The Vision of God's Building, by Witness Lee


One day Jacob went from Beersheba toward Haran. “And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place [literally, he took one of the stones of that place], and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 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: and the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed…and, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land...and Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, how dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel…” (Gen. 28:11-19).

In his dream Jacob saw a ladder set up on the earth. God’s testimony must be set up on this earth, not in the heavens. Jacob called the name of that place Bethel, which in Hebrew means “the house of God.” Then Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me…and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on…” (v. 20). What a shame! Jacob did not have to vow such a vow, for God had already given him His promise. God has signed the policy; we must just receive it. Jacob said, “If...” Why did he interject that little word? We must realize that “if” always proceeds from our mind, not from our spirit. Jacob was concerned for bread and raiment. He was just the same as we are: food and raiment are the two items for which we are always concerned. Upon all these conditions Jacob finally said, “Then shall the Lord be my God” (v. 21). That meant that if God would not provide for all of Jacob’s requests, Jacob would not take Him as his God. We know that all the descendants of Jacob are such good businessmen; they are always making a deal, a bargain.

Jacob spoke much for himself, but he also spoke a wonderful word, a word full of vision: “This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house” (v. 22). This meant that not only the place in which Jacob slept should be called God’s dwelling place, but even the stone upon which he rested was to be called the house of God. However, the old man in Jacob was again exposed, and he said, “And of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” He said in effect, “Lord, You give me ten items, and I will give You one.” What a bargain—Jacob was going to make a ninety percent profit!

When Jacob returned to his father’s land, he journeyed to a city called Shechem. He would not go into the city, however, but pitched his tent before it. Later he bought a parcel of field, where he spread his tent. He did not build a house. On this ground he erected an altar and called it “Elelohe Israel” (Gen. 33:18-20). Thus, building a tent and an altar, he followed in the exact footsteps of his forefathers. He did not call the altar after himself, seeking to make a name for himself, but by the name of God. “El” means God, and “elohe” also means God. The name that Jacob ascribed to this altar means “God is the God of Israel.”

After a considerable lapse of time, God told Jacob to go up to Bethel. Jacob had done well in erecting an altar, but he was still not in the proper place, on the proper ground. He had to go to Bethel and build there an altar. Jacob did, and he called that place “El Bethel,” that is, the God of Bethel (Gen. 35:1, 6-7). There God met Jacob and was with him, and Jacob did all things in the presence of God. Notice that Jacob added something in his second visit: he still called the name of the place “Bethel,” but he added the prefix “El” (that is, “God”) to it.

(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)