Rev. Phyllis H. Wolfram (1921-1985)
Pillar of Fire Church
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I was thrilled reading the last three weeks. I've been dwelling on a very special man in the Old Testament, thinking about the experiences of his life and how the Lord revealed Himself to this man. It was so important that Jesus made reference to it to someone in the New Testament. This man had a dream one time.
I might just go aside to tell you a little short dream I had this last week and if you excuse me, Mrs. Hunter, you were in it. I thought I needed a little vacation, two or three days this year. But it didn't work out, so I dreamed about it. I dreamed Mrs. Hunter came and she said, ``I think you should go to Arkansas for a short vacation.'' And she says, ``If you can work it out, I'll go along.'' And I said, ``Sister Hunter, you realize that's in the South. That's far away from here.'' ``But,'' she said, ``I think it would be a nice little change, that we ought to go.'' Arkansas! of all places! I don't if I've ever spoken the word before in my life. But maybe I did when I was drilling the little children in the grades. ``I'd like to go if we can work it out, for a few days to Arkansas.''
The City of Luz means ``nut tree.'' So let's presume that he picks a few nuts as he goes along, and cracks them, and that is his evening meal. He's thinking about his brother. Is my brother out to kill me? When I lie down tonight, will he come upon me suddenly? Will he take my life? Or will he one day forgive me of the terrible thing that I did to him? Will the Lord ever bless me? He's thinking all these thoughts and he sees the city way far in the distance, and then the sun sinks down over the horizon. He has come along this rocky road. The rocks are thick and sharp, and he hasn't made much progress. He didn't make it quite to the city gates. The city gates close when the sun sets. There are enemies all around. The gates are closed fast and you can knock on the gate. They won't let you in. So travelers who don't make it in time often come as close to the wall and as close to the gate as they can, and sleep there during the night.
So he walks along, and he says, I might as well rest here. And we read about his rest in the book of Genesis, the twenty-eighth chapter. We read how he looked around for a comfortable place to lie. In the Middle East often people will make a rest for their necks. They don't think of soft pillows. So he gathered some stones and he piled them up, and he lay down, and he put his head on the stones.
And he dreamed, 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: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither 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. (Gn 28:12-15)All the things Jacob was wondering about: Is the Lord going to bless me? Has He forgiven me? Is He with me? Will He take care of me? And the Lord answered all of those things. ``And Jacob awakened out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.'' (Gn 28:16) Don't stop with ``Surely the Lord is in this place.'' The Lord is in every place. But Jacob thought he had to go to a special place to find the Lord, and to worship Him. And he said, I found out the Lord is right here. He's right where I am, and I'm not alone. I thought I was alone. I'm not alone. The Lord is right here, and I didn't know it.
When you realize that the Lord has spoken to you right out of heaven, and you heard his voice, and he makes all these promises, and you feel His care and His love and His presence right there, what might your first reaction be? Supposing your spiritual eyes were opened tonight, and you see Jesus standing in here, right here? Maybe you would rush up and fall at His feet. Or maybe you would start praising Him. Maybe you'd want to throw your arms around Him or kiss the prints in His hand. ``Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.'' And he was afraid and said, ``How dreadful is this place!'' (Gn 28:17a) In other words, this is a very special place! The Lord is here. ``This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'' (Gn 28:17b)
``And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.'' (Gn 28:18) That is what I wanted to do tonight. Been thinking about this for several weeks. I think this stone would be comfortable for the back of my neck. I don't know about how big you would need. This is olive oil. Say it's from Israel. But he took that stone and he poured oil over the stone, olive oil. He says, I don't have time right now to build a big alter and have a sacrifice, but I know that this is the house of God. And I'm going to do just this right now. I'm going to pour oil on the rock. I'm going to come back later, and I'm going to build an alter here where anybody can come and offer sacrifices to the Lord. You read on and he did. He returned. He did build the alter.
What does it mean when he says, This is the house of God and I'm going to name this Bethel, (cf Gn 28:19) which means ``the house of God?'' It meant now that he poured the oil on here and dedicated this to the Lord, that all the sacrifices can be offered here. The burnt sacrifice, the sacrifice for transgression, the sin offering, the meal offering, the burnt offering--all five offerings can be offered here. That means in this place anybody coming and sacrificing and pouring the blood out from and animal can be forgiven of his sins, looking to God. Can be purified inside and made holy. Thinking about a Messiah that's going to come. Can consecrate himself wholly for the Lord, to live for the Lord and do His will, and walk in His paths. Can be at peace with God. Can be at peace with his neighbor, have everything fixed up, peace with his neighbor. Through these sacrifices all of this can be done at this rock now. Anybody can come. This is the house of God.
