Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
In the beginning of the history of mankind, our God revealed the truth in His grace; but He also in His infinite wisdom and almighty power displayed: His love and mercy. We do well to bear in mind the fact that, although man was created in the image of God and was a most wonderful creature (in fact the most wonderful creature here on this earth), he could not, at the beginning of his life on this earth, do some of the things he can do today.
Adam could and did know God. He heard God speak, and he spoke unto God. It is true that nowhere in Genesis do we read of Adam speaking unto God; but we do have clear evidence, even after the Fall of mankind into sin, that man did have God speak to him, and that he spoke to God. In fact we have this presented to us even in the life of an ungodly unbeliever. God, we read, rebuked Cain for killing his brother Abel; and Cain responded to God with his lies. Cain said unto God, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Gen. 4:13). What Cain did after the Fall reveals that, before that Fall, and before mankind came under the curse, man could and did speak to God and hear Him speak to mankind.
What without a doubt is true is that, in the early part of the history of mankind, men and women could not read or write as fully and richly as they can today. Some men, like Moses, who was brought up and trained by Pharaoh’s daughter, could read and write. But so many of those living in the day of shadows could not and did not have schools for their instruction and training. Think, for example, of the Israelites in their forty years in the wilderness and in their travel from place to place.
But the point to make here, in this part of the day of shadows, is that our God spoke to mankind, and in this way revealed the truth to them through speech, before books could even be written by men, and before they were read by any of them. Today we ought to be thankful that. We do have God’s written Word, the Scriptures, which not only give us information, but give us also rich promises and basic foundations for faith and hope.
What we should consider, out of this written Word of God, in connection with its comforting and wonderful truths, is what God spoke to Jacob after his flight away from his brother Esau, as found in Genesis 28. There we read of what our God revealed to Jacob when he was on his way to escape from his brother’s hatred.
Jacob was on his way out of the land of Canaan, to be protected from his brother Esau, who made known that he planned to kill Jacob after his father died. Indeed, he was sent there also to get a wife; but here we have a shadow of God’s grace as it will be fully revealed when Christ returns to bring us with body and soul into the New Jerusalem.
In a dream God promised Jacob a rich blessing, an absolute comfort; and we, as spiritual descendants of Jacob, have here in the day of shadows a glorious and comforting truth. Our God gives here His promise to all the elect children; and He teaches us here what lies ahead for us, even though the Esaus of the coming antichristian world will soon not allow us to buy or sell, because we by God’s grace will refuse to take Ion our right hand or forehead the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:15-17).
Let us take note of the fact that in Jacob’s dream he saw a ladder set up on the earth and reaching up into heaven. On it angels ascended and descended. Above it God stood and gave Jacob a beautiful and rich promise. He told Jacob that He would give him that land on which he was lying. He promised him seed as innumerable as “the dust of the earth” — thus, far more in number than he or we can count.
Note then, in the first place, that He assures Jacob that his life is going to be spared. He is absolutely safe, no matter how much his brother hated him, and no matter that his brother planned to kill him. In fact, Jacob is not only going to get seed “as the dust of the earth” in number, but he will be “spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south.” He is told that “in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Yes, here we have a divine promise of becoming Jacob’s seed in a spiritual sense; Our God does not go into detail and speak unto Jacob in words which we today can understand. He does already cause Jacob to see the shadow of the reality that is today before our eyes, and we can see and spell out in much more detail.
First of all, take note of the fact that our God here promises a church with members out of every nation, tongue, and tribe. Jacob was still in the land of Canaan; but he is assured that – although directly west of him was the large Mediterranean Sea – he is going to have a spiritual seed, that is, those who believe in God, here in our land as well as in that land of Canaan. In other words, that statement of Such seed west of Canaan, east, north, and south, refers to elect children of God living all over the world. And although we, even as was true for Jacob, cannot count them all, and are in different countries and nations, we can see that in the Old Testament dispensation there was a shadow of what is real and coming to pass.
