Jacob is instructed by God to return to Bethel, the place where God introduced Himself to Jacob in a dream. He made known Himself as Yahweh, the one true covenant-keeping God, when Jacob was fleeing Esau (Genesis 28:19). There Jacob builds an altar of thanksgiving to this God Who had revealed Himself first to his grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac, and, more recently, to himself. Jacob speaks of God as being the One Who answered his prayers when he was in distress and Who has been with Him wherever he has gone on his journey (Genesis 35:3).
Do you take the time to build an altar of thanksgiving, and encourage others to join you offering God the worship and praise that is fitting to His self-revelation through His Word?
Jacob told those in his household to destroy their idols, wash themselves, and put on fresh clothing. He wanted those who were with him to know his story. He wanted them to know this God who revealed Himself to him, spoke to him, and dealt with him when he was fearing to meet his brother, Esau. He wanted them to know His grace. But He also wanted them to know that this God would tolerate no competitors. They were to recognize that this was the one True God, not in any way like the gods of their imaginations, or the tribal deities of their ancestors. He was not to be put on the same shelf as the gods of the nations. This God was the Creator and Lord of all.
Long before the Law was given to Moses, God was making it known to Jacob that “no other gods” were to come before Him (Exodus 20:3). “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4).
Today we often hear people say, “I like to think of God as…” and then they fill in the blanks with their own imaginative concepts. They construct a god fashioned after their own personal desires, ambitions, and preferences.
Someone once said, “If you are worshiping a god who always agrees with you, you are worshiping an idol.” I believe this is true. God is holy. He is set apart. He is in a category all by Himself and there is none other.
In Jacob’s time many people kept small idols made of wood or metal. They were called ‘teraphim’. They were objects of worship, good luck charms. They thought these figurines would protect their homes. They also had legal significance. The one who possessed the family idol would be able to claim the greatest part of the family inheritance. These may be reasons why Laban was so upset that his family idols were missing. It may be the reason why Rachel stole them.
Laban was not only upset that Jacob took his daughters and grandchildren away without saying good-bye, but also because his idols were gone.
What might be your idols today? Do you give higher esteem to the wisdom of men rather than the wisdom of God’s Word? Do you give your greatest affection to the lesser gods of our culture? To sports teams? To political leaders? To the stock market? To relationships? To material possessions? To your achievements? To the gratification of your selfish desires?
Take this advice that is repeated throughout the Bible:
1 John 5:21 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
1 Corinthians 10:14 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
Are we as eager as Jacob was to bring others to “the house of God” (Bethel) and join him in worship of the one true God? Are we as bold as to ask them to put away their idols? Are we as convinced as Jacob was that he had found the real thing, second to none?
When Jacob gets to Bethel, God renews the covenant promises He had made with Abraham regarding the land, the multitude of his descendants that would become a great nation. But He also added a new important detail to the promise- “KINGS SHALL COME FORTH FROM YOU.”
Genesis 35:11 11 God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.”
Not only would kings come forth from Jacob, but also the King of kings.
This chapter records the deaths of significant figures in the Genesis story: Deborah, Rebekah’s old nurse; Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, who died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin; and Isaac, Jacob’s father, who died at the ripe old age of 180.
This is a bit of a surprise, as it looked like Isaac was on his death bed 20 years earlier (in Genesis 27) when he was of dim eyesight and wanted to pass on the family blessing to Esau but blessed Jacob instead. This was quite a recovery!
Jesus makes it clear that He is the author of the Law and therefore He knows what the Law requires and what it does not require. The Law was given as a revelation of God’s righteousness. It exhibits the character of godliness. It was given to show His chosen people their need for His reconciling work, prefigured in the tabernacle ceremonies. The Law was not intended to be interpreted as a set of rules to put people in bondage. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and is therefore Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath and all that it represents is His idea. The Sabbath was instituted as a reminder to the people of Israel that they can enter into God’s rest. They are invited to enter into God’s satisfaction with His works of creation and redemption and cease from their self-works (such as self-justification, self-redemption, self-aggrandizement), and the labor of their livelihoods. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be a blessing, not a curse.
