Here we find Jacob at a time in his life when apparently the zeal for the things of God, that he had in his younger days, seems to have cooled somewhat. He had spent many years of hard work acquiring his possessions and establishing his family. Now, maybe, he wanted to enjoy the peace he had regained with his brother and watch his family grow. Could these have been some of the reasons behind Jacob’s spiritual condition? Again we do not know and neither does the scripture give us much information. We do know, however, that God is now directing him to return to the place of “blessing”.
Many of us as believers often find ourselves in similar circumstances, where our spiritual lives seem fruitless and aimless, and we do well to learn the lessons taught here to Jacob.
“Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God “
God instructs his servant to go to Bethel, “the house of God” , “settle there“ (dwell KJV), “make preparations for worship”. Note that this was not to be a casual visit to God’s house, he was ordered to spend time there. Worship needs much preparation, and after the time of preparation much time should be spent in worship. True worship cannot be hurried.
Believers often become so occupied, and even overwhelmed by earthly cares as we are pressed by life’s duties and ambitions, that we are unable to spend much time in preparing for, or in worshipping God.
Preparation for worship requires some basics:
l. “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you” . We must put out of our lives anything that has taken the place of God.
2. “purify yourselves” It is necessary for every believer to seek cleansing from sin on a regular basis. <see Isa.1:16; Psa.51:2, 7; 2 Chr. 29 :15; John 15:3; 1 John 1:7, 9; Heb 10:27>
3 “change your clothes.” The old ways must be changed, otherwise we will be drawn back into the ways of the world. <see Eph.4:21-27, 29>
4. “let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God” After the preparation, the cleansing and the changing of attitudes and actions, there must be full obedience to the command. “So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.” <Gen.35:4 NIV; see also 1 Sam.7:3 (NIV NOTE: ASHTORETHS was a goddess of love, fertility and war.) >
5. A genuine “return to the Lord” involves sincerity and getting rid of things in our lives (gods) that cause us not to worship the Lord with all our hearts. It involves a total “commitment” of ourselves to His service, and it is only when these have been dealt with that we can experience the true worship of God. It is then that we know God’s protection and deliverance from sin and evil ; it is then that the altar of God is rebuilt and we once more can see the ‘‘face of God”.
“After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.”
A new name is given to Jacob and he is now required to live up to that name: “a prevailing and powerful prince of God”.
We as believers are also given a new name and are also required to live up to that name. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”