Advent Devotion for December 2
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open…”
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 28:10-15
10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
SCRIPTURE: John 1:49-51
49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
MUSIC: What Child Is This? - Josh Groban (YouTube)
SOME THOUGHTS: Having read both of these passages many times before, I’m not sure that I ever connected them. We need to have the context for this dream. As always, never read the biblical accounts in isolation. Context is essential. A middle chapter of a novel makes little sense unless you read the previous chapters and it has, even more, significance when you read the chapters that follow. In reading the whole story, you then have the greatest understanding of the middle of the story. The same goes for the Scriptures. In the first four verses of this chapter, Isaac bestows the covenant blessing of Abraham on to Jacob and repeats the heart of God’s promise to Abraham. Jacob knows that the blessing of God is to continue through his line. As he dreamt, he saw the stairway going from earth to heaven and there was traffic on the stairway! There was movement between heaven and earth. Jacob saw firsthand that there was a world beyond the earthly one and that it was possible to communicate and commune with the Lord. At the top of the stairway was none other than the Lord, reaffirming the promise made to Abraham and to his son, Isaac, and now to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. God repeated the promise of many descendants. (Finally, things were picking up! Jacob had twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, who, over a period of 430 years grew into the nation of Israel with well over one million people leaving Egypt in the Exodus!) Once again, there is the great assurance of God’s presence with his people. In this passage, God even anticipates the return of Israel to their homeland after they have been scattered over the whole earth. It is interesting in John’s gospel, that Nathanael asked Jesus, (Rabbi), if he was indeed the Son of God, the King of Israel. More is going on here. Jacob, the scheming one whose name means “grabber,” had his name changed to Israel, which in Hebrew means, “contending with God.” In the New Testament the person confronting this situation has the name of Nathanael, meaning, “God has given.” In other words, whereas Jacob struggled with God, Nathanael took a step of faith right away. Jesus then confirmed and clarified the biggest picture, stating that, indeed, he himself was the stairway between heaven and earth. In the Genesis passage, the Lord spoke to Jacob from the head of the stairway. In this case, the Lord has come to earth to speak to Nathanael. In Christ, that stairway is open even as you read this. Our Savior has fulfilled Jacob’s dream.
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, grant us a truer understanding of the wonder of connecting heaven and earth and earth with heaven. We are so fraught with earthly endeavors, and earthly delights, and earthly ideas, that the temptation to believe in the reality of earth and the seemingly unreal nature of heaven is all too real. May we better experience, trust, and live in Christ that we would know the great truth that God has come to earth bringing earth to heaven and bring redemption and restoration to the whole created order. May Jacob and Nathanael’s experiences become our experience today as we walk around in this world. And grant that we may see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one and only stairway between heaven and earth. In the name of Jesus, Amen. — Daniel Sharp