35 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and live there. Build an altar there to honor me. That’s where I appeared to you when you were running away from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob spoke to his family and to everyone with him. He said, “Get rid of the statues of false gods you have with you. Make yourselves pure by washing and changing your clothes. 3 Come, let’s go up to Bethel. There I’ll build an altar to honor God. He answered me when I was in trouble. He’s been with me everywhere I’ve gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the statues of false gods they had. They also gave him their earrings. Jacob buried those things under the oak tree at Shechem. 5 Then Jacob and everyone with him started out. The terror of God fell on the towns all around them. So no one chased them. 6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz. Luz is also called Bethel. It’s in the land of Canaan. 7 Jacob built an altar at Luz. He named the place El Bethel. There God made himself known to Jacob when he was running away from his brother. 8 Rebekah’s attendant Deborah died. They buried her body under the oak tree outside Bethel. So it was called Allon Bakuth. 9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again. And God blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob. But you will not be called Jacob anymore. Your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. 11 God said to him, “I am the Mighty God. Have children so that there will be many of you. You will become the father of a nation and a community of nations. Your later family will include kings. 12 I am giving you the land I gave to Abraham and Isaac. I will also give it to your children after you.” 13 Then God left him at the place where he had talked with him. 14 Jacob set up a sacred stone at the place where God had talked with him. He poured out a drink offering on it. He also poured olive oil on it. 15 Jacob named the place Bethel. That’s where God had talked with him.
When reading this passage, I am struck by the significance of verses 1 and 2. God told Jacob to go to Bethel to settle and build an altar, and Jacob obeyed Him. However this is not the first time God had tried to lead Jacob into Bethel, as He had spoken to him in a dream many years prior (Genesis 28:10-20). Jacob had not been listening to God and had taken his own path, which led to destruction.
What speaks to me from this is the importance of hearing from God and being obedient to what He says. For Jacob, the result of this was abundant blessing (vs 9) and prosperity (vs 12). I want to have my ears open to God every day, and be responsive to His leading – not stubborn, choosing my own way.
God, I Thank You that You speak to me. Please help me to have ears that hear Your voice, and guide my heart and mind so that I am obedient to Your calling. In Jesus’ name.
Written by Laura Samperi