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Verses of Genesis 28

16

Genesis 28:16 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

DISCOURSE: 45
JACOB’S PILLAR AT BETH-EL

Gen 28:16-19. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep; and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 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. 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. And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. [Note: Preached at the chapel erected and endowed by the Rev. Lewis Way, in Stansted Park (Sussex), on the day previous to the consecration of it by the Right Rev. Lord Bishop of St. David’s, and the Hon. and Right Rev. Lord Bishop of Gloucester, on January 24th, 1819: the day on which is annually commemorated the Conversion of St. Paul.] ON whatever side we look, we see abundant evidence that “God’s ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts.” With us, there are laws of equity prescribed for the regulation of our conduct in the whole of our intercourse with men; and on our strict observance of them the welfare of society depends. But God is not restrained by any such rules in his government of the world: men having no claims whatever upon him, he has a right to dispose of them, and of all that pertains unto them, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure. This right too he exercises in a way, which, though inexplicable to us, is manifest to all. In the conversion of St. Paul we see this in as striking a point of view as it can possibly be placed. St. Paul, even to the very moment of his conversion, was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of our Lord, having voluntarily enlisted himself in the service of the high-priest to execute against them his cruel decrees. He was, as he himself tells us, “a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor;” nor had so much as one penitential pang, till he was arrested by the grace of God, and favoured with a sight of that very Jesus, whose interests he was labouring to destroy. Somewhat of a similar display of God’s grace may be seen in the history before us. Jacob had been guilty of base deceit in relation to his brother’s birthright. He had even represented God himself as confederate with him in that wicked act, and as facilitating by an extraordinary exercise of divine power the attainment of his object. By this treacherous conduct he had greatly incensed his brother against him, and rendered any longer continuance under his father’s roof unsafe. Rebekah, who had instigated him to this wickedness, recommended him to flee: and, to reconcile Isaac to his departure, proposed that he should go to his uncle Laban, and take a wife from amongst his own relatives, and not connect himself with any of the daughters of Canaan, as his brother Esau had done. This however was a mere pretext: the true reason of his departure was, that he feared the wrath of Esau, and fled to avoid the effects of his merited indignation. Thus circumstanced, it could not fail but that he must at this time be in a state of much disquietude, not only as being driven from his family at the very time that his pious and aged father was supposed to be dying, but as having brought this evil on himself by his own base and treacherous conduct, and as having provoked God to anger, as well as man, by his impiety. Wearied with fatigue of body and anxiety of mind, he laid himself down to rest under the open canopy of heaven, with nothing but the bare ground for his bed, and a stone for his pillow. If it be asked, why he did not go into the adjacent city to seek a more comfortable lodging there; I answer, that it was altogether owing to the state of his mind: and his conduct in this respect was perfectly natural; the pain of a guilty conscience uniformly indisposing men, not only for society, but even for any corporeal indulgence.

Who would have thought that under such circumstances he should so speedily be honoured with one of the most wonderful manifestations of God’s love that ever were vouchsafed to mortal man? Yet on this very night did God draw nigh to him as a reconciled God, and pour into his bosom all the consolations which his soul could desire.
Well might Jacob express surprise at this marvellous display of God’s love and mercy: and I pray God that somewhat of the same holy feelings may be engendered in us, whilst we consider,

I.

His unexpected discovery, and

II.

The grateful acknowledgments which it drew from him.

I.

We notice his unexpected discovery—

There were two things with which Jacob was favoured on this occasion; a vision, and a voice. In the vision, he saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, and angels ascending and descending upon it, whilst God himself stood above it to regulate their motions. This imported, that, however destitute Jacob at this time was, there was a God, who ordered every thing both in heaven and earth, and who by means of ministering angels would effect in behalf of his believing people whatsoever their diversified necessities might require. By the voice, he was informed, that all which had been promised to Abraham and to Isaac, respecting the possession of Canaan by their posterity, and the salvation of the world by the promised Seed, should be fulfilled, partially in his own person, and completely in his posterity. Thus did God exhibit himself to him on this occasion as a God of providence and of grace, and, under both characters, as his God for ever and ever. Such a revelation, at such a time, and such a place, a place where the grossest idolatry prevailed to the utter exclusion of the only true God, astonished him beyond measure, and constrained him to exclaim, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not” He now saw that God was not confined to any place or country; and that wherever he should reveal himself to man, there was “the house of God, and there the gate of heaven,” through which the vilest sinner in the universe might gain access to him.

