[Today: Genesis 35] When God Says to Make a Geographical Move. In your life, have you ever made a geographical move solely by the leadership of the Holy Spirit? In this chapter, God instructs Jacob to move from Shechem to Bethel. It was not something Jacob planned on, but after the slaughter of the men of Hamor by Levi and Simeon, it was no doubt a necessity.
[Gen 35:1-29 KJV] 1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that [were] with him, Put away the strange gods that [are] among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which [were] in their hand, and [all their] earrings which [were] in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which [was] by Shechem. 5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that [were] round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. 6 So Jacob came to Luz, which [is] in the land of Canaan, that [is], Bethel, he and all the people that [were] with him. 7 And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. 8 But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth. 9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 10 And God said unto him, Thy name [is] Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. 11 And God said unto him, I [am] God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; 12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. 13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. 14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, [even] a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. 15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel. 16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died ) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which [is] Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that [is] the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. 21 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar. 22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard [it]. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: 23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: 24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: 25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: 26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these [are] the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram. 27 And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which [is] Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. 28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. 29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, [being] old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

In v. 1 of our chapter, God instructs Jacob to move from Shechem to Hamor. This comes after the rape of Dinah and the mass killing of the men of Hamor by Levi and Simeon. This entire season of Jacob’s life was one of frustration and disappointment that left its mark on his life for many years, so much so that at the end of his life, he disinherited Levi and Simeon for their part in these affairs. Where is Jacob to go? God sends him back to make an altar where Jacob first saw the angels of God ascending and descending the ladder to heaven in his dream when he fled from Esau.

Could you see yourself making this kind of move in your own life? What is the reason God gives to Jacob for making this move? It is for the purpose of making an altar of consecration to the Lord. What would you do if God spoke to you to move to the city where you first gave your life to Christ solely as an act of consecration to God and not any other reason? In our day and age, our society puts a deep divide between our devotional life (if we have any) and our personal life. Religious matters are one thing, but everyday decisions are something else. This was not the fact with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Everything they did and every move they made was in direct response to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes reference to this level of commitment in Romans 12:1-2:

[Rom 12:1-2 KJV] 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Have you offered yourself up as a living sacrifice unto God – even to the point that what you do with your very body (let alone any other aspect of your life) is subject to total consecration to God? Most Christians would affirm that yes, they have offered themselves up as living sacrifices. How would you know whether this is anything more than mere words? If you are a living sacrifice to God, then others should be able to look into your life and see something sacrificial taking place? Can you give one or perhaps two instances where you sacrificially altered your plans and what you wanted to do for no other reason than to reflect your deep and sacrificial consecration to God?

On what basis did Jacob claim to know that this move from Shechem to Bethel was what God wanted him to do? The verse simply says, “God said to Jacob…” It could have been in a dream, or a vision or perhaps just an inward witness in his heart. What would it take for you to make such a radical move? An open vision? Fire from on high? What if God was merely speaking through the still, small voice deep down in your heart that this sacrificial act must happen? Would you obey? Many times we refuse to obey God unless He speaks in such a way that it takes no faith on our part to know whether He is speaking to us or not. If the heavens open as a scroll, and an angel comes down with a cell phone in his hand and gives it to you saying, “the Father wants to speak to you…” it doesn’t take much faith to realize you are hearing from God. Heb. 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. If your manner of hearing God does not require an exercise of faith on your part, then it isn’t pleasing to Him. Be willing to exercise your faith in both hearing Him in the first place and then doing what He says even at great cost to yourself.

In v. 2, we find that this plan to make a move on Jacob’s part was not without problems. His household (that would mean Leah, Rachel, and his sons) were given over to uncleanness and idol worship. You would think if you were in Jacob’s immediate family that your commitment to God would run deep, but that is not the case. There was uncleanness in Jacob’s family. There were strange gods being worshipped. That means that Rachel, Leah, and Jacob’s sons were feigning worship to Jehovah while bowing down to false images and committing sacrilege at the same time. It would seem that Jacob shouldn’t be making any big plans with these kinds of problems in his family, but that isn’t how God operates.

