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
BY Melanie Rainer
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.
33 thoughts on "Return to Bethel"
He has been, and will continue to be, with me everywhere I have gone. And for today that is all I need to know.
“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!!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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