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.

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34 thoughts on "Return to Bethel"

  1. Yes! Finally something about exness.

  2. Amber E says:

    I’m getting caught up, so I’m about 5 days behind. However, I feel it was God’s perfect timing for me to read this. Our family is about to be in a state of several transitions at once. For the past 7 years, we have lived with my MIL. What started as a temporary solution became more long-term after poor financial decisions, illnesses, and working to save up for a house. This spring, she will move to a retirement home. We currently are at a crossroads: do we help her sell the house and move into a newer, renovated home but possibly pay more? Or do we buy the house from her and fix it up, which would allow us to have more wiggle room in our budget?

    As I read about the Ebenezer Stone, my mind immediately went to a post in our home that has markings indicating my oldest child’s height. For the past 5 years, we have marked inch by inch every few months. Soon, we will start marking for my youngest. I think this post is our Ebenezer Stone. It’s rooted into our home, providing support and portrays a home of growth and love. I wonder now if God is saying, “Stay put. Wait. See what I have planned for your family.”

  3. Katie says:

    Tamara,

    I have always believed God’s promises to be not only for the one who wrote the passage of Scripture, but also for the one reading it. I believe that as you find the promises of God, take them for yourself as well.
    Psalm 19:7 tells us that as we follow the Lord’s instructions, He will help us to be wise, and our lives will be renewed day by day.
    Psalm 16 in particular, is very dear to me. Every verse is a promise of God’s protection that I believe we can take for ourselves even though they were written centuries ago.
    These are just examples; as you read, take note of the promises God makes to His people and then ask Him if He is also promising this for your life.
    I find that His voice is often a whisper in my mind; it takes daily practice to quiet myself before Him and shut out all the extra noise, but if you earnestly seek His voice, He will speak to you!
    I will be praying for you this week, that you are able to find not only direction, but connection with the Lord.
    Blessings to you!!

  4. Melissa Mcronney says:

    Thank you Jesus

  5. PW says:

    God’s promises for you are the same as for all believers, and you’ll find them in God’s Word. Ask God to help you see His promises as you read the Bible. Claim them for yourself. The Bible is complete. God is not giving new promises today.

  6. Tamara bl says:

    Maybe a bit off topic, but I thought you all might be able to help me.
    I am thinking about how God always comes trough when He promises something! But HOW do I find out what His promises are for me? I want to stand on them, but actually never ” heard” Him make a promise.

  7. K D says:

    He has been, and will continue to be, with me everywhere I have gone. And for today that is all I need to know.

  8. Camille English Davis says:

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  9. Camille English Davis says:

    “He has been with me everywhere I have gone.” These words are still reverberating in my spirit. As I read those words in Genesis 35:3, it felt like God was speaking them to me. Praises!!

  10. Natasha R says:

    Isaiah 43:2 really spoke to me today. It reminds me that I will be faced with trials in life, they are unavoidable. But I can walk through them (walk through the fire, as the verse says) with confidence and security, knowing that God is with me and I will not be scorched. What is important is that I continue walking, and not be paralysed by fear and uncertainty. Because if I allow myself to be stuck where I am, I will never reach my final destination.

  11. Kristen says:

    Yes! Because of Jesus we have an open door to Heaven, our real home. None of it would be without His sacrifice. Thank You, Jesus for leaving Home to safe a wretch like me! I certainly wasn’t being an example of a Christian so many times today. I’m thankful that I can repent, but I need Your help to think before speaking or acting. Thank you for new mercies!

  12. Ashley Lewis says:

    My favorite thing about the Bible is how it speaks to every struggle that we have as humans. How well the Bible knows our heart. Better than we do.

  13. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I live in the same state and county in which I was born. I have traveled to other places in the world and in this country, but this has always felt like home. I know that I would have a difficult time leaving if God called me out. I pray that I would know that home is wherever God is. Help me not to get too comfortable here in this world. This is not my home.

  14. StephanieC says:

    Today I was struck by the word “through” in Isaiah 43:2.
    The past 3 months I have been in a season of anxiety and panic attacks that I have never had before. I don’t know what triggered it, but I have felt stuck, begging God daily for deliverance. In today’s verse God’s promise is to walk us “through” deep waters, “through” rivers of difficulty, and “through” fires of oppression. Sometimes He rescues us out of our situations and other times the only way out is “through.” Thanks be to God, He is with us THROUGH it all.

    1. Hannah Robinett says:

      I’ve been in a similar season. Definitely helps to remind myself He is walking me through it, even if He doesn’t pull me up out of it.

  15. Tina says:

    Home.

    A word as close to my heart as the word hope, and as precious to me as my children.

    Home..

    No matter how far I go away from home, no matter how much I am happy and enjoy whilst away, coming home… HEAVEN!!!

    Is it the familiar?
    Is it the things I have collected over the years?
    Is it the comfortable?
    Is it because there are memories there?
    IS it because those I love beyond beyond live/lived there?

    Home..

    Whatever the hold is for this earthly home, I know the best/better home is not here on earth..

    When I lost my daughter and wrestled with God as to why (another story), exhausted and tired from crying and the anger, I fell asleep on the bench in church, there, right there, God met me, showing me my daughter running through a meadow looking towards me, waving and shouting I’m okay mum, I am happy..”

    That is heaven to the power of 10000000! To know that 1) my girl is okay and with the lord. 2)the vision of where she was, lives in my heart.. and that one day, God has a plan for me to be there too.. I can only say A double, double AMEN to that…

    Home..

    Just remembered a song from my childhood..