But the striking and most comforting truth in this promise of our God to Jacob is that all the families of the earth shall be blessed. In fact, our God declares to Jacob that “in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This reveals that in God’s church there will be Gentiles. We have this presented to us in the New Testament, but it was already promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18; Genesis 22:18, and to Isaac in Genesis 26:4.
What is extremely important for us, and presented for our comfort, is the fact that we see what casts this blessed shadow. It is not presented to us, or to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, literally in these passages; but the shadow of our. Savior’s coming was there in the Old Testament. Note, first of all, that in this dream our God declared, “I am with thee.” For our God gave us our Savior by coming into our flesh, and causing a virgin to conceive and bring Him forth in our flesh. There we have a wonderful fulfillment of that truth that “I am with thee.” That His church would have members out of every nation, tongue, and tribe is then so very, very sure.
But go back now to what is called the Mother Promise, and indeed is the first presentation of God’s promise of salvation for His elect. In Genesis 3:15 we read of a sharp distinction in the human race. There will be and there are seed of the serpent and seed of the woman. There is enmity between these two groups, and – by all means get this – among the seed of the woman is Christ, who died on His cross for our salvation. He, indeed, is the Seed of the Woman, being born of that Virgin Mary. His “heel” was crushed, while the “head” of the seed of the serpent will be crushed.
Now the idea here is not that Christ’s suffering is no more than the mere crushing of a heel. He did suffer at the hands of the seed of the serpent. He was crucified by them; and Cain’s killing of Abel likewise revealed the enmity between those two seeds. But the point here is that the seed of the serpent will hurt the seed of the woman, because our gracious God changes, redeems, and causes His elect to be born again. For that reason they will be hated by Satan and all his seed. Soon, Scripture teaches us, the seed of the serpent will insist that we put the mark of the beast on our right hand or forehead. And when we refuse, we will not be allowed to buy or sell. Thus we will starve to death! Some will be killed by Satan’s seed of the serpent; but all the rest will suffer that hunger at the hands of the Antichrist (Rev. 13:11-17).
Here then, in this dream that Jacob had, we have the assurance that every elect child of God shall, in those days of the coming Antichrist, suffer physically at the hands of those in Satan’s kingdom. Christ had His “heel crushed” – that is, He died on His cross for our salvation. And because of what He accomplished thereby, we will leave this life, which is a continual death, and be brought into God’s Promised Land, namely, the Kingdom of Heaven, where Christ is our King.
Jacob is instructed concerning this “Mother Promise,” and is assured that he belongs to those given this blessed promise. We should take hold of that truth. As Jacob had a brother who intended to kill him, we have a world of children of the devil that will crush our “heels.” But by God’s grace they will not crush our heads. We will continue to believe in God and fight the good fight of faith, because of this promise which He gives us through Jacob.
We do well to take note of what we read in Genesis 28:14. There our God says to Jacob, and to us, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” For here is the promise of Christ’s coming and of His realization of salvation for us. “In thee and in thy seed” does not present Jacob to us as the one who blesses us. It is Christ, who indeed in the physical sense is one of the seed of Jacob through Mary, and who brings blessings upon, us. He removed all our guilt, and by His Spirit makes us spiritually alive and holy.
Jacob is promised a certain return to Canaan; and this return is a shadow of our absolutely sure entrance with body and soul into the Kingdom of Heaven with all its blessedness, when Christ returns. Therefore also David, one of the seed of Jacob, did conquer that whole land. Of Canaan west, east, north, and south, as a shadow of what will happen when Christ returns.
Here is a beautiful shadow of what lies ahead for us. We will not return to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve had a blessed life before they fell into sin. But we will by Christ be brought into the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, wherein Christ is King, and where we will have a most blessed fellowship with God.
Here, indeed, is a most certain and truly comforting shadow of what by God’s grace is in store for us.