“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the 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 that are among you and purify yourselves… Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone…’
“And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), is in the land of Canaan,.. and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother…
“God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him… And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.’ Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.” Genesis 35:1-3,6-7,9,11-15
Jacob’s life had been a struggle from before he was born, but the God who gave and ordered it never flustered. His hand was on this deceiver to move, train, and sanctify, and to fulfill His Jesus-promises. He would strive with him over years and miles and family upheavals to mark his path with significant moments. Bethel, house of God, was one such indelible place. (Genesis 25:19-26; 28:12-19)
We do well to return regularly to pivotal places along our life journey and apply their lessons. Remember when God stripped us down to shed self-drive, and surrender anew to His will. Trace how the Lord has met us in and through trouble, and be fortified for work and trial. Remember His faithfulness and innumerable fulfilled promises, and give thanks in every present circumstance. Recall His powers displayed, and pray for more. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:18,24)
The Lord knew that Jacob was prone to wander and fear, manipulate and wrestle. He steered and schooled him away from those practices to the place of communion and assurance. Get up. Go up. Dwell at Bethel. Elevate your sights. Shake off guilty fears. Put away idols. Trust Me. Worship.
Have we settled into myopic living in the lowlands of whining, fretting, blaming, self-pity, or a frenzied overwhelm? What if we thoughtfully recounted God’s faithfulness and applied past lessons learned to our present? How can we bring the next generation to Bethel to build their faith? The accounts preserved for us reveal God’s character, ways, and love for His own, and we are also in the flow of His story. How will we commemorate His greatness?
Father, mark my days with important moments of surrender, consecration, and worship. In life’s activity, help me keep Bethel in my heart and dwell with You there, then carry its blessings to others.