The Four Pillars of Jacob



Gen. 28:18

INTRO: There are two men in the Bible with whom we almost all feel a strange oneness and sympathy of heart. They are Jacob and Peter. Their experiences and characteristics seem so to match with our own that we all find help and encouragement from hearing about them. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, both of these men were failures in themselves. We are conscious of our own failings and so find a kinship with them. Secondly, they were both greatly loved of the Lord, in spite of their failures; God was very patient and gracious towards them, and we are glad to be able to identify ourselves with them in this respect. Thirdly - and I hope that this is as true of us as of them - they were wholehearted and absolute in their history with the Lord. It was this thorough-going characteristic in Jacob which influenced him in setting up his pillars. We read of four such pillars which he erected in the course of hisspiritual pilgrimage, each one of them representing a landmark in his own inner history. It sometimes took Jacob a long time to learn a spiritual lesson, but once the lesson was learned it became a governing factor in his life. He accepted wholeheartedly what God had shown him, and set up his visible testimony to the fact in a pillar.

The four pillars: Revelation Gen. 28:18,Separation 31:4, Transformation 35:14 and Resurrection 35:20.

Genesis 28 speaks to us of the first recorded occasion on which Jacob really committed himself in thisway. He took the stone which had been under his head as he lay asleep and set it up for a pillar to mark the place where he had received a remarkable revelation from God. Peter likewise very early in his career had a Divine revelation, and in both cases the revelation was concerned with the same spiritual truth. Peter realized that the Lord was the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord added to that by affirming, "Upon this rock I will build my church"(Matt. 16:16,18). In a spiritual way Jacob also saw Christ, the Rock, and was shown that the house of God is involved in knowing Christ in that way.


A. Jacob was utterly alone with God. All other voices were silent; all other influences removed; it was as though he was alone in the world - alone with God. That is true of all revelation. When the Lord opens our spiritual eyes to see a Divine truth, that is something peculiarly personal; we are alone in it. The matter is a direct challenge to our own hearts. We see that which the natural man does not know,and our whole life is changed by what we see. The proof of revelation is the effect that it has upon our lives. This revelation to Jacob made a profound change in his life. He saw for himself the truth of God's house.

B. We are apt to think of spiritual revelation as the fruit of some long process of spiritual maturing,but this is by no means always the case. Both Jacob and Peter were at the very beginning of things when Divine purpose 1st dawned upon them. Jacob was nowhere spiritually when this incident occurred.

1. 'Though like a wanderer, The sun gone down, Darkness comes over me, My rest a stone' –

2. That is not the language of a spiritual giant, but only of a miserable and discredited fugitive. Yet this is the very man whom God has singled out for revelation. All of Jacobs plans had gone wrong. What, now,was the use of the birthright and the blessing? He knew nothing of the future - that he would prosper in the land of his exile. All he knew was that everything appeared to be lost. He had no home of his own. And that was when he was shown the house of God. When you have your own house and are getting on comfortably in it you may not be particularly ready to be enlightened as to God's house. No, this vision was not the reward of spiritual maturity but the answer to abject failure.

C. It may be that many do not appreciate Divine revelation just because they have no such sense of personal insufficiency or failure. The ability to plan and to prosper may blind men to God's highest purpose. The place of revelation may be the place of conscious failure and unworthiness. Thank God, He does not wait until we are worthy. It is one of the glories of God's grace that He shows us that which is dearest to His own heart, even though we are Jacobs and Peters.


A. You will notice in Genesis 28:14 that it was a vision of universal significance. We are apt to think that it was just something that concerned Jacob, since he was promised a blessing - *Gen. 28:15. But this experience was something far more than a personal encouragement to Jacob. God showed him what was His provision for the whole world, for all men, and all the nations. "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." What you are seeing now is the key to the will of God in all the nations and for all time. It is the house of God.'

B. We talk of visions and revelations. How often we think in purely personal terms! - that the Lord is showing us what He is going to make of us or do with us, or what we are going to be for Him. The great men of God forgot themselves as the zeal of God's house took hold upon them. We who are so much less tend to think of revelation in terms of our own part in it, putting ourselves into the center of the picture. Well, it is true that there is a place for us in the vision -there was a place for Jacob. God wanted and needed Jacob, but His real purpose was bound up with His house, from which all the nations were to derive their blessing and their life.

C. I am not sure that it was a ladder, as we think of ladders, that Jacob saw. It is the only occurrence of the word in the Bible, so there is no means of comparing it with any other reference. It appears to be derived from a verb which speaks of that which is set up, which rises up. It may well be that what he saw was not at all a literal ladder, but some kind of sloping causeway joining earth and heaven. His stone the next morning symbolized for him what he had seen. In any case, John 1:51 shows us quite clearly that whatever the ladder looked like its spiritual counterpart is Christ - Christ set up as the great means access and of communication between heaven and earth.

