“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.’”Genesis 35:1 (NLT)
Jacob was in a hot mess. Because of the brutal incident at Shechem, he feared for his life. Jacob also realized that he was not where he should be in his relationship with God. He had not taken the role of spiritual leader in his family that he ought to have taken. But it wasn’t too late. The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Jacob told his family to put away the foreign gods among them, to wash themselves, and to change their clothes. These actions had spiritual meanings, speaking of sanctification. They needed to prepare themselves to go back to Bethel, the house of God. This was the place where thirty years earlier the LORD first appeared to Jacob, when he was fleeing from his brother Esau.
Once I was meeting with a group of pastors. We started discussing the factors that had led us to follow Jesus and enter the ministry. We realized that we each had a significant encounter with Jesus that changed our lives. From that point on, we were ruined for this world.
We believe that every Christian has a “Bethel experience”. This is the place where we first encountered the Lord. Sometimes we move away from God in our heart or actions. The pollutions of this world and our own corrupt nature draw us away from our first love for Jesus. We must do what Jacob and his family did. We must sanctify ourselves and go back to Bethel.
Have you had an encounter with Jesus? Have you since left your first love? What does going back to Bethel look like for you?
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