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:


    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.