops within about 15 miles of the Bethel area, with iron rings worn almost paper thin; a stone treated with the utmost respect, an ancient treasure in the very heart of a nation which fulfills each mark of the prophetic description which Jacob's tribal descendants were to form. Furthermore, tradition avers it to be the very witness of Jacob's dream. A witness indeed! But more of that later.

Having just left Egypt, and having just passed through the Desert of Sin (most aptly named), we find Israel encamped at Horeb, the local of Mount Sinai. It was here that Israel received The Law. Here, to bring forth water for the people, Moses was told to STRIKE the rock which followed them, for Christ was to be smitten, bearing the sins of His people at that symbolic point connected with the giving of The Law in their spiritual journey. As Paul shows us, this rock was a symbol of the presence of The Lord among His people in their journey towards the Promised Land. Thus it was intended that the "type" answer to "anti-type" in that this rock was to endure being smitten only once, for Christ was to die only once to put away the penalty of Sin from among His people.

What was true of Horeb, however, was not true of Kadesh. Kadesh was the gateway into the Promised Land. It lay at the border of Edom. "Here, Moses was commanded to SPEAK to the rock, to elicit the blessing of a supply of water."

Moses' great sin at Kadesh, was to strike that same rock a second time. At His Second Advent, Christ will come as King, not as Sacrifice, so Moses' action in striking the rock at the entry to the Promised Land was not in keeping with the required symbolism marking the age-long subsequent experiences of his people as they approach the day of Christ's return and the emergence of God's Kingdom here on earth. Moses "broke the symbolism" of type to anti-type in this prophetic enactment of the subsequent history of Israel, and for that sin, Moses lost his personal opportunity to lead Israel into the Land of Promise.

Incidentally, I find it curious that it was at that point of entry that Edom opposed Israel, barring their access to that land which was promised to their fore-fathers, and which thus formed their rightful inheritance (Numbers 20:14-22). The whole Exodus experience of God's people is enacted prophecy for our own time.

But we should not fail to note that the SAME rock was struck TWICE, in places about 150 miles apart. One could scarcely find two points along the Exodus journey further from one another than these two localities within the confines of the Sinai Peninsula. In those two places many miles apart, a rock which followed the tribes provided the water to sustain them on the driest portions of the way, being carried with them in their journeying. As God, in the pillar of a cloud by day and fire by night LED those same tribes, this distinction should also be noted. The rock "FOLLOWED" them.

While Jacob, fleeing alone from his home, was merely able to mark the Stone of Bethel by the sacred anointing with oil for the time being, and while he would, of necessity, have left it there for a while, it was surely not left alone after his return, for we find God requiring Jacob to return to Bethel, to further confirm his attachment to those promises.

We shall have to pursue this topic of the Stone further on our next programme.

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