Thursday, October 12, 2006

Genesis 35 "Back to Bethel" or "Up to Bethel" Part 2

(The spiritual application)
"Arise, go up to Bethel..." v1 God spoke to Jacob during a time in his life when there was upheaval. He needed reassurance and renewed spiritual strength to go on. The Lord refers Jacob to a place where he had found comfort in the past. It was a time when Jacob was running for his life and all he had was his clothes and a staff with a rock for a pillow. Genesis 28 v11, v19.
Bethel was where Jacob prayed. Not the only place he prayed. But a special place.

Jacob prepared to go to Bethel. He told the people to put away their strange gods and put on clean garments. v2 . Here we see the attitude toward prayer. "...Put away the strange gods that are among you and be clean..." They did not go to the Lord while hanging onto things in their life that should not be there. They left those things behind.

v5 "And they journeyed:..." Now there is the journey to pray. We, as Christians, know we need to pray and know that we need to have a good attitude toward prayer. That is be open to the help God gives and not hang onto 'stuff'. It is most difficult to take action toward prayer. The thing is we do not know what help we will get. We are much aware of our problems and sometimes feel hopeless. It is not the most cheerful time to seek help. We would prefer to make big decisions when we are in better shape mentally. But they journeyed to Bethel. They made an effort toward prayer.

v9 "And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram and blessed him." I think sometimes we expect that when we meet with the Lord, we should have some ability or strength to perform some task to get Him to act. In this case, the people have left off their strange gods, cleaned themselves up and made the effort to pray. It is now time to listen and wait on the Lord. I saw no mention of what Jacob said at Bethel, only of what God said and did. After God spoke and "went up" Jacob did show respect by marking the spot with a pillar of stone. It was what God did that made the difference in Jacob's life but he had to be willing to go to Bethel, or go pray. He had to go before the Lord with a sincere heart and ready to listen.

Now we have the reality of life on earth where sin abides. Although we can be good Christians and walk before God and the world in a Christian manner, the reality is that we live in a world where sin does great harm and causes much pain in peoples lives. It is the mission of Satan to hurt the Lord by hurting people. Of course, he cannot touch God but he can cause people harm. So with that in mind, even when we have been to Bethel or had a good prayer time, life is waiting for us.

Sometimes, we go to prayer to recover from an experience. Sometimes, we go to prayer to prepare for an experience. The Lord knows what we have gone through, what we are going through and what we will go through. In our passage Jacob was in fear because of the events at Shechem but there were troubles ahead he was not aware of and so at Bethel he found strength for both. As we know after Jacob left Bethel he was called Israel. We sometimes go back and forth between Jacob and Israel too, in a manner of speaking. We are sometimes very trusting in God and sometimes we try to make it on our own. Jacob had to deal with the death of three people in the balance of this chapter that were a very important part of his life and other things that can make a father hurt (v22). These tragedies or the normal way of life and were not in Jacob's life because he prayed. He was able to endure them because he had prayed. I know it is discouraging to have a time of spiritual uplifting, as at Bethel, then plunge into a valley. Life is mountains and valleys. Most journeys are. We should not blame the mountain for the valley. They compliment each other and there is beauty in both. For every hill we climb, we get to see further for a time.

Psalm 4:3 "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself; The Lord will hear when I call unto him." v4 "Stand in awe and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." Psalm3:3 "But thou, O Lord are a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."

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