D. This was set up on the earth at the place called Bethel. What is the significance of Bethel?

1. It is that there is a place on earth which is wholly the Lord's. It is God's house. Of course the whole world is His, but this is peculiarly His, for here He is Lord indeed, He is supreme and all His rights are fully recognized. Everything which goes up to God from the earth must go up from Bethel. "The angels of God ascending..." It is not one of many ladders which may be found in various places. There is a specific and uniqueway by which all that comes up to God from man must ascend.

2. Thus Jacob's eyes were opened to discover the house of God. Everything goes up from here. It is possible for us to do a lot of work,in activities here, there and everywhere, without much of it going up to God.Only that which comes through Christ can ascend to God. The whole point of Bethel is to insist that service must be Godward. That does not mean that service takes no account of the needs of men, but it insists that the true direction of service must be Godward even if it is expressed in man-ward activities. Thus it is that Peter reminds us that we are "...a spiritualhouse... a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 2:5.

E. Similarly everything which comes down to man does so on this Divine staircase at Bethel. God speaks at Bethel, He speaks in His house. His is the only voice heard there. Of course, God spoke in all sorts of places and He does still, but the essential speaking of God - that is the meaning of the vision - comes down through Christ to His Church.

F. Bethel does not speak of a locality, as such, but of the spiritual truth of a people who are in living communication with God through Jesus Christ in a present and powerfulway. That which can go up to God goes up from them, and that which God desires to do among men He is able to do through them. In them is found an expression of the authority, the will and the purpose of God; through them honour, glory and worship are presented to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Thus Jacob saw in type what is God's intention for His redeemed people.


A. Jacob saw it not as an ideal which he was to try to bring about but as a Divine fact. It is striking to notice that at first he says "This is... the house ofGod" verse 17 and then later, "This stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house" verse 22. Jacob did not say that he would build the house of God because he had now understood what it should be like,for in that case it would bear the marks of Jacob, even though it were intended to be for God. No, he saw the true nature of the house of God and realized that he needed conforming to it. He would not make it, but it would make him. There is an important difference in these two views. That which men make, even in a sincere desire to reproduce the Church, the house of God, invariably conforms to the individuality of those concerned, bearing their marks and their name. Divine revelation as to the house of God makes us realize how much we need to be conformed to God's pattern in Christ.

B. The great point about this revelation so far as Jacob was concerned was that he committed himself to it; he set up his pillar. The message of Jacob's first pillar is to call us to a wholehearted committal to what we have seen.


A. HUMBLING – The first effect of this vision on Jacob was that it humbled him. "How dreadful is this place!" What he was saying was, 'I am not fit to be here.' Divine revelation will always make us very humble. There are those who claim to have revelation from God, but who are clearly inflated by what they know, and ready to lord it over others because of their supposed spiritual pre-eminence. Alas! they cannot really have met God; they merely have the knowledge which puffs up. We are so different in ourselves from what God shows to be His will for us in Christ that we can only tremble as Jacob did, and confess our utter unworthiness. When he saw the house of God in vision he said, 'I am not fit to have anything to do with it; it is too big, too high and too holy for me. How dreadful is this place!' That is a very healthy reaction.

B. FAITH – But the next reaction of Jacob was to say, 'This may have been a dream in its beginning, but it is a revelation of Divine purpose to which God is committed,and I intend to make it quite manifest to everybody where I stand in the matter. I am committed to it.' It was in this spirit that he set up his pillar. Many years later it would seem that Jacob forgot this commitment.  GOD IS FAITHFUL

1. But God had not forgotten. Things began to go wrong in his relationship with Laban, and Jacob found trouble on every side. What was the matter? The Lord was forcing him to remember his experience of revelation and committal, and calling him back to that. "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedest a pillar, where thou vowedest a vow unto me; now arise and return..." Gen. 31:13. The Lord is so faithful to His own revealed purpose that He will not allow Jacob to be at ease anywhere else than at Bethel. Jacob may have forgotten his pillar and his vows, but he meant them then, and God will hold him to them now.

2. Jacob cannot establish Bethel by his own efforts, but he must find his place in it. In fact, the whole point of the vision seems to be the appreciation of the spiritual fact of God's house. It is not what God is going to do; He has done it in Christ. The Lord's people who are scattered and lonely, seeing no signs of a true expression of Bethel, should not get to work to try and form a little Bethel of their own but claim in faith the realization of the vision of what is true in Christ. We must make it clear where we stand, but only the God of the revelation can bring us there. Bethel is a spiritual reality to which we must be conformed.

CONCLUSION: God's Committal – Jacob's spiritual discipline brought much suffering, but it also brought rich blessing. At Bethel he received a promise. As Jacob set up his pillar in token of absolute acceptance of the revelation, he received the assurance that the Lord also was wholly committed to him, "I am with thee,and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of" Gen. 28:15. It is for us to accept the vision, with all its implications, and the Lord will undertake to bring it about so far as we are concerned.

We, too, must set up our pillar, affirming thereby that whatever the cost we are committed to that which the Lord has shown us. And if we do that, God - the God of Jacob - assures us that He will be with us to bring us right in to the fullness of His purpose in Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who will also do it.