September 8, 2017
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Once more – our featured Scripture, Genesis 35:1 through 4:
Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and
make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from
…Esau your brother.” And Jacob said to his household and to all that
were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify
yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to
Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God….” So they gave Jacob
all the foreign gods…and Jacob hid them under the therebinth tree [oak
tree – KJV] which was by Shechem.
What is the significance of going up to Bethel?
• Background review:
✡ Jacob had encountered Jehovah God at this place he named Bethel near the city of Luz. He was fleeing from his brother Esau because Esau was planning to kill him! Jacob had cheated him out of his first-born rights and their father Isaac’s primary blessing! Because of this encounter, Jacob named the place Bethel (see Genesis 28:19). Bethel means “house of God.”
✡ So Jacob fled back to Ur of the Chaldees – the city from which God called his grandfather Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3; Nehemiah 9:7). He ended up at his uncle Laban’s place, joined the family, and stayed there twenty years (see Genesis 31:41). There he acquired four wives, eleven sons, one daughter, and great wealth! Then God sent him back ot Canaan.
✡ After the unfortunate incident of daughter Dinah’s rape and the murder of all the males in Shechem by the hands of Simeon and Levi (see Genesis 34:1-29 – last Friday’s blog, The Oak Of Shechem – I), God told Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel….” (Genesis 35:1).
• But God said more! Jacob was to go up to Bethel and dwell there! Why? As said in The Oak Of Shechem – I, Jacob was newly saved when the angel – the pre-incarnate Messiah – wrestled with him and blessed him in Genesis 32:24 through 30 – changing his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (God rules). Now God was directing him to go back to Bethel permanently!
It is kind of like instructing us after we become Christians to find a good church and get involved! We may have been involved in a church before committing our hearts and lives to the Lord, but now it is different! Now we are born-again! (See John 3:3-7). And we can serve our Savior in His church with a new heart! And we are to stay involved – dwelling there! There we are to be worshiping and serving the Lord – not because we have to – but because we love Him and want to thank Him for saving us and blessing us so much!
It was going to be different for Jacob, directed to “…go up to Bethel and dwell there…” (Genesis 35:1). The patriarch even renamed the place El Bethel – meaning the God of the house of God ! (See the blogs, The God of the House of God – I and II, August 28, 30, 2013). And Jacob was to “…make an altar there to God…” (Genesis 35:1). He was to worship the God of the house of God !
But what to do before going up to Bethel ? Jacob told “…his household and to all that were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves and change your garments.’ ” (Genesis 35:2). In other words, Get ready to give yourself totally to God! As discussed in blogs I and II of this series, his household and to all that were with him had accumulated foreign gods! So Jacob collected them and buried them “…under the oak tree which was by Shechem.” (Genesis 35:4 – KJV). Then he left them there, buried, and went to Bethel – twenty miles away to the south! According to the Scripture record, he never returned to Shechem!
We named some of the foreign gods (idols) that we can collect today – Family, profession, schooling, hobbies, friends, possessions – just about anything in our lives upon which we might put too much concentration! And the most prominent thing we put in the Lord’s place is ourselves! (See Luke 22:42 – reversing the pronouns!). Since God is to be first, in love and obedience (see Luke 10:27; John 14:15), it is far too easy to allow some other thing in that primary place!
We need to regularly check who or what is first in our lives! I advocate that we regularly pray the prayer David prayed at the end of Psalm 139, verses 23 and 24 (KJV): “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” After all, He knows us to our inner core! (See Psalm 139:1-5; Matthew 10:30; Hebrews 4:12, 13). And when God points out the foreign gods in our life, we need to forsake all those idols, burying them under The Oak Of Shechem, and leave them buried, never to be dug up again!
…then go to Bethel – the house of God, and worship El Bethel – the God of the house of God !