So last week we left Jacob in his new home, a third fresh start in just a few chapters.
Reflect: Genesis 34 is a terrible story. Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped and Jacob’s character is revealed along with that of his sons.
Genesis 35 “Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.”
I find this really interesting. This whole time other gods have been present in Jacob’s house EVEN AFTER HE WRESTLED WITH GOD. Jacob was immediately obedient to God, preparing to move, and yet it is apparent that he was allowing other gods to be worshiped in his home. It is only as an act of gratitude and worship for God protecting his family after his son’s horrific actions that lead Jacob to command all other gods be removed.
“So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7 He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth. 9 Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him.10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name.”
I can’t ignore the steps here. Jacob and his family were in the wilderness. God called on Jacob and he was given a new name, and a promise. God would give land to Jacob’s descendants (v 12). This all occurred AFTER Jacob had the other gods being worshiped removed and buried. Genesis 33 is the story of Jacob and Esau reconciling, and then Genesis 34 is a sad chapter in Jacob’s family history. Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped, and his sons killed to avenge her death. Even after this sorrow, God still has a promise for Jacob, after he buried the other gods.
Record: Is it surprising to you that someone who seems to have made so many repeated bad decisions would be so blessed by God?
Why do you think Jacob received the blessings that he did?
Do you see yourself in this story?
Review: As I settled into my new life in the mountains it was quickly apparent that although not daily present anymore, I had some gods of my own that needed to be buried. The process was a hard one, and it was emotionally exhausting. That coupled with the fact that my thyroid seemed to be acting up again, I found myself struggling repeatedly to keep old wounds buried. It was this process and battle that I can now identify as what began the distance between myself and God. Like the Israelites who cried out for their old life in Egypt (Numbers 14), I began to wonder if we had made a mistake. Was it possible we were not supposed to move? Was that why our house would not sell? It, of course, made no sense. I wasn’t happy in the cornfields, there was no opportunity for ministry as God has promised would be a part of my story in the cornfields, and yet somehow, it was if I had decided it was better to trade one type of misery, the type that held me in chains, instead of the type that could set me free, because it required me to fight for it, and I just didn’t think I had it in me.
In my wilderness season God allowed me the space I needed to begin to actually fight for my faith. Distance forced me to move. Distance forced me to look for closure. Distance forced me to think in a way I had never thought before. Martin Luther King Jr. said “I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” I was realized more and more that this would be my path as well. The stars were there in all their glory, and the glimmers I was trying to settle for would not be allowed by God.