To prosecute this subject further in reference to Jacob is unnecessary. It is of more importance to consider its bearing on ourselves. Know ye then, that, though the vision and the voice had a special respect to Jacob, and the circumstances in which he was more immediately interested, they are eminently instructive to us also, and that, not merely as prophecies that have been fulfilled, but as illustrations of the way in which God will yet magnify the riches of his grace towards his believing people.

How wonderful on many occasions have been the dispensations of his providence! Circumstances as much unlocked for as Jacob’s possession of the land of Canaan, have not unfrequently occurred; and, though perhaps small in themselves, have led to results, which have been of the utmost importance through our whole lives. Had we been more observant of the leadings of providence, and marked with more precision the time and the manner in which the different events of our lives have occurred, we should be no less struck with wonder and amazement than Jacob himself. And how extraordinary have been the communications of his grace! Perhaps when we have been surrounded on every side by men immersed in the cares and vanities of this world, ourselves also destitute of all holy principles, and under the guilt of all our past sins, we have been brought to hear the word of God, and to feel its power, yea and to taste its sweetness also, through the manifestations of the Saviour’s love to our souls. Possibly, even the enormity of some particular sin has, as in the case of Onesimus, been the very means which God has made use of for bringing us to repentance, and for converting our souls to him. It may be that, like Zaccheus, we have gone to some place, where we contemplated nothing but the gratification of our curiosity; and have been penetrated beyond all expectation by a voice from heaven, saying, “Come down, Zaccheus; for this day is salvation come to thy soul.” Perhaps some heavy affliction has been made the means of awakening us to a sense of our lost estate; and through a manifestation of Christ to our souls we have found a heaven, where we anticipated nothing but accumulated and augmented sorrow. Yes verily, there are witnesses without number, at this present day, that God still acts in a sovereign way in dispensing blessings to mankind; and that those words are yet verified as much as ever, “I am found of them that sought me not; I am made manifest to them that asked not after me [Note: Rom 10:20.] !”

And now let me ask, Whether the effect of such manifestations be not the same as ever? Have we not on such occasions been ready to exclaim, “This is the house of God! this is the gate of heaven?” Yes: it is not in the power of outward circumstances, however calamitous, to counterbalance such joys as these. Even the terrors of a guilty conscience are dissipated in a moment; and peace flows in upon the soul like a river.
The practical effects upon the life which will result from this experience may be seen in,

II.

The grateful acknowledgments which it drew from Jacob.

“He rose up early in the morning, and took the stone which he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el; but the name of the city was called Luz at the first.” He determined to erect a memorial of the stupendous mercy that had been vouchsafed to him, and to serve his God in that very place which had been so commended to him by the providence and grace of God. Accordingly he took the stone on which he had reclined his head, and erected it for a pillar, and poured oil upon it, in order to consecrate it to the special service of his God. We have no account of any express command from God that oil should be applied to this purpose by him: but in after-ages it was particularly enjoined to Moses to be used in consecrating the tabernacle, together with all the holy vessels and instruments that were employed in God’s service [Note: Num 7:1.] ; as also to be used in all the peace-offerings that were presented to the Lord: “This is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he shall offer unto the Lord. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried [Note: Lev 7:11-12.].” Thus not only under the law, but long before the law, we behold the solemn rite of consecration performed by one of God’s most highly-favoured servants; and a place that was common before, rendered holy to the Lord by the administration of this ordinance. And how acceptable to God this service was, may be judged from hence, that, twenty years afterwards, God again appeared to Jacob, and reminded him of this very circumstance, saying, “I am the God of Beth-el, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me [Note: Gen 31:13.].” “Arise, and go up to Beth-el, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother [Note: Gen 35:1.].” And in obedience to this command, we are told, “Jacob came to Luz, that is, Beth-el, and built an altar there, and called the place El-beth-el, because God there appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother [Note: Gen 35:6-7.].”

