Jacob and the Wardrobe

Here’s an old DI classic from the winter of ’06. Enjoy! Most of us can remember sharing those childhood adventures exploring secret passages and hidden closets in the home of a friend or relative. It was always the closets tucked under the stairs that seemed the most mysterious to me. At five years of age, that six-foot crawl space seemed to go on for six miles! It is no wonder, then, why author C. S. Lewis chose a wardrobe in the spare room of an old professor’s house to be the passageway into the magical land of Narnia. The Chronicles of Narnia have been captivating the imaginations of children and adults alike for a half-century now. With the recent movie release (December 2005) of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, millions more are being swept up into the closet adventures of the four British children—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Yet, long before Lewis began writing his tales of a hidden passageway from our world into a world far greater, far more adventurous and heroic, God had already written it into His Book! You may remember the famous story. Jacob, the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham, was wandering through the desert one day and stopped to camp for the night. That night, in a dream, Jacob discovered “God’s wardrobe” for the first time. The Bible says,“He dreamed that there was a stairway set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were going up and coming down on it” (Gen 28:12). I’m not sure who was more startled: Lucy in encountering Mr. Tumnus, the strange half-man, half-goat creature; or Jacob at the sight of God’s angels! We know that throughout the Bible God’s angels always had people shaking in their sandals at their terrifying sight. The significance of Jacob’s dream of this “stairway” becomes clearer to the reader as he awakes and proclaims the marvelous truth, often missed by Modern Man, that “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it” (Gen 28:16). How often we tend to place God somewhere “up there” in some distant heaven while we struggle on our own “down here.” Yet, Jacob’s dream reveals to us that there is a passageway from our realm of existence to the unseen world of God and His angelic hosts. And unlike Lewis’ wardrobe, God’s wardrobe allows all the wondrous creatures of that strange land to invade our own and bring the battle to our home turf. From Michael, Gabriel and all the rest of God’s angels, to Satan, Leviathan and all “the cosmic powers of this present darkness” (Eph 6:12), our world is teeming with the presence of unseen forces. Jacob’s initial reaction upon discovering God’s wardrobe is one of terror and uncertainty: “What a terrifying place this is! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the passageway to heaven” (Gen 28:17). He begins to understand that there is no place on earth that is safe from the pervasive presence of this heavenly realm. What Jacob assumes to be an ordinary desert oasis turns out to be the very dwelling of God and his angels. Similarly, the four Pevensie children quickly learn that the peculiar winter forest they find themselves in is actually the magical land of Narnia—or, “Aslan’s country.” Mr. and Mrs. Beaver soon inform the four children of the wintry spell the White Witch has held Narnia under for so long, and that their arrival has been prophesied from of old. Their coming to Narnia was no accident. They have a mission to complete. They have a battle to wage. The rest of the story powerfully illustrates the great biblical truth so often neglected in church teaching since the Enlightenment: that the entire universe is caught up in a cosmic battle between the forces of light (Good) and the powers of darkness (Evil), and human beings are called to choose sides, to stand firm against the schemes of the Evil One, and prepare for battle by “putting on the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11). Having discovered the dangerous nature of their mission in Narnia, the four children are tempted to turn their backs on their appointed task, to flee to the safe and predictable world on the other side of the wardrobe. In the same way, all of us who, like Jacob, realize that we are living in the crossfire of a great cosmic battle, standing at the intersection of earthly and heavenly powers, must either find our designated role in this adventure or turn our backs and seek some safe haven. Yet, as Jacob’s dream reveals, there is no place to hide in our world that is safe from the creatures beyond. There are no ordinary places where angels cease to “ascend and descend” God’s heavenly staircase. We cannot avoid this battle. We can only choose sides. Many have repeated Edmund’s folly, disbelieving in God’s wardrobe, pretending it were all a childish game, a bunch of religious nonsense, or a just fanciful dream. Yet, Jacob shows us that this was more than a dream; it was a window into the way things really are. Upon waking, Jacob therefore made sure he would never forget this truth by setting up a memorial: “So Jacob arose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Beth’el” (Gen 28:18) —which means “House of God.” How amazing it is to realize that those places we typically label asordinary—our schools, locker rooms, homes, jobs, etc.—are actually the sacred dwelling places of the Most High God! They are “Habitations of The Holy!” Yet they are also the frontlines of an unseen cosmic battle. We need to follow Jacob’s lead and set up visual reminders in those everyday places, dedicating them to the Lord as Bethel—God’s territory! Bearing this in mind, let us then follow the example of those four brave Pevensie children, and prepare ourselves for the great battle. Let us embark on our journey with the confidence of Jacob who decided that, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey…then the LORD will be my God” (Gen 28:20). And when the odds seem stacked against us and we begin to lose heart, let us find courage in Mr. Beaver’s encouraging promise: “Aslan is on the move!”

Dr. Jeremy Berg is the founding and Lead Pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Minnetonka Beach, MN, where he has served since 2010. He is an Adjunct Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University, University of Northwestern—St. Paul, North Central University, and Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy earned a doctorate in New Testament Context under Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary (Chicago). He and his wife, Kjerstin, have three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

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