|BIBLE STUDY SERIES: #8-9|
22 December, 1991
by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
On our recent programmes, we have been considering 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.
On our last talk, 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. The true Joy of Christmas is not in the hollow tinsel and bustle, the gifts and the liquor, but in knowing that we have a way out from our condition of sin. By contrast, nothing else in the whole festivity counts for a snap of the fingers with The Almighty God, and nor should it with us who are loyal to Him.
In that connection, I might digress slightly to make a few comments about the public mis-conception concerning the purpose of Christmas. It is most deplorable that merchants who wish to use the excuse of "Christmas", (presumably the occasion set apart to honour the birth of the Saviour who came to die, and thus to make a way of escape from Sin's destructive conclusion), should pretend to do so by stressing pagan symbolism, and specifically demanding that they be allowed to break Christ's Fourth Commandment!
For those who may not bring the words at once to mind, that injunction states: "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates..."! Opening those stores causes the staffs, (the "manservants" and "maidservants") to work on that day of rest.
As God spoke to King Saul in the words of the Prophet Samuel in I Samuel 15:22, "...Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?".
Merchants would not demand the right to open on the Day of Rest if people did not make that practice profitable by choosing to make purchases on that day. Those who buy on the day of rest encourage those merchants to open their doors.
The words of Isaiah's opening Chapter are thus also appropriate, but time forbids reading the whole passage. However the spirit is gleaned from selected verses, in such words as these: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts: and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats." ... "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I can not away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them" ... "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well...".
I am sure that you get the picture. We honour God by keeping to His Commandments, and not in fancy displays which please only ourselves. There is no need to labour the point further.
At this season in the year which is customarily the one marked by some recognition of Christ's First Advent, even though for crass commercial purposes, we should, perhaps, make a special effort to make some reference to His dual task undertaken at that First Advent.
Jesus Christ 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 1:26-38:
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.
34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36. And behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
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.
One point which I might mention in passing is this: Often in Christmas cards we find pictures of the Magi, those gifted "Wise Men" who saw His star in the East, and came seeking Jesus, the "King of the Jews", but we ought to remember that they did not arrive until later, for they came "into the house" (Matthew 2:11) which was not the "stable" or "cave" of His birth (Luke 2:7). Evidently, in spite of the fact that Joseph of Arimathea, (Mary's uncle by Talmudic tradition), was later stated to be a man of great wealth, Jesus was not born into the wealth commonly associated with the birth of a king. Neither, after the forty days of Mary's ritual purification were completed, were the rich gifts of those Wise Men in Joseph's possession when he offered the poor people's sacrifice in the temple, of two turtledoves or young pigeons. We can see this if we compare Luke 2:22-24 with Leviticus 12:6-8. Those having sufficient wealth were to bring a lamb and a turtledove or pigeon for this sacrifice.
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 Christmas, that 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.
29 December, 1991
by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have been examining 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.
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 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 fulfils 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 journyings. 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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