Return to Bethel
Open Your Bible
Genesis 34:1-31, Genesis 35:1-29, Genesis 36:1-43, Psalm 116:1-2, Isaiah 43:2
After being married just three years, my husband and I moved away from the city I grew up in, all our friends, our families, and our church community. We left to attend graduate school in a state five hours away, which isn’t really that far, but in the post-move shock of everything being so painfully new, I struggled mightily.
Two years later, we moved again, closer to home in proximity and yet every day we felt further and further away from relationship. While we now had a baby, I still had no friends, which left me a particularly unhealthy combination of angry, sad, and lonely. In the end, we limped home in a moving truck with a baby who had just learned to crawl. And as I stood there in our new apartment, finally holding the keys in my hand, I wept. God had called us back to the place we had ached to be for so long.
In Genesis 35, God called Jacob home to Bethel, where He had first appeared to him. In Genesis 28, Jacob saw a stairway to God in a dream. And God made him this epic promise: “I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying… All the peoples on earth will be blessed through your offspring” (Genesis 28:13–14). In response, Jacob named the place Bethel, declaring, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it … What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven” (vv.16–17).
So when God called Jacob back to Bethel after many years away, Jacob reacted immediately. First, he told his family to purge their homes of any idols to false gods, promising to build an altar to worship the God who had been there in his “day of distress” and “everywhere” he had since gone (Genesis 35:3). When Jacob returned to Bethel, God gave him the new name of “Israel” and promised that both nations and kings would descend from him (vv.10–11). Jacob would set up an Ebenezer, a stone marker to remember and celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness in all circumstances.
In his hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” a twenty-two-year-old Robert Robinson declared:
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Because of Jesus, we can claim the same promise of an eternal home, the door opened for us by His person and work on the cross. And we can pray, thanking, celebrating, and remembering the promises He has made to us in His Word, and that ultimately, our forever home is with Him.