God of Hope
“May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace… so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
Read GENESIS 35:1–15
Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”
2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.
6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.
8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“This is what sin is—dishonoring God by preferring other things over him, and acting on these preferences” (John Piper).
Although Jacob set up an altar outside Shechem, naming it “mighty is (Gen. 33:20) the God of Israel,” he still chose to remain among the Canaanites rather than return to Bethel. This compromise had disastrous consequences—his daughter was raped, and his sons’ thirst for revenge led to deceit, lies, murder and looting of Shechem’s possessions, livestock and (Gen. 34) people. In the perilous aftermath of his sons’ actions, God spoke once again to Jacob, instructing him to fulfill his long-neglected vow. We may forget what we’ve promised—but God doesn’t and he will graciously provide numerous opportunities to remember!
Maybe it was desperation that made Jacob act this time. A radical clear-out of pagan idols and amulets ensued (2). Had Rachel’s theft of her father’s household gods led to wider idolatrous practices? Just as Jacob’s behavior had influenced his sons, so that of his favorite wife could have led others astray. Reluctance to dispense with idols is a recurring theme in Israel’s history: Joshua issued a similar call at the same spot (Josh. 24:15,20–23). All of us experience a continuous tug away from wholehearted loyalty to God alone. Contemporary idols don’t come described as such but they can undoubtedly exercise the same lure.
This done, they travelled under God’s tangible protection to Bethel, where Jacob’s direct relationship with God had begun. This was the first of several occasions where panic among their enemies enabled Israel to win a victory or avoid conflict altogether (Exod. 15:16; Deut. 2:25; Josh. 2:9). Jacob’s self-centered agendas had impacted many, damaged relationships, destroyed trust and undermined his relationship with God. Yet hope runs all the way through his story, exemplified in this passage where, packed into a few verses, he received two visitations from God, a new beginning and reiteration of the promise of land and countless descendants.
Contemporary consumer culture is very influential, even in church life. Consider where you are personally most impacted and whether you have idols concerning which you need to take radical action.
Dear God, my heart’s desire is to seek Your Kingdom above everything else. May You be number one in my life.