Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, Mar 2004

Gen 35 :
Moving on with God

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 35 v1 Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." v2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes . . . . . v5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

Have we ever felt so comfortable in one place that we rather not move on?

Jacob had. He was comfortable in Shechem - the place where God was absent (see devotional on Gen 34) – until disaster struck. Shechem, Hamor's son, defiled Dinah there. This led Jacob's sons, especially Simeon and Levi who were Dinah's brothers from the same mother Leah (Gen 29:33-34; 30:20-21), to exact revenge in a massacre (Gen 34:25). God was not present in this chapter. And these two events - the rape and vengeful massacre - highlighted the absence of God.

And God spoke in Gen 35:1. Jacob was not to linger in Shechem. He was to move on - from the absence of God in Shechem to the presence of God in Bethel. It was at Bethel that Jacob first met God in a dream more than twenty years ago as he was fleeing Esau (Gen 28:12, 19; 35:1). Then, he had dreamt of stairways leading to heaven and into the presence of God.

God was with Jacob as he fled Esau (Gen 28:12; 35:1). God later cooled Esau to be receptive to Jacob for a reconciliation twenty years later (Gen 33). And when the Canaanites were expected to seek revenge against Jacob's family for the massacre at Shechem, God helped Jacob again. This time the "terror of God" descended upon the Canaanites (Gen 35:5) and no one pursued them.

So Jacob buried the past and moved on with his life as God directed. And God paved the way. He helped Jacob to escape the vengeful wrath of the Canaanites, in moving on. Through this episode, it is most comforting to know that in spite of errors committed, when we re-commit our lives to God and obey Him, God still helps us, just as He helped Jacob.

Meanwhile, Jacob had grown in spiritual maturity. He must have let Rachel keep the household gods which she had stolen from Laban earlier (Gen 31:19). Now, he was asking all who were with him to get rid of all foreign gods in their possession and to purify themselves (Gen 35:2). They were not only to bury the past, they were to bury all the foreign gods. Jacob also learnt to bury a part of his sinful nature because he did not seek revenge on his own terms for the rape of Dinah. Unfortunately, his children had not grown and were deceitful like the "old" nature of scheming Jacob.

Just when Jacob seemed to be growing spiritually, traumatic events occurred. Gen 35 is sad and traumatic because it records three deaths and there is a lot of burying to do. First, Deborah, Rebekah's nurse died (Gen 35:8). Then Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin (Gen 35:18). And when Jacob's father, Isaac, was 180 years old, Isaac died (Gen 35:29). It was not because of any sin that these unfortunate events occurred. These events just happened. We will only know why when we meet our Maker. But through all these, Jacob moved on.

In life, we move through many ups and downs. Ups - with spiritual highs like our very own El-Bethel - coming into the very presence of God and purifying our families. Downs - errors of our family, mourning losses of loved ones, even losses of relationships and jobs and failures. But we move on. Very importantly, moving on - in obedience to God.

1. What past errors, old nature and foreign gods do we need to put behind us?
2. What makes me more like the old Jacob versus the new Israel / Jacob?
3. How has God helped me in spite of my follies and errors? How is His grace evident?

If We Want To Wear Crowns In Heaven
We Must Win Them On Earth

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