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photo courtesy of Indiana University of Pennsylvania

 Genesis 28:11 (NIV)

11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the Lord, …….

I realize that some places are more comfortable to sleep than others, but I can’t imagine sleeping with my head on a rock. There is no vision of comfort there. This was Jacob, by the way, running away from his brother Esau after he had stolen Esau’s blessing from their father. Although technically they were twins, Esau was born first so he was considered the older son. In the ancient Hebrew culture, the eldest son always received the largest inheritance and blessing from the father. But as you may know, Jacob tricked his father and swiped the blessing from his brother. You’ll have to read Genesis 25-33 to get the whole story.

Was there any significance to Jacob laying his head on a stone? And what became of the stone?  There are many legends but this is what scripture has to say:

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[f] will be my God 22 and[g] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Jacob called the place Bethel which means “House of God.” A house is a place where you live, not a pile of rocks, so why did Jacob think of this place as the house of God? Because it was here where he first encountered God. In his vision, he saw a ladder with angels going up and down between heaven and earth. God was standing, not on the earth at the foot of the ladder, but in heaven at the top of the ladder. The ladder was a conduit between heaven and earth.

The church is the house of God. Some believe it is the place where God lives. However, it is really just the means by which most people find and develop a relationship with God. It is, in essence, the ladder by which God reaches down to man, and we reach up to heaven.

Jesus referred to himself as the “stone that the builders rejected.” It’s a quote from Psalm 118:22. I don’t think it’s coincidence that those words are sandwiched between the sections before and after in the same Psalm:

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.[b]
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up[c] to the horns of the altar.

Jesus gave very specific instructions to his followers about making disciples and building the church. Again, not a physical building, but a people. The people of God are the true conduit to heaven. The stones are symbolic of what the people of God represent. Peter agreed with this as we can see from his first letter:

1 Peter 2:4-6 NIV

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”[b]

I will probably never lay my head on a physical stone to sleep. But I will forever lay my spiritual head on the church because that is where I believe the Spirit of God is the strongest and where I will be most encouraged in my faith.

It is my Bethel, the place where I met God ……….

All verse quotes courtesy of biblegateway.com