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BETHEL AND PENIEL

From the February 1949 issue of The Christian Science Journal


IF the present seems bleak and barren, strewn with the rocks of uncertainty, fear, doubt, and remorse, with no encouraging prospect, then you may be at Bethel, where Jacob found himself at sunset, where he gathered stones for his pillows when he lay down to sleep. No doubt Jacob's thoughts were troubled as he lay with his head pillowed on a stone, for behind him were experiences which caused him regret and great fear of consequences. At this point, however, he fell asleep and dreamed.

The writer of the book of Genesis records this dream and its effect upon Jacob. We read (28:12, 13, 15): "And behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. . . . And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, . . . for I will not leave thee." Then, in the dawn of a new day, Jacob wakened out of his sleep with his spiritual vision so clear that he said (verses 16, 17): "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. . . . This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Thus Jacob glimpsed the coincidence between the spiritual and the human, and his life forever after was influenced by the spiritual inspiration he had gained in this experience.

In humility he called the place of his vision "Bethel," or "house of God," and we are told that he took the stone which had been his pillow and poured oil upon it, vowing (verses 20-22), "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house."

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