What does God expect when we say, “We’re going to have church?” Or, “What should we expect when we attend church?” What does it mean to come to the house of God?
Genesis 28:10 – Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. (Verse 11) So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.
(Verse 12) Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Verse 13) And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac, the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.
(Verse 14) “Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the eath shall be blessed. (Verse 15) “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
(Verse 16) Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Verse 17) And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
(Verse 18) Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. (Verse 19) And he called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
(Verse 20) Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, (Verse 21) “so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. (Verse 22) “And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
This is the birth of the Church. Acts Chapter 2, is the birth of the New Testament church. This is the birth of the house of God. “Beth,” meaning “house,” and “el,” God.
Before all of this happened with Jacob, Luz was a good place to camp, stay overnight because it had fresh springs. Abraham had built an altar there years before, but it was still called Luz then. Bethel was the major crossroad, north, south, east, and west, to the promised land. Bethel is the second most mentioned city in the Bible, Jerusalem being the first. So why would Jacob call this place “The house of God?”
Church is a connection.
Church should be a place where we connect with God. If you don’t connect with God; if you just hear good music and good teaching and a person doesn’t connect with God then you haven’t been to church. Jacob connected with God.
There was a ladder set up where angels were ascending and descending. When Jesus was talking to Nathanael in the book of John, Jesus says this: John 1:51 – And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Every Israelite knew about Jacob’s ladder. Jesus was telling him, “I’m the ladder!” In other words: Jesus is the only way to get from earth to heaven. There is a connection that is made between heaven and earth and His name is Jesus! But again, why was that place where Jacob slept church? Genesis 28:16 – Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
Jacob didn’t know the Lord was in the very place where he slept, but he knew it when he woke up! Chruch is becoming aware of the presence of God. Yes, God is everywhere, but what happens when we become aware of His presence? This can actually happen anywhere we are. All of a sudden we become aware that “God’s here!” Church should be about experiencing God.
Church is conversation.
Once a person connects with God, He wants to talk to you and He wants you to respond. God spoke to Jacob and Jacob spoke to God. When God told Moses to build the tabernacle, He said, “There I will meet with you.” That’s church!
There are several ways that God can speak to us and often does: (a) Correction – correction is not always a bad thing. God will place people in our lives to point us in the right direction and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Example: When God tells us that the relationship we are in is not going to take us where we want to go, we need to listen. It’s not going to get us to our destiny. God speaks correction in our lives for our good.
God will also speak: (b) Direction Which way do I go in this situation? Sometimes we have no idea. How many times do we just want to know, “Do I, or don’t I? God wants to tell us if we are willing to listen to direction. Example: Which job do I take; which house do I buy; what school is best for the kids and on and on. We will find out which direction to go once we connect with Him.
God will also speak: (c) Inspiration – This is when we know we are going in the right direction but just haven’t seen anything as of yet to confirm it. We keep going when we know that we know and God will confirm it in due time and it will give us the inspiration to keep going!
Church is a commitment
Jacob made a vow, he made a commitment to God. We have to fulfill a commitment in order to get to the destiny God has for our lives. We keep going, not getting side-tracked. Jacob committed to giving God a tenth of everything that God gave him. The only one that we know of that had done this before, was Abraham. Where we are committed, we will make an investment.
Matthew 6:21 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words; Your heart will follow your treasure! So if we want our hearts to be after the things of God, put your treasure there and your heart will start to follow.
Luz means crooked or perverse. That’s exactly what Jacob was before his encounter with God. He had manipulated his father into giving him Esau’s blessing and so Jacob was running from his brother. Luz was forty miles from where Jacob started. Normally a person could travel twenty miles in a day but Jacob was on the run. The sun goes down and he has to camp.
Jacob makes that commitment to God and then goes and stays with his uncle for twenty years. Here’s what God says to him then: Genesis 31:13 – “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your kindred.”
In other words: “Go back and face your past.” On the way back he stops and tells the others to go on ahead and he has an encounter with God again. In that encounter, he actually wrestles with God. Jacob tells God, “I’m not going to let You go until you bless me.” Jacob wanted God to change him on the inside. God then touches Jacob’s hip. From then on Jacob would only be able to rely on the Lord’s strength, not his own. And God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning, “A person who struggles but God prevails.”
Church is a place we can go when we are struggling and make a connection with God and have a conversation all because He touches us we can fulfill the commitment we made to Him.