"O my Father! it seems to me sometimes, as if You forgot every other being, in order to think only of my faithless and ungrateful heart!"--Madame Guyon.

"And those who know Your name will put their trust in You."--Ps. 9:10.

At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, "I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac." Genesis 28:13

The theme of our last, forming as it does the climax of the vision, was suggestive of truths so solemn and momentous, that we may be pardoned for prolonging and expanding, under this new heading, the same topic. It admits of a still higher Gospel and spiritual application.

"What is Your Name?" was the urgent interrogation of Jacob, twenty years later, when he was alone at midnight grappling with the mysterious Presence, in the deep gorge of the Jabbok. Doubtless it was the same question which rose now in the mind of the Dreamer as he beheld the majestic Form at the summit of the stony ascent. The long familiar, and yet, in another sense, the only partially realized, God of the Tent and the Altar was now before him in the revealed majesty of His glory. How natural the silent promptings of the newly-illuminated soul, even though he gave no audible expression to them. 'Who are YOU?' "Tell me YOUR Name?"

The answer, or rather the voluntary declaration, was immediately given--"I am the Lord God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac." It is worthy of special note, that it is the incommunicable name of JEHOVAH which is here used. More than that, this holy designation--so holy, that the Jews came scrupulously to avoid, as they still do, the very mention of it as too dreadful and hallowed for mortal lips--is only on this and on one other occasion employed by God in the revelation of Himself--that other, being at one of His earliest interviews with Abraham, when He ratified to the patriarch His grant of the covenant land (Gen. 15:7). In subsequent personal revelations, the title of El-Shaddai (God Almighty) is adopted; the same word which last fell on Jacob's ears, on leaving the Beersheba home, when his father's voice was heard pronouncing the parting benediction "God Almighty bless you" (Gen. 28:3).

It is of great importance and interest to advert to this specific name employed by the God above the ladder, as it gives a beautiful unity and consistency to the type we have been unfolding. Some learned writers hold, we think on substantial grounds, that the designation of Jehovah, employed in patriarchal communications, has reference to the first Person in the ever-blessed Trinity; while the El-Shaddai (the Almighty One, invested also with the attributes of Deity) denotes the delegated "messenger of the Covenant." In harmony with most; indeed nearly all ancient expositors, we have assumed the vision of the Patriarch to be a prefiguration of the great coming Redemption; and while the ladder forms a symbolic representation of the El-Shaddai as the Divine Way to the Father--in the Jehovah standing at the summit, we have the similar figurative representation of the adorable Father Himself--the glorious "Revealer;" the supreme "I am:"--"God in Christ."

How cheering to Jacob would be the first accents emanating from the Being on whose Form he now gazed in trembling emotion, and who announced His name as the "Jehovah-God of Abraham your father." And it was not only Jehovah, made known as very near--looking down upon the very pillow on which he slept--but the God also who had a tender cognisance of those nearest and dearest to Him--the Lord whose eye was at the same moment on the heath of Bethel and on the tents of Beersheba--"The God of Abraham your father." How, at once, would memory begin to re-traverse the hours and scenes of childhood and youth, and recall the manifold story of Divine grace which must often have fallen from the lips of his saintly grandfather--that grandfather whose body slept in the cave at Machpelah, but whose spirit seemed to be still in the presence of that Almighty One he had so faithfully served on earth. For the words of the Divine Speaker are not 'I was,' but "I AM the God of your father Abraham." "The God" (as Christ's own interpretation expounds it) "not of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32).

Could Jacob wish for more? The whole vision was a reassuring one--just at the time, also, when he urgently needed such help and invigoration. At the later, darker experience of his history, it was God--the 'Dreadful,' the 'Mysterious,' with whom he came in contact, wrestling with Him as if in a life and death struggle; indeed leaving him maimed in the conflict. Now, it was God the Protector--God the Forgiver--the God who, by varied personal acts of condescension and kindness, had showered blessings on the household of his relatives--the Jehovah of the "everlasting Covenant, well ordered in all things and sure;" "the Shepherd of the stone of Israel:"--the same God who was most fully revealed to him at the close of all; when, with the word 'Salvation' on his tongue, and probably reverting to this earliest vision of it, he was ready to die.