Little did he know what sorrows, what drain on his emotions, what terrible sadness was to come into his life. Little did he know that he would have sons that were to be Israel. But these sons would take one of his sons and sell him into slavery, and bring home the dripping robes. Little did he know when he found a beautiful girl to marry that his father-in-law would deceive him. All these things. He didn't know what the future was going to bring. And it's good that he could just trust the Lord and keep walking. I'm glad that night that he didn't say, Well, the gates of Sodom and Gomorrah are always open. I can get in there if I turn my steps and go that way. I could find a place in Sodom and Gomorrah. They open the gates. But he directed his paths away from wickedness. And he was walking alone, thinking about all these things and the Lord was able to bless. And he drew aside from the world. He was trying to do the Lord's will. The Lord came in a mighty way. He says, This is the house of God.
So one day he became ill. And they sent for Joseph. They told Joseph,
Behold, thy father is sick; and he took him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And one told Jacob and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto to thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. (Gn 48:1b-2)The old gentleman was ill lying flat on the bed, and one said, Joseph is coming with his two little sons. He straightened ups and dangled his feet on the side of the bed, and stirred himself to meet Joseph. Joseph came in with these two little sons and he wanted his father to bless them.
And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. (Gn 48:3-4)And he goes on to say, "When I was alone and my sons went down to Egypt, I never thought I would see you again. I didn't know you were alive. And the Lord worked it out so that I could see you, and be sheltered by you. And now," he says, "I didn't think I could see you, and now I see my two little grandsons." And he blessed them.
If you know the story (cf Gn 48:13-22), he crossed his hands and he put his right hand on the younger son, and he blessed him. Joseph says, "Father"--he probably thought he's getting old, one hundred and forty-seven--"you're putting your hand on the wrong son." And he says, I know it, I know it. I know what I'm doing. And he blessed the younger son.
I was thinking of how vividly at that age he remembered what the Lord said that night when he appeared to him. He remembered word for word. And the Lord kept His promise. He didn't fail him. He kept His promise. Do we remember where we met the Lord, and some promises we made, and some promises the Lord made to us? We look through the Bible, ``I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,'' (He 13:5) and all the promises in the scripture. As we walk along and we remember these alter occasions where we met the Lord and we said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn't know it until He opened heaven to me, until I heard His voice, until He touched my heart. Maybe He opened the fountains of tears and the blessings. As we walk in faith believing and fallow the Lord, He always keeps His promises, whatever they are, to us.
If we would take time tonight to mention the terrible heartaches that Jacob went through and the Lord brought him through, preserved his life, comforted him, brought him through to old age. You read in the Bible (cf Gn 49) after He talked to Joseph, he then sent for all his other sons, and he prophesied to them wonderful prophecies. He told them what they were going to be doing and how it would work out in the end times for them. And then the Bible says he pulled his legs up again onto the bed, and he lay down and died. He mentioned to Joseph, not to leave his bones in Egypt. He said, When you go take me with you. You read that in Genesis.
Phillip findeth Nathaniel and say unto him, We have found him of whom Moses and the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. (Jn 1:45)Somebody had mentioned, Isn't it wonderful that he knew what the prophets had said. Isn't it wonderful he knew what the scripture said about Jesus. Phillip says, we found him! Guess what! We have found him. We go back to the Old Testament and say, He's right here and we didn't know it. We found Him.
And Nathaniel said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Phillip said unto him, Come and see. (Jn 1:46)Come and see for yourself. Of course, when Nathaniel found out that He was born in Bethlehem, perhaps that helped ease his mind on that point.
Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him, and saith to him, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile! Nathaniel saith unto him, Whence knoweth thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Phillip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathaniel answered and said unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. And he said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto you, Hereafter, ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (Jn 1:47-51)There's quite a lot of comments about Jesus knowing all about Nathaniel. Nathaniel thought Jesus had walked by and seen him over there. Some think that Jesus knew all about Nathaniel. It wasn't just the human part of Jesus that knew about Nathaniel. He knew about him. And it was Jesus that drew Nathaniel. Nathaniel didn't come to Jesus. Jesus drew him. Jesus is the one who called Nathaniel and made the first imprint on his heart. We may think, Does the Lord know my name tonight? Does He know what I'm thinking, what I'm doing, what I did yesterday? Jesus knows. He know our names. He does know what we did yesterday. He knows our thoughts, and intents of our hearts. And He said to Nathaniel, You believe just because I know this? You're going to see greater things than that.
What might he have seen? Probably saw Christ. We know he saw him after the Resurrection. He saw Him crucified. He saw Him laid in the tomb. He after He arose from the dead. He probably saw Him ascend into heaven. What else was revealed to Nathaniel? We don't read about it in the Scripture. I believe the same thing that is revealed to everyone of us, that right now the Lord is in this place. And not only is His abiding presence here but He comes to dwell within us. And it's possible, through His sacrifice on the cross to have His abiding presence in our hearts and lives. This is what I feel, it is absolutely imperative that we know this in our hearts that He is with us, and that He abides with us, that He walks with us through this world of sin, and that we, when we come to the time of death, we can look back and say, I remember what the Lord did for me and He's been with me ever since. He's been abiding in my heart, and He has done this thing for me that has given me the victory over all my enemies, over sin, over the world.