Notice that Jacob put pressure on his family and didn’t give them a choice (v. 3). He, in effect, said, “you may be worshiping idols, you may not be sincere in your relationship with God, but we are going to arise, go to Bethel and establish an altar to God…” Have you ever made that kind of demand upon your spouse or your children? Remember that these children were grown with children of their own. In our society, many parents refuse to influence even young children in spiritual matters, insisting that they must be allowed to make their own decisions. That is not what Jacob did here. Listen, if you want what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had, you must do what they did. What did Jacob do next?

In v. 4, Jacob compiles his family to bring all the pagan images, jewelry, and other curious arts with pagan themes and give them to him. When is the last time you audited what your family members are wearing or what the motifs are in the jewelry that they treasure? We tend to insist today that that doesn’t mean anything, but what do we do with the passage we are reading today? Just recently, we did an audit of our wardrobe and our household items and with a friend’s help, identified three items, two of which were deeply wicked although they seemed merely decorative and completely harmless. If you think it doesn’t matter and it isn’t a big deal – just take notice of how your family members will react when you demand that they give those items to you. If they are harmless, then why is there so much resistance when it comes to giving them up?

When we do obey God and make the commitment to move and to clean up our households notice what happens. Jacob moves through the land, and v. 5 says the terror of God was upon all the cities they came near. Let me ask the question: does the world around us fear God or fear the church? Absolutely not. There is probably no other time in modern history that the church and the things of God are taken less seriously by those that are without Christ. Why not? Perhaps we are not doing what Jacob did:

1. Jacob was sacrificially obedient.
2. He dealt with sin in his household
3. He did away with any corrupting influence among his family members.

Again, if we do what Jacob did, we will experience what Jacob experienced. There have been times during the Great Awakenings that the world trembled before the church with conviction and the terror of the Lord. May God grant us to deal with ourselves before God because the accountability is ours if we move through this life without the witness of the conviction of the Holy Spirit not only upon ourselves but on those around us as well.

When Jacob arrived at Bethel (v. 6-7), we see that he does build an altar and that all the people were with him. What about you? Are all the people in your family with you, or are some going their own way? Maybe you need to do what Jacob did. After building the altar, God appears to him. Here we see escalating visitation from God. Obedience brings promotion. At first, God just told Jacob to make this move to Bethel, but after Jacob obeys, then God appears to him, which is a more robust experience. God appears to Jacob and blesses him again and reminds him once more that his name is not Jacob but Israel.

In v. 11-12, the blessing of Abraham is reaffirmed to Jacob, but we need to keep uppermost in our minds that Jacob had to meet several conditions that were very challenging.

1. He had to make a geographical move.
2. He confronted his family
3. He took away things that were dear to them that represented ungodly things.

We must be willing to do things differently before God if we are going to have anything other than what we are having. If you want a more considerable breakthrough, make a more significant commitment.

After God goes up from blessing Jacob once again (v. 13-14), Jacob erects a pillar in addition to building an altar and pours out a drink offering and an oil offering upon it. What is he doing? He is going the extra mile. He isn’t just meeting the requirements; instead he is going above and beyond in his obedience to be pleasing to God in all things. What about you? When is the last time you went above and beyond what was required of you even when what was required was quite demanding and sacrificial?

You would think that everything would be wonderful for Jacob from this time forward, but that isn’t the case. Rachel is pregnant during this entire time that these events are taking place. Now she goes into labor and dies giving birth to Benjamin. We notice that she names him “son of my sorrow.” It should be noted that Rachel, from the time Jacob departed from Laban’s house, has not distinguished herself. She is Jacob’s darling, and can you imagine the pain of seeing her untimely death. Does this happen to Rachel because of something undealt with in her life? Is she the influence that opened the door for the rampant idolatry in Jacob’s family? We don’t have those answers, but we do see God’s mercy at work. Even though this family is anything but perfect, God’s plan is ongoing, and that should encourage us when we face family difficulties knowing that the heart of God is to see us come through these things with our destiny intact.


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1 Comment

  • Moira Shole says:

    That is a tough one, I pray God to give me a way of approaching my children in connection with their stuff. There are a lot of stuff that I tried to question and I got into trouble.

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