Going Home Again – 1

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Scripture Text – Genesis 35-36

The atmosphere in Genesis 35 is one of faith and obedience, and the emphasis is on cleansing and renewal. God is mentioned ten times in chapter 35; and He used His name El Shaddai, which means “God Almighty, the all-sufficient One.” Best of all, in chapter 35 you see God’s pilgrims making progress and arriving at the place of God’s appointment.

However, Jacob’s new step of faith didn’t prevent him from experiencing new problems and trials. During this period of renewal, Jacob buried both his father and his favorite wife; and to add burden to bereavement, his firstborn son committed a terrible sin. Being a victorious Christian doesn’t mean escaping the difficulties of life and enjoying only carefree days. Rather, it means walking with God by faith, knowing that He is with us, and trusting Him to help us for our good and His glory no matter what difficulties He permits to come our way. The maturing Christian doesn’t pray, “How can I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?”

Let’s discuss the new things that came into Jacob’s life.

A New Start

Please read Genesis 35:1-15 for the background to this section.

The good news of the Gospel is that we don’t have to stay the way we are. No matter how many times we’ve failed the Lord, we can go home again if we truly repent and obey. It happened to Abraham (Genesis 13:1–4), Isaac (Genesis 26:17), David (2 Samuel 12), Jonah (Jonah 3:1–3), and Peter (John 21:15–19); and now it’s happening to Jacob.

God spoke to Jacob. For several years, Jacob had lingered thirty miles away from Bethel and had paid dearly for his disobedience. But now the Lord spoke to him and told him to move to Bethel and settle down there. Jacob already knew that Bethel was God’s appointed place for him and his family (Genesis 31:13), but he had been slow to obey. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works.” – Revelation 2:5.

Jacob had built an altar on the property he had bought near Shechem and had called it “El Elohe Israel” which translated means, “God the God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20). But God wasn’t pleased with this altar because He wanted him worshiping back at Bethel. The Lord reminded Jacob of his desperate situation over twenty years ago and how He had delivered him and blessed him. At Bethel, Jacob had made some vows to the Lord; and now it was time to fulfill them.

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Many of the problems in the Christian life and in local churches result from incomplete obedience. When we don’t continue to obey God and accomplish His will, even what we’ve done starts to die. What Jesus said to the church in Sardis, He says to us, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” – Revelation 3:2. In essence, what Jesus said to the church in Sardis is, “your works haven’t been fulfilled or completed.”

Jacob instructed his household. It’s refreshing to see Jacob take command of the situation and boldly bear witness to what God said to him and what God did for him. These instructions applied not only to Jacob’s wives and children but also to the servants he had employed in Padan Aram. Since Jacob owned great flocks and herds, he must have needed many men to help care for them.

Jacob called for a time of cleansing for everybody, and the first thing they had to do was get rid of their idols. Rachel had stolen her father’s household idols (Genesis 31:19, 34–35), and Jacob knew that other false gods were hidden in the camp. Worshiping the gods of the pagan nations was always a temptation to the Israelites. Moses had to warn them about idolatry before they entered the land (Deuteronomy 7), and Joshua had to challenge the Israelites to abandon their idols after they had conquered the land (Joshua 24:14, 23–24). Even Samuel faced this problem in his day (1 Samuel 7:2–4), and the prophets often rebuked the nation for building the high places where they served false gods.

The second instruction was “purify yourselves, and change your garments.” Most people today are accustomed to indoor plumbing, fragrant soap, and ample wardrobes; so we forget that the ancient nomadic people in Bible lands had none of these conveniences. What we call necessities would have been considered luxuries by our ancestors.

But in Scripture, washing the body and changing clothes symbolize making a new beginning. Like dirt, sin is defiling and must be washed away (Psalm 51:2, 7; Isaiah 1:16; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 John 1:9). Our old garments typify the old life with its failures (Exodus 19:10; Isaiah 64:6), but God in His mercy gives us “new garments” so we can make a fresh beginning (Genesis 3:21; Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:1–5; Luke 15:22; Revelation 3:18).

All the people obeyed Jacob’s commands and gave him their idols and the jewelry that were identified with pagan gods and Jacob buried all of it under “the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.”

To Be Continued

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Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Authentic, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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