Do we not then see in this record how we also should mark the interpositions of God in our behalf? Does it not become us to remember them, and to perpetuate the remembrance of them for the instruction and encouragement of others? Should not the honour of God be dear to us; and, if the place which God has signalized in so remarkable a way, have hitherto been distinguished by the name of Luz (a place of almonds, and of carnal delights), should we not labour to convert it to a Beth-el, and to render it to all future generations a house of God, and, if possible, the very gate of heaven? Let the idea be derided as it may by them that know not God, this is an action worthy of a child of Abraham, a service acceptable and well-pleasing unto God.

In the verses following my text we have the vow of Jacob respecting this place recorded: “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, whilst he consecrated here an altar to the Lord, he provided for the service of that altar by an actual endowment. What might be his circumstances, or the circumstances of his family, in future life, he knew not: yet he bound himself by this solemn and irrevocable vow. What any ignorant and ungodly man might think of this, it is easy to imagine: but I find not in all the inspired volume one single word that discountenances such a conduct. I find, on the contrary, the whole people of Israel contributing according to their power towards the erection of the tabernacle, and stripping themselves of their ornaments in order to furnish it with vessels for the service of their God—I find David, the man after God’s own heart, even when not permitted to build the temple himself, devoting not less than eighteen millions of money to the preparing of materials for it—I find similar exertions made by others, at a subsequent period, for the rebuilding of the temple—and I find a poor widow, who had but one farthing in the world, commended for casting it into the treasury, to be expended for the Lord. In whatever light then the lovers of this world may view such an appropriation of wealth, I have no hesitation in saying, that it will never be condemned by our God. What if, by means of it, God’s salvation be made known, and his name be glorified? What if many who have immortal souls, now sunk in ignorance and sin, “be turned by means of it from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God?” What if, by the erection of an altar here, there be in this place somewhat effected towards the accomplishment of that promise, “In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord: and it shall be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord in the land of Egypt; for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a Saviour, and a Great One, and he shall deliver them [Note: Isa 19:19-20.] ?” Should God so honour this place, and so testify his acceptance of the sacrifices that shall here be offered, how will they bless him, who have been born to God in this place! and how will they bless him, who have been his honoured instruments of erecting an altar here, and of consecrating it to his service!

What now remains, but that I endeavour to improve this joyful occasion for the benefit of those who hear me?
Are there any here who are bowed down under a sense of sin? Peradventure, though you may have come hither only to witness a novelty, God has brought you hither to speak peace unto your souls, and to anoint you to the possession of a kingdom, when you have no more contemplated such an event than Saul did, when he was in the pursuit of his father’s asses. Know ye of a truth, that God is in this place, though ye may not be aware of it. Know, that he is a God of love and mercy, as much as ever he was in the days of old. Know that he has still the same right to dispense his blessings to whomsoever he will, even to the very chief of sinners. Know that he has not only the same communication with men as ever through the instrumentality of angels, but that he has access to the souls of men by his Holy Spirit, who is ready to impart unto you all the blessings of grace and glory. Know that the Seed promised to Jacob has come into the world, even the Lord Jesus Christ; and that he has fulfilled all that is necessary for our salvation. He has expiated our guilt by his own blood upon the cross; and has made reconciliation for us with our offended God; so that through Him all manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men, and “all who believe in him shall be justified from all things.” O Beloved, only look unto Him, and whatever were the load of guilt under which you groaned, you should find rest and peace unto your souls: “Where sin had abounded, His grace should much more abound:” and “though your sins were as scarlet, they should be as wool; though they were red like crimson, they should be white as snow.”

