Jan 16: Gen 28, 29 | Psa 33 | Matt 18
Reading 1 - Gen 28
"He [Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway [or ladder] resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (Gen 28:12).
The ladder (or more properly, stairway) may signify the ages of time between Jacob's day and Christ's day. During these ages, the angels (God's messengers and ministers: Heb 1:14; Psa 34:7) have been working with the saints and the world to achieve the Kingdom. This stairway joins heaven and earth. In the KIngdom Age, Jacob and saints will have "climbed" the stairway (or, to put it another way, Christ will have descended: Act 1:11), and Christ and his saints will have been united in Jerusalem...
The stairway also symbolizes Jacob's seed, in generations to come, extending from Jacob himself all the way to the Messiah.
"Now the interval of time between the giving of the promise and the fulfilment of it was represented to Jacob by a ladder of extraordinary length, one end of which stood at Bethel, and the other end against the vault of heaven. Here were two points of contact, the land of Judah and heaven; and the connecting medium, the ladder, between them. This was a most expressive symbol, as will be perceived by considering the uses to which a ladder is applied. It is a contrivance to connect distant points, by which one at the lower end may reach a desired altitude. It is, then, a connecting medium between points of distance. Now if, instead of distant localities, distant epochs be substituted, the ages and generations which connect them will sustain a similar relation to the epochs as a ladder to the ground on which it rests, and the point of elevation against which it leans. The ladder, then, in Jacob's vision was representative of his seed in their generations and appointed times. One end of it was in his loins; the other, in the Lord Jesus when he should sit upon his throne, reigning over the land upon which Jacob was asleep" (John Thomas, "Elpis Israel" 270).
John 1:51: "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." That is, "UPON the son of man"; in other words, Christ IS the stairway, linking man to God, and vice versa.
__ "Alas, we make
____ a ladder of our thoughts,
______ where angels step --
________ but sleep ourselves at the foot.
__________ Our high resolves
____________ look down upon our slumbering acts"
______________ (CA Ladson, The Christadelphian 64:247).
Also, compare John 1:46: " 'Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?' Nathanael asked. 'Come and see,' said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false (or "no guile").' "
Nathanael -- like Jacob before him -- unburdened his heart to God, threw off his guile, and repented of his past sins. Coming face to face with his Savior, and seeing heaven opened, he became a man drawn to God.
Angels ascending and descending on the "ladder": Possibly the phrase "ascending and descending" is used in that order to show Jacob that the angels had been with him all along, even though their care and guidance at times was unperceived. They, of course, had ready access to God and their going and coming pointed out that fact.
"There above it stood the LORD, and he said: 'I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying' " (Gen 28:13).
The Land of Canaan, promised to Abraham (Gen 13:14-17), to Isaac (Gen 26:1-4). Repeated in Gen 35:11,12.
"Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Gen 28:14,15).
The repeated 'I AM's and 'I WILL's recall the Name of Yahweh and are expressive of His Purposes. They convey the ideas of the Divine presence, the Divine protection, the Divine preservation, and the Divine promises.
"I am with you" is perhaps the most fundamental of these promises: compare Gen 15:1; 17:2,4,7,8; 26:3,24. Also, cp Jer 31:33; Heb 8:10; 2Co 6:16; Rev 21:3.
"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it' " (Gen 28:16).
"If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive of a place where He is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob... gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, 'Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.' Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew" (AW Tozer).
Reading 2 - Psa 33:4,6
"For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does... By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth" (Psa 33:4,6).
"The grand assumption of Scripture is that behind all that you can know there is an eternal Mind whose Spirit fills the universe, and when the Mind of the Eternal is expressed, the power is without limit, and the result instant and infallible... Between the word and the work of God, therefore, the connection is so close that David can treat them as parallel" (LG Sargent).
Reading 3 - Mat 18:15-17
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (Mat 18:15-17).
"We have, therefore, to accept it as an obligation from Christ that if we have done wrongfully to a brother, the recollection of his grievance against us should be a barrier to our approaches to God till the matter has been put right by reconciliation. There is, of course, such a thing as unjust accusation. The remedy in that case is in Mat 18:15, unless we prefer the other course, of silently and patiently taking wrong, which in some cases is the preferable one" (Robert Roberts, "Seasons of Comfort" 249).
"If your brother sins against you", then you -- being by Bible standard and precept "your brother's keeper" (Gen 4:9) -- are bound to warn the offender with the express purpose of turning him from his sin (Eze 3:17-21). Your love, actively manifested in an unpleasant task, may "cover a multitude of sins" (1Pe 4:8).
In such cases the offender should not be evilly thought of, or spoken of. His status and feelings will be as fully considered and respected as one's own. Neither will he be confronted from motives and feelings personal to the visitor, but solely and purely for his own good who has transgressed.
With the object of gaining, not of sacrificing his brother, the careful brother should in the spirit of meekness strive to restore the faulty; and he should consider his own imperfections and weaknesses and consequent liability to fall into temptation (Gal 6:1). Every step which might lead to New Testament disfellowship (or withdrawal) was always intended to facilitate the repentance and reclamation of the offender. The Son of Man himself came into the world with the purpose of saving that which was lost (Mat 18:11) -- and well might we be thankful that he did that very thing.
"Nothing tends more to the keeping or the restoring of peace than the observance of this law; and no law is more constantly broken. The universal impulse, when anything is supposed to be wrong, is to tell the matter to third persons. From them it spreads, with the results of causing much bad feeling which, perhaps, the original cause does not warrant and would not have produced if the aggrieved person had taken the course prescribed by Christ, and told the fault 'between thee and him alone.' If good men, or those who consider themselves such, would adopt the rule of refusing to listen to an evil report privately conveyed, until it had been dealt with to the last stage according to the rule prescribed by Christ, much evil would be prevented" (Robert Roberts).