July 8th, 2022 – Friday Afternoon
“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.’ 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; 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.'” ~Genesis 35:1-3
Jacob’s response to the LORD’s command is interesting to observe: It was not an inappropriate response by any means, but the fact that Jacob called on his household and those with him to put away the other gods (besides the LORD) as a direct result of the LORD’s beckoning to him may indicate an understanding on Jacob’s part of the character and nature of God. He commanded those with him to purify themselves and put on different clothes – setting themselves apart from the foreign (strange) gods and the uncleanness that they had formerly known. This very literal separation from other gods reflects the reality that God is God alone. He is the only True God and He alone stands as Sovereign over everything that exists.
Another interesting thing to observe is the fact that the LORD calls Jacob back to where he had already experienced the presence and power of God – Bethel. If you recall from a previous devotional, “Bethel” means “House of God”; it was there that Jacob had dreamed of the ladder that touched earth and reached to heaven with the LORD God standing above it. It was at Bethel that the LORD had revealed Himself to Jacob, had blessed him and his many descendants, and had promised Jacob His continual presence, protection, and purpose. It is worth taking the few moments to go back and refresh your mind in that section of God’s Word; the passage is Genesis 28:10-22. I am looking at parts of it as I write this and it is AMAZING how our passage today relates to that one!
Two more observations from both of these passages: 1. The LORD promised Jacob in Genesis 28 that He would be with him and keep him and bring Jacob “back to this land”. The LORD, in our passage today, is in the process of fulfilling that promise to Jacob; He is beckoning Jacob back to Bethel – where it all started. Wow! Pretty neat, huh? God keeps His promises. 2. Jacob made a vow in the end of the Genesis 28 passage; in doing so, Jacob promised that if the LORD would keep His promise and care for his needs and bring him back to his father’s house…then the LORD would be Jacob’s God, Bethel would be God’s house, and Jacob would give a tithe to Him. We will get into the nitty-gritties of some of this next time (or the time after), Lord willing, but here it is enough to see that Jacob must remember his vow from Bethel; his command to those with him to put away the other gods is in keeping with his promise that the LORD would be his God. The LORD has (and is) keeping His promises and Jacob is keeping his vow.
You and I already know that the LORD has not changed; He is still the faithful God who keeps His promises and He is still the ONLY True God. He alone deserves our worship and adoration, and only in coming to Him on His terms – of holiness, undivided devotion, and submission – will we be satisfied and whole. Thankfully this is completely possible through Christ’s atonement and the Spirit’s indwelling, but… Are we actively being set apart for Him alone? Are we daily dying to the old ways and being renewed in the newness of His life? Are we taking advantage of His great love, mercy, grace, and peace?
My dearly loved friends, let us – as Jacob of old – put away the foreign gods among us. Let us purify ourselves and be cleansed from the stench of sin. And, let us put on the garments of holiness and gladness as we submit ourselves again to our faithful Father and God! May He get the glory alone!