It may be that some one may have come hither, who, though not particularly bowed down with a sense of guilt, is oppressed with a weight of personal or domestic troubles. Who can tell? God may have brought such an one hither this day, in order to fill his soul with heavenly consolations. O that, if such an one be here, God may now appear unto him as a reconciled God, and “say unto him, I am thy salvation!” O that by the word now spoken in God’s name, there may this day be “given unto him beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that he may become a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, and that God may be glorified!” You have done well that you have come hither; for it is in the house of prayer that God pours out more abundantly upon men the blessings of grace and peace: “He loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” Thousands and millions of afflicted souls have found in God’s house such discoveries of his love, and such communications of his grace, as they before had no conception of: and you at this hour, if you will lift up your soul to God in earnest prayer, and cast all your burthens upon him, shall say before you go hence, “This is the house of God: this is the gate of heaven.” Know of a truth, that one ray of the Sun of Righteousness is sufficient to dispel all the gloom and darkness of the most afflicted soul: and, if only you will direct your eyes to Him, however your afflictions may have abounded, your consolations shall much more abound.

I trust there are not wanting here some who can bear testimony to the truth of these things by their own experience; and who, from the discoveries which they have received of the Saviour’s love, “are filled with peace and joy in believing.” To such then will I say, Bless and magnify your God with all the powers of your souls: “let the children of Zion be joyful in their King;” let them “rejoice in the Lord alway;” let them “rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” At the same time, even whilst they are, as it were, “at the very gate of heaven,” let me particularly caution them against that kind of joy which is tumultuous, and that kind of confidence which borders on presumption. There is a holy fear, which is rather increased than dissipated by heavenly joy; and a solemn awe, that always accompanies the manifestations of God to the soul. Observe the state of Jacob’s mind on this occasion: “He was afraid; and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Thus blended in its nature, thus tempered in its exercise, thus chastised in all its actings, should our joy be. It is of great importance that we should all remember this: for there is amongst the professors of religion much joy that is spurious, much confidence that is unhallowed. We may have great enlargement of heart; but we must “fear and be enlarged:” we may possess much joy; but we must “rejoice with trembling.” Even in heaven itself the glorified saints, yea, and the angels too, though they have never sinned, fall upon their faces before the throne, whilst they sing praises to God and to the Lamb. Let such then be your joy, and such your sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.

But let not all your gratitude evaporate in unsubstantial, though acceptable, emotions. Think with yourselves what you can do for Him, who has done so much for you. Say with yourselves, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?” Think how you may improve your mercies for the good of your fellow-creatures, and the honour of your God. Of Jacob it is said, “He rose up early in the morning, and took the stone and raised it for a pillar.” Let it be thus with you also: lose no time in honouring your God to the utmost of your power. Account all you have, whether of wealth or influence, as given to you for that end. Determine that those who are around you shall have before them the evidences of true piety, and such memorials as shall, if possible, lead them to the knowledge of the true God. Jacob had it not in his power at that time to do all that his heart desired: but he did what he could; and twenty years afterwards, when his means of honouring God were enlarged, he executed all his projects, and performed the vows which he had made. Thus let your desires be expanded to the uttermost; and then fulfil them according to your ability. So shall you have within yourselves an evidence that God is with you of a truth; and having been faithful in a few things, you shall be rulers over many things in the kingdom of your God.


Verses of Genesis 28

16

Consult other comments:

Genesis 28:16 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 28:16 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Genesis 28:16 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Genesis 28:16 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Genesis 28:16 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Genesis 28:16 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Genesis 28:16 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 28:16 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 28:16 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Genesis 28:16 - The Great Texts of the Bible

Genesis 28:16 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 28:16 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Genesis 28:16 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 28:16 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Genesis 28:16 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Genesis 28:16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Genesis 28:16 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Genesis 28:16 - Church Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 28:16 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Genesis 28:16 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 28:16 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Genesis 28:16 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)