All that, has been noted now regarding the Patriarch and this 'revelation of Jehovah,' may be transferred to ourselves. Most beautifully, and with a deep insight into human experience, has it been said, "We move through a world of mystery, and the deepest question is, 'What is the Being that is ever near, sometimes felt, never seen--that which has haunted us from childhood with a dream of something surpassingly lovely, which has never yet been realized--that which sweeps through the soul at times as a desolation, like the blast from the wings of the Angel of Death, leaving us stricken and silent in our loneliness--that which has touched us in our tenderest point, and the flesh has quivered with agony, and our mortal affections have shriveled up with pain--that which comes to us in aspirations of nobleness, and conceptions of superhuman excellence.'

Shall we say 'It,' or 'He'? What is It? Who is He? Those anticipations of Immortality and God, what are they? Are they the mere throbbings of my own heart, heard and mistaken for a living something beside me? Are they the sound of my own wishes, echoing through the vast void of nothingness? or shall I call them God, Father, Spirit, Love? A living Being within me or outside me? Tell me Your Name, you dreadful mystery of Loveliness; that is the struggle of all earnest life." (Robertson's Sermons, Vol. i p. 51.)

The revelation is made to us–

I. "I AM"--"I am Jehovah." Jehovah bending down from the heights of heaven over this ladder of salvation; every step in the ladder (rock-like) an inviolable promise. JEHOVAH your covenant God! Not like the fabled king of gods and men on Olympus, only on rare occasions coming down to mortals from his realm of drowsy light, armed with the lightning and thunderbolt. Not like the God of the modern philosopher who has stamped on His world certain immutable, though profound laws, assigning pathways and orbits to the planets, filling the quiver of the sun with golden arrows, giving the sea its tidal decrees, painting the prismatic colors on the rainbow, piling earth's strata upwards from primeval granite, appointing the seasons to be the four evangelists of nature; but who, as "the Great Unknowable," has retired behind the visible curtain into a pavilion of awe and darkness, and left the vast machine to its own complex evolutions and revolutions. Not the God (though that be true also) who holds the scroll of the future in His hand, in which are inscribed the destinies of nations, but who has no time to care for the individual nned, or to support the solitary soul trembling on the verge of temptation. Not the God of many a modern Church system--the inexorable avenger, the stern taskmaster "reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not strewed," exacting impossible sacrifices, and imposing unrighteous burdens. But, the ever-present, never absent; ever-living, ever-loving, personal Jehovah--who "dwells in light, and with whom is no darkness at all;" "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;" whose supervision is not fitful, capricious, inconsistent; but faithful as that of a father, and tender, "as one whom his mother comforts." "He that keeps you will not slumber; behold He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Truly "the name" of this Lord (Jehovah) "is a strong tower" running into which we are eternally safe (Prov. 18:10). We can echo the refrain of Hezekiah's great hymn of victory--"The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of JACOB (the God of the Bethel-dreamer), is our refuge" (Ps. 46:7).

But we have not to deal on this peerless subject in mere vague statements and generalities. We can understand, in more unmistakable language, what God means, when He says, "I am Jehovah," "Your God." A full unfolding of His character has been given to us. The question has been answered--"What is Your Name?"

That manifestation, need I say, was made in the cities and villages and plains of Palestine, by a gracious Being, eighteen centuries ago, clothed in mortal form. That covenant land, on a portion of which Jacob slept, received, in diverse ways, an ampler revelation than by dream or vision of Jacob's God. Now it is at Cana with its associations of joy. Now it is at Nain with its memories of sorrow. Now it is on the Mount of Beatitudes with its mingled code of inflexible ethics and loving benedictions. Now it is while calming the disciples tossed on the stormy lake; now it is when feeding the hungry seated on the desert grass. Now it is at hallowed Bethany; now in the hush of the Paschal Supper room; now in the moonlight of Gethsemane; now amid the mysterious pangs of Calvary; now in the farewell words breathed on the Mount of Ascension.