    This world is not my home.. I am just passing through, my treasures and my Hope’s are placed beyond the blues…

    Home..

    Sending love wrapped hugs Sisters..

    1. Mari V says:

      ❤️

  16. Lizzie T says:

    I recently attended Beth Moore’s conference and the title was I love the Lord. Ps 116 was the focus and this passage really jumped out this morning. The Lord has delivered me and HE HEARD ME. How amazing to know we have a god who hears us. I’m in awe of the goodness of god.

  17. Nadine Hall says:

    I looked this up in case anyone else was curious.
    Rachel names her son Ben-oni: “Son of My Sorrow”
    Jacob renamed him Benjamin: “Son of My Right Hand”

    1. Lizzie T says:

      Thank you for sharing!

    2. Mari V says:

      ❤️

  18. Allie Parker says:

    This was my response to today’s reading since I’m trying to find where all people fit in to these stories in Genesis. Thank God for teaching me through the mourning and dancing plan otherwise I think I’d wrestle with God constantly over these passages.

    God, you develop nations. You have an outcome through suffering. You used Dinah’s hurt to bring Israel home. Scripture is continuing to show me that it is through women that your will is fulfilled. Women are the signs of your presence, the catalysts of the fulfillment of your promises. Help me/us to recognize this gift and power. Deliver us from lust, rape, and false love. For you will build your kingdom through women as you have shown through Sarah, Leah, Elizabeth and Mary. Amen

    1. Natasha R says:

      ❤️❤️❤️

  19. Chelsea Mitchell says:

    He has been with me thru all attempted hurt , harm and danger. But yet he spared my life. What an Awesome God we serve. Thank you Father

  20. Lucy Goodwin says:

    He has been w me – everywhere – I have gone. Powerful stuff!!! Thank you Lord!

  21. Churchmouse says:

    My husband and I live in the city of our birth. I have lived here most of my life, as has my husband. We moved a few hundred miles away when we were first married but we eventually moved back. We’ve been blessed to have done some foreign and domestic travel so that has widened my horizon. Still, here I am, in my hometown that has most certainly not always felt like home. It’s a small town where everyone seems to know everyone and how they’re interconnected by relatives or jobs or a common past. But don’t think of the sweet familiarity of the bar on the TV sitcom Cheers. It’s not always fun to be where everyone knows your name. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day here – except I keep reliving high school because that seems to be most folks’ reference point. There’s so much more out there than just here. We’ve made a good living here and raised our daughters here. We have a good place to worship. I have a ministry I love here. But I’m often restless, longing for a place that I will know is home when I get there. This isn’t it. Nor is any of the places I’ve visited. While I have come to appreciate small town living, my home is not here and never will be. God made me for His home and that is the longing of my heart. This is temporary housing. And while I have and will make the best of it here, my eyes are set on heaven. I am content yet discontented. I am in my hometown yet longing for Home.

    1. Nancy Stinson says:

      Beautiful. I, too, long for Home.

    2. Jane K says:

      I love my home and the country life, but I too have always looked at other places as I have traveled and wondered if this could be home. Thank you for showing me it’s not discontentment, but a longing for my eternal home.

    3. Jennifer Anapol says:

      So true!

  22. Angie says:

    3 thoughts this morning:
    1) One of our sons married and moved close to his wife’s parents, a long distance away. We miss him. Miss out on learning to know them as a couple. We miss relationship. We were always very close and figuring out the long distance relationship, has been rocky path. As much as we miss him, them,-times together, if it is by God’s hand they are where they are…if they will follow Him, love and obey God, growing in their relationship with Him – that is our first and foremost hope. That would make the loss here worth it, for the eternal gain in Christ. It is the foundation of our prayers for them.
    2)When we built the home we live in, the excavators dug up a large pinkish stone. It became our Ebenezer stone. We built in obedience to what we felt God was telling us to do. That stone is out front of our house to remind us that God is faithful and to remind us that all that is good comes from Him.
    3)Isaiah 43:2 was the final verse in today’s reading. Isaiah 43:1-4, and 44:1-5, I prayed over and for my sons as they were growing, often multiple times a day during high school and college. Every time it mentioned a name that would receive God’s protection or blessing I would insert their names. Recently SRT had a print of Isaiah 43:1. I purchased them for my sons (now young men and fathers). I wrote a note and the rest of the verses on the back. I was watching the grandkids at one son’s home and noticed the print hung in the boys room. The precious beauty of seeing it hung there was a reminder to me that our faithfulness brings God’s promises to generations of our family. He is so much bigger and better than we can ever be to anyone in our family. That is truth I know, truth I live, but how kind of God to give a random hug-reminder.
    God is faithful.
    God is good.
    We are forever in His care, and blessed.
    Living in awe of You Lord.

    1. Elaine . says:

      Beautiful words, Angie! Thank you for sharing. God is so very good!

    2. Nadine Hall says:

      God called my husband and I to a church away from family. Four hours from my parents, fourteen from his. I understand Melissa’s ache (and yours) and appreciate your perspective. For years I longed to go “home,” but God never answered that prayer. I have learned to bloom where God has planted and although I still miss family, I now realize that this church we are serving together in for almost 8 years has become my home. The Senior Pastor and his wife are like serogate parents to us, our children have serogate grandparents and they are an amazing blessing to us. I have sisters and brothers that I will sorely miss when/if we move onto another ministry. I didn’t feel this way even three years ago, but I do now.

    3. Camille English Davis says:

      ❤️

    4. Susan Clifton says:

      So sweet an example of God’s generational blessings!