Burying the Past
Father, thank You for the promise of hope for the future. I praise You for the promise of strength for today.
Read Genesis 35:1-15
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“But one thing I (Paul) do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14).
After his reconciliation with Esau, instead of heading directly for Bethel, Jacob settled in Shechem and must have been there a number of years. It’s the shocking events of ch. 34, along with the repeated command from God, that seem to have been the final stimulus to his returning there. Bethel was a holy place. Commentators suggest that this journey was in the nature of a pilgrimage: note the use of the phrase “go up” and the need for them to be purified ceremonially first. This is signified by the change of clothes but, more importantly, by the burial of anything that was connection to, or a symbol of, the worship of foreign gods. Adornments also had to be left; elsewhere they, too, are associated with idolatrous imagery (Exod. 32; Judg. 8:22-27). It was after making these preparations that they set out for Bethel, with God clearly preventing any interference from anyone around.
At Bethel, Jacob commemorates the place where he first met God for himself by building another altar and is, again, named “Israel” by God. The repetition of events can be explained by the editor of Genesis drawing on various strands of tradition, oral or otherwise, and incorporating them into the account. Recent scholarship, however, while acknowledging this approach, focuses more on a thematic view of how the stories were compiled.
Leaving this aside, we see Jacob making a final, definitive severance between himself and his family on the one hand, and any lingering connection with worship of, or affiliation to other gods on the other, and receiving God’s promises again. He is doing what the writer to the Hebrews exhorts all of us to do: throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, so that we may follow Christ with determination and single-mindedness (Heb. 12:1).
Today, pray for those (including yourself) who may have difficulty leaving the past behind, or are still affected by past traumas.
Lord Jesus, I need to forget the past and take hold of Your future. To do this, I need Your strength.
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