Yes! To the eager cry of inquiring humanity, "What is God?" "Show us His face;" "tell us His name;" "disclose to us His moral attributes;"--the dark, uncertain, unsatisfactory guesses of heathendom are not what we have to rely upon, with their incarnations of terror and vengeance, often of impurity and sin. These queries are answered by listening to the utterances and beholding the deeds of Him who is 'the Image of the Invisible God,' the covenant El-Shaddai of Jacob's vision--"manifest in the flesh"--"Immanuel"--"God with us."

As we track His holy footsteps, we hearken, indeed, ever and anon to words of warning and vengeance against the persistent scorners of grace and mercy. But His pathway is truly, from first to last, one of gentleness and goodness. He scatters blessings wherever He goes--giving sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf; calling the shunned leper to His side; wiping the tear from the eye of penitence; whispering forgiveness in the ear of the sin-stricken; breathing hope into the weary of life; healing the broken in heart; reclaiming the fallen, the despairing, the lost. Even when disciples would send away with the churlish word and the rejected petition, He opens wide the arms of His mercy. The Good Samaritan of His own parable, He finds humanity lying bruised, wounded--half-dead. Stooping over the mangled frame, He pours in wine and oil.

Such is GOD! "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." "He is the brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of His person." "No man has seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father He has declared Him." "We beheld His glory," says the most favored of all the spectators of Incarnate Deity, "the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Both the closing statements of this latter verse unfold a name unrevealed to the patriarchal dispensation, and reserved for us, on whom the ends of the world have come. Christ is the revelation of the FATHER. "My Father and your Father, My God and your God." "He that has seen Me, has seen the Father. From henceforth you know Him and have seen Him." Jesus, in His longing to allure the world back again to the God it had either misapprehended or rejected, seems to delight in interweaving that paternal name with parable, and miracle, and intercessory prayer, and last agony, and first Resurrection words. It was something more comforting and endearing still, than "the Shepherd of the stony pillow."

How many forfeit the joy, at all events of their spiritual privileges, by entertaining hard, false, unscriptural thoughts about the Almighty. In the case of not a few, it is to be feared that unjust and repelling views of the character of God (to repeat the remark made in the preceding chapter) are imparted in early training! By an inversion and perversion of Bible teaching, must not the well-meaning mother, in order to deter her child from sin, at times be convicted of revealing more of the 'shadow' than of the glorious 'brightness' of Him "who is light and in whom is no darkness at all"?

We do not, indeed, (God forbid), in the spirit of many modem systems, discard from our creed one cardinal aspect of the divine character--God the Holy, the Just, the Righteous, the True--the Guardian and Dispenser of laws based upon principles of everlasting rectitude. We dare not divest Scripture of its plainest meaning, by eliminating all that is retributive in the government of the Great Supreme.

But we speak now of those who, like Jacob, are gazing upon the God standing on the summit of the Heavenly stairs--God seen through the appointed way of salvation, "reconciling the world unto Himself." We speak of those who, in accepting the free and gracious offers of the great Redemption, behold every attribute of His nature magnified, and every demand of His law "made honorable" in the cross of His dear Son; those who can look up with confidence and hope to the mightiest of all Beings, and call Him by the endearing name of Father; who from the clefts of the Rock of Ages, like Moses in his mountain watch-tower, have seen a sublime vision and heard a sublime voice which can inspire no servile terror--"The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious" (Ex. 34:6). The thought of God may be dreadful to those who habitually despise or dishonor Him; but the realization of that Father, speaking through the Elder Brother--this union of ineffable paternal and filial love, is the most comforting doctrine of Scripture, and takes the sting out of all the sorrows of life.

Jehovah--the Omnipotent One--yet Jehovah the Loving One. Oh, to feel in your dreams of DARKNESS and SUFFERING that you have God in Christ, and Christ in God, your constant though Invisible Guardian! Many are the crushing trials with which your kindest friend dare not intermeddle--his best-meant words only grate on your sensitive spirit; you know too well that he cannot probe your wound or measure the depths of your agony. But when, as in the case of Jacob at Bethel, the lonely hour, the desolate hour overtakes you (shall we call it the hour of the mourner's watch?); when you hear no footstep of angel on the ladder but the Angel of Death; when you are unwillingly wrenched from all that made life happy--the festal timbrel exchanged for the muffled harp and the silent chamber, there comes back from the Lord of angels the gentle reproof, as if borne on seraph's wing, to every such tearful dreamer--"Not alone! for the FATHER is with you!" 'and I, the Brother-man, the Son of the Highest'--"I know your sorrows!"

