Saturday, November 28, 2015

The House of God

Last week's Torah portion comes from Genesis 28:10 - 32:2.

When I was a young girl my dad occasionally drove my family by a beautiful, large church where "The house of God and the gate to Heaven," was engraved above the front doors. I thought it was impressive! I loved the sound of the words and how important they made the church seem. Later, I found that same phrase in Genesis.

Genesis 28:17 (KJV)
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.

It was spoken by Jacob as he awoke from his dream of the ladder that led up to Heaven upon which angels ascended and descended. However, he was not in front of any building whatsoever. He continued with this:

Genesis 28:18-19, 22 (KJV)
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 Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
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.

Jacob called the place Bethel, which means "the house of God." He even set up a pillar of stones and stated that the place would be "God's house." He also declared that he would give a tithe (tenth) unto God.

Where was this place?
Based on Jacob's descriptive words, the location cannot be any other place than Jerusalem. Yet the only identifiable Bethel in the Bible is a town north of Jerusalem and west of Ai. However, the ancient Jewish sages struggled with this problem also. In the Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 88a states "Jacob called Jerusalem Bethel."  

Not only does Jacob's words imply Jerusalem, but the Scriptures themselves indicate that the "House of God" is indeed the Temple which was built in Jerusalem.

1 Kings 6:37 (KJV) 
37 In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the LORD laid, in the month Zif:

Psalm 23:6 (KJV)
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Isaiah 2:2 (KJV)
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

So is Jacob's Bethel Jerusalem? This is a question that only God Himself can probably answer. However, it should make us sit up and take notice about our use of the phrase "house of God and gate to Heaven." Considering the importance and uniqueness given to the true "House of God," no church building can make this claim. No church can call itself "the gate to Heaven." This should also remind us of the importance of Jerusalem. This is the place from which Yeshua will one day rule! There will never be another city like it!

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