In the previous segment in Kingdom 56, I shared what I believe Jesus meant by “church”. There’s more to say about church when I will talk about the culture of God’s Kingdom. But in this segment, I need to continue with the subject of revelation. There are 2 things in particular that I’m going to share in this segment about revelation. The first is something we can learn from Nathaniel. The second, which is actually related to the first, is about Jacob.
In Jn.1:43-51, after Philip became a disciple of Jesus, he went to look for Nathaniel. He wanted to tell Nathaniel about Jesus. Philip basically told Nathaniel that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised one whom they were waiting for. But Nathaniel being a Jew who knew the scriptures well enough, had a problem with that. If Jesus is the Messiah, how can he be from Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth? If we read Jn.7 we will find the same thing. In Jn.7:41, some of the people said Jesus is the Christ. But the Pharisees said, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from Bethlehem? Check the scriptures and you will find no prophet comes from Galilee.”
If we look at the map of Israel, we will see that Nazareth is in the region of Galilee. But Bethlehem is more than 100km in the south, below Jerusalem. Of course we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem but His parents took Him into Egypt to run away from Herod, and later they returned to Israel and settled down in Nazareth, where Joseph was originally from. So from the time Jesus was a child, he grew up in Nazareth, not in Bethlehem. But the Pharisees didn’t know that. Since Jesus is from Galilee, they assumed that He was born in Galilee. The interesting thing is, Jesus knew they had jumped to wrong conclusions, but He did not tell them He was actually born in Bethlehem. Why didn’t He tell them? Why didn’t He just bring His parents as witnesses and correct their misunderstanding? There is a reason why Jesus just kept quiet and allowed them to continue in their misunderstanding. I’ll talk about that another time.
But let’s get back to Nathaniel. Just like others, he thought Jesus was from Nazareth. Well that’s what Philip told him anyway. But what’s different about Nathaniel is that despite his wrong assumption that Jesus was from Nazareth, and his prejudice against anyone from Nazareth, he put aside that prejudice and followed Philip to go and meet Jesus.
Now all of us as humans, we have biases and prejudices. We grew up with all sorts of ideas that we absorbed from our family, from our culture, and even ideas from the church we grew up in. Most of the time, we never question these ideas. There is no reason why we should even consider them to be other than true. So it never occurs to us that they could be false. We assume they are true without even realizing that it is only an assumption. Because of these ideas we have biases and prejudices. When we later come across something that contradicts or goes against what we have always assumed to be true, our natural reaction, yes, reaction, is to immediately dismiss it. In Kingdom 7, I told you about the university professors who refused to go and watch Galileo demonstrate his experiment on gravity. In their minds, they were probably thinking, of course the heavier object would fall to the ground first, so please don’t waste our time.
But in the case of Nathaniel, despite the fact that he was prejudiced, he was willing to set it aside. And because he was willing to set it aside and followed Philip, he got to meet Jesus. When he met Jesus, Jesus said something very interesting about him. Jesus said, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.” It means he had no hidden agenda. Someone who is straight, who’s pure in heart, or childlike. Then Jesus told Nathaniel, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” That immediately nailed it for Nathaniel. He declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Then Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
I believe what Jesus was telling Nathaniel was, “If you continue this way Nathaniel, if you continue opening yourself to explore and learn, the heavens will be opened to you.” What was Jesus talking about? He was talking about revelation. If we want to receive revelation, that’s the first thing we must do. If we are to learn anything, then we have to set aside our biases and prejudices. Otherwise we will never come to know the truth. We have to be childlike and teachable in order for anything new to enter into this thick skull of ours. The problem is many people don’t want to even consider that they may be wrong. And so they never learn.
When Jesus told Nathaniel, “you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” that sounds very much like the dream that Jacob had in Gen.28 of a ladder or stairway connecting heaven to earth and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Of course Jesus was talking about Himself as the Son of Man who is the bridge between heaven and earth, but there is also no doubt that Jesus was referring to Jacob’s dream. The curious thing we need to consider is this. What connection did Nathaniel’s openness to receive revelation have with Jacob and his dream? Who was Jacob? He was the supplanter. The guy who through guile, through cunning deceit, outwitted his elder brother Esau and seized the birthright from him. Jacob basically was a crook, the very opposite of Nathaniel. So what connection or relevance can there be between Jacob and Nathaniel? Why did God give this dream or revelation to Jacob if he was such a crook? And there’s also that interesting thing that Jacob said when he woke up from his dream. He said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Then he called the place Bethel which means “house of God”.
There’s lots to say about Jacob, and I don’t have all the time to expound on it, but the main point I want to bring out is this. Despite the crook Jacob was, there was something about Jacob that God loved. In Mal.1:2-3, repeated by Paul in Rom.9:13, God said He loved Jacob but He hated Esau. What was it that God loved about Jacob and what was it that God despised about Esau? Heb.12:16 tells us that Esau was godless. He did not value his birthright, something that God had meant for him. Instead of valuing it, he exchanged his birthright for a worthless bowl of porridge, just to satisfy an immediate and temporary craving that he had. Jacob on the other hand, although he was a crook, deep in his heart he knew the true value of God’s blessing. What God loved about Jacob was that he wanted the very best from God. He wasn’t willing to settle for second best. So we see Jacob obeying his parents in order to make sure he fulfilled what was necessary so as not to lose the blessing, and that’s when God gave him that dream. We also see him refusing to let go when he wrestled with God. In Gen.32, he told the angel of the Lord, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
This is the other thing that we must have if we are to receive revelation. I don’t have time to elaborate on this but there are other things in Jacob’s life that showed this part of his character. His doggedness to pursue what really counts and not quit until he got it. When we know the true value of the Kingdom – that one pearl, that one pearl that ends all pearls, so to speak, like Jacob or like the pearl merchant we would say, “This one thing, this one thing, no matter what, I must have it”. How much do we value God’s Kingdom? How much do we want to see His Kingdom come? Into our villages, our communities, our neighborhood, our places of work, our towns and cities? All over the world the Spirit of God is moving, not just touching individual lives but to take back communities and even nations. Jesus said, “From the time of John the Baptist, the Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
Let me end by saying this. This is what the Lord has put on my heart to say. He is watching and waiting. His eyes are looking to and fro over all the earth for such people to open the heavens to them, to share His heart and reveal His plans to them, so that His house, Bethel, will be right where the people are living and working. Not confined to a concrete building that someone in history by the name of Constantine called “church”. But this is the warning also that God has put on my heart to sound out. There are people who are like Esau. They are forfeiting what God had meant for them. Exchanging it for worthless things. May we be more and more like Nathaniel and that part of Jacob that God loved.
These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it