Returning to Bethel and Remembering Your God

(1)  And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
(2)  Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
(3)  And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

Genesis 35:1-3

When Jacob returned from serving Laban, God called upon him to go up to Bethel, a place that had great significance for Jacob. Bethel was where Jacob went when he fled from the face of his brother Esau who planned to kill him. Esau planned to kill him because Jacob had stolen his birthright and his blessing.

Bethel was also the place where God first appeared to Jacob. It was his low point and his high point. The day we are saved can be considered that way. It’s the day we recognize our unworthiness before God and the day we turn to Christ and discover His worth. For the believer, there are other days similar to that as well. Most of us can recall times when we turned from God back to our own ways, and when God had to yet again bring us to the end of ourselves to renewed repentance and dedication.

In this passage, God is reminding Jacob of a promise he had made to God. (Genesis 28). God had met with Jacob in a dream, declared Himself to him as the God of his father Abraham (v. 13), and renewed the promise of Abraham to Jacob: “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth….” (v. 14)

In response to this meeting with God, Jacob made a promise back to God:

Genesis 28:20-22

(20)  And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

(21)  So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

(22)  And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

God had returned Jacob to his homeland and now it was time for Jacob to make good on his promise to God. But before returning to Bethel to answer God’s call, Jacob made this announcement to his household: “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments.” It was time for Jacob and his household to renew their relationship with God and that meant putting away any lingering idolatry, coming clean, and changing their ways to go after God.

We all need those times of renewal in our lives. Has God reminded you of His calling on your life? Has he tapped you on the shoulder to remind you that you belong to Him and that you need to renew your vows, so to speak?

The idols that Jacob referred to were not necessarily obvious idols that everyone could see. They were personal idols that they carried around with them. Many of these idols were carried by Jacob’s servants. They kept them because it reminded them of home, or because that was how they always worshipped. They represented the old ways, the things they were used to. When God calls us to renewed repentance, He expects us to go to the deepest hidden places of our hearts and minds and to cast off those things that detract from our worship of Him.

Have you examined your heart and mind today? Have you put away the strange gods that have crept back into your life, have you come clean with God, and have you turned back to Him again with renewed dedication? Return to your Bethel and remember your God.

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