Father! Brother! how it puts the rainbow of calm trust into the darkest future, and rocks the angriest waves to rest. The key-note of the divinely taught prayer is--"Our FATHER who is in Heaven, hallowed be YOUR NAME!" Christendom, in the best known of her uninspired utterances, responds--"You are the King of Glory, O Christ; You are the everlasting SON of the FATHER!"

Take another experience of a different kind, in perhaps a sadder, gloomier hour still--the hour of your SIN. You who are painfully conscious of being wounded in the strife--shall we suppose some young pilgrim with a stain on the once spotless armor of early innocence--a blot on the hitherto white page of the early life-history, which all your tears cannot wipe out--the inward wail rising in the silent corridors of conscience, "My sin is ever before me!"--how little can you often depend on help or commiseration from others in the carrying of your burden. If you unbared your heavy secret even in friendly ears, in many cases you would receive nothing but the settled frown in return. The conventional world is harsh and unrelenting in its judgments--slow to make allowance for sudden temptation. Thousands have never felt the sweep of the hurricane themselves, and they cannot understand how others should succumb to it. Like the Jew, who, having incurred defilement by accidental contact with the dead, was cast out as unclean, so many still, who have bent before the storm, have the similar brand of society put upon them. Simon of old, is still the type of those who would remorselessly crush the tendrils of the broken flower beneath their feet, spurn penitence from their presence, break the bruised reed, and quench the smoking flax!

You are in better hands with the God of the Heavenly highway. "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds." "HE knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust." Of the Prodigal--the self-exiled, the feeder on husks, the hunger-stricken, the perishing it is said, "he arose and went to his father." God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts--as it is written "Jacob" (the crafty, the deceiver, the unworthy one, the supplanter, whom man would have denounced as unfit for Angelic tutelage and guardianship); "Jacob," says the great Being who came to him in these Bethel night-watches, "Jacob have I LOVED! (Rom. 9:13). "Let me fall into the hands of God, for great are His mercies; but let me not fall into the hands of man."

Sinning one--abandoned one, despairing one, Trust HIM. In the darkness and isolation of your spirit, lift your drooping soul, like the battered sunflower, to the great Giver of light and life, saying, "When I am afraid I will trust in You:" taking refuge with one of the later prophets in the elevating assurance--"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and HE knows those who trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).

And yet, before we close, let us not lose the beauty and comfort of another part of Jehovah's name, in this tender and loving revelation--"The Lord God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac." "Our FATHER'S God," the God of our families--The God whose name and love are associated with the sleeping dead--with the Great and the Good who have been gathered to their kindred--with those who served Him in their lives; and who have left behind them, as the dearest legacy, that of an undimmed faith and a priceless example.

All of us have such memories. Indeed no heirloom in our households is so precious as those holy traditions of the departed--the Fathers and Mothers, Fathers and Grandfathers--who first unfolded to us the blessed verities of the Patriarch's dream, and who themselves, having reached the radiant summit, are beckoning us to follow after. O God of our fathers! let us not live--let us not die--unworthy of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises! But rather, like the Athletes of old in the Grecian race, who caught up the smouldering torch of the exhausted runner, let us snatch up the torch of faith and hope and glowing deed, which sainted ones have let drop from their death-grasp, and bear it for their sakes bravely on, until we too sink in the contest, and hand it to our successors.

Let this, moreover, be our comfort and encouragement, that the God above the Heavenly stair has promised, whether it be figuratively to run the race, or scale the stony steep, to "make His grace sufficient for us." If you have too good reason, amid the vicissitudes of all that is human, to weave the mournful soliloquy, "Our Fathers, where are they?"--the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, "the GOD of our Fathers," is still the same--infinite, immutable. We can make our appeal from the past to the future. "We have heard with our ears, O God, our Fathers have told us, what work You did in their days, in the times of old." "Our Fathers trusted in You." We can write over the vanished tents of Beersheba and Hebron, over the Bethels of our wandering--over the Machpelahs of our dead--"They shall perish, but YOU remain!"

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