Warren Wiersbe writes,
“The Sabbath law was given to Israel as a mark of her relationship to God (Ex. 20:9-11; 31:13-17; Neh. 9:12-15). But it was also an act of mercy for both man and beast, to give them needed rest each week. Any religious law that is contrary to mercy and the care of nature should be looked on with suspicion. God wants mercy, not religious sacrifice. He wants love, not legalism.” -Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.
Jesus uses the illustration from the life of David, a man the Pharisees knew had a genuine relationship with God. David was a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). When David and his men were hungry, David recognized the heart of the law and asked Abiathar (Ahimelech’s son) the priest to make a special allowance for his men so they would not starve (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Although the letter of the law restricted the eating of the showbread to priests, David, while discerning the holy significance of the showbread, and without showing any disrespect for what it represented, took the showbread Ahimelech mercifully offered to feed his men.
If David could discern the heart of God, however imperfectly, how much more the Son of David, Jesus the Messiah, could perfectly discern God’s heart. For a greater than David is here.
This incident is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; and Luke 6:1-5). But only Matthew adds this second illustration:
Matthew 12:5-6 5 “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.
The temple was the place where God met with man and man met with God. Those priests who were “in the holy temple” were permitted to do their holy work and eat the showbread, while not negating its symbolic significance. Jesus was saying that He was the substance (reality) behind the shadow (symbolism) of the temple. (In the Book of Revelation, He is the temple – Rev 21-22). He is the true meeting place where God meets man and man can meet God. He is the express image of God’s glory. To be “in Christ” is to be “in the greater temple” and therefore free to enjoy the full benefits of priesthood and partake of the presence, power and life of our Lord, who is our daily bread.
Many Jews expected the Messiah to be a high-profile liberator of the people of Israel, leading them into victory against all their oppressors (Isaiah 2, 62-63). Matthew highlights the fact that the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament speak of Him as THE SERVANT (Isaiah 42; Isaiah 49:5f) who heals, helps, and suffers. He is humble, gentle, patient and leads justice to victory not through crushing His enemies but laying His life down for them (Romans 5:8-10).
TODAY’S READING IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS- Psalm 15:1-5
This Psalm gives us a description of a citizen of heaven. It would be a helpful exercise to paraphrase this and meditate upon possible examples of how these behaviors can be worked out in your life today:
- Am I keeping my mind free from impure thoughts? (Personal Purity v.1)
- Is my walk equal to my talk? (Personal Integrity v. 2a)
- Do I do works that reflect Christ’s character of righteousness? (v.2b)
- Do I speak the truth (to myself, in my heart, and to others)? (v.2c)
- Do I speak well of others? (avoiding sins of the tongue, such as gossip, slander, maligning, sarcasm, v. 3a)
- Do I show love to my neighbor and seek their welfare? (v. 3b)
- Do I borrow other people’s offenses and fail to resolve conflicts promptly and Biblically? (v.3c)
- Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates? Do I secretly approve of what God disapproves of? (v.4)
- Do I seek fellowship with godly people and honor opportunities to join them in true spiritual worship? (v.4b) Am I consistent in my pursuit of godliness? (v.4c)
- Do I treat others with equity and justice? (v.5)
- The life of Jesus fits this description. If I walk in the Spirit with these intentions, I can be a faithful pilgrim who will not be shaken (v. 5).
TODAY’S READING IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
This is to be our attitude towards the teachings of Scripture:
Proverbs 3:21-26 21 My son, let them not vanish from your sight; Keep sound wisdom and discretion, 22 So they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. 23 Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; 26 For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I believe You are The Truth, the One True God, the Real Deal, the Lord Who created the universe, who mercifully became our needed Deliverer and Meeting Place, the perfect image of the Father, the way back to the Father, and bestower of the life of the Father (John 14:6). May each activity this day be part of the altar of thanksgiving that I am building in my heart. Convict me if I am harboring anything that competes with Your rightful supremacy in my affections. Keep me from manufacturing a counterfeit Jesus and cause me to cleave to the real Jesus Who is THE LIVING WORD OF GOD. Holy Spirit, I yield to Your work in my life. Make me more like Jesus. Father, be glorified in me and in your church, in Jesus Name.