“Doing the first works”
II. Vs. 5-15 A journey down memory lane
III. Vs. 16-29 So this is living
The focus of the first four verses of chapter 35 was upon personal renewal in the life of Jacob. There are five parts to having our relationship with Him restored:
- Separation: Putting away attitudes and activities in our lives that are apart from God and His word.
- Purification: A desire to be pure which means that we will again hate sin in our lives as much as we hate it in others.
- Preparation: There will be a change in our habits in which we will put off old ones and put on new ones.
- Consecration: We will rededicate our lives to God and we will have a renewed desire to draw near to God, He will again become the focus of our lives.
- Adoration: When restoration is complete we will have a new since of worship as He will be greater then ever before and we will want to just spend time with Him.
Knowing these five truths will not make you have a renewed relationship with God you still have to get up and go! Further more even upon getting up and going, applying these truths doesn’t mean that everything will start going smoothly in your life. Even a life that is lived in total surrender to the Lord doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be sick, suffer or sorrow. A life lived in surrender to the Lord is never about ease and comfort in this life, it is all about becoming more like Jesus!
II. Vs. 5-15 A journey down memory lane
Vs. 5 The land in which Jacob and his family must return through to get to Bethel is where the families of the men that Levi and Simeon had killed. We often have to walk through areas of our lives where sin has destroyed. Because of this we often allow the guilt and fear of our past keep us where we are instead of moving to where God wants us to be. God would have been just in giving Jacob and his family their own medicine for their disobedience but instead He put the fear of Himself in those cites that Jacob needed to pass through. Notice that it was not the fear of Jacob but rather the fear of the Lord that struck the hearts of those cities. In spite of their rebellion God fulfills the promise he made with Jacob 30 years earlier in 28:15 saying; “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” It dangerous for Jacob to travel the 30 miles through their sin and failure, but it was far more safe then staying in the land of disobedience! The safest place to live and dwell is always in obedience God’s word.
Vs. 6-7 These verses answer what most Christians want to know concerning God’s will for their lives. “How do I get where God wants me to be, I’ve been praying and seeking His direction but nothing happens.” You only get to Bethel (The house of God) by obeying His word in your life. There is no short cut, no elevator only simple obedience. Jacob had said that he would give his heart to the Lord and now by building this altar we see that he begins to do so. Hey, wait a minute didn’t he build an altar in Shechem (safety) in the world? Yes, but here we see that Jacob realizes that the place where God blesses is not what he names where he is at but rather only the place of a heart that obeys.
He calls the altar that he builds, “God, of the house of God”! There has been growth as Jacob is more interested in the God then the place! The God who met him where he was at 30 years earlier is the same God who meets him where he is at now! What has changed is not the Lord but Jacob’s understanding of the Lord!
Vs. 8 We don’t know much about Deborah other than that she came with Rebekah when she left to marry Isaac. With all those faithful years of service she must have been more then just a servant and was seen as part of the family. The place where they bury her is called the “Oak of weeping”. She must of pretty old as Jacob is 110 and she came with his mother from Haran so that puts her at 170. This is the first of three losses that Jacob will face when he is where God wants him to be. The “C” on Christianity often stands for “crisis”.
Vs. 9 In the 31st chapter God appeared to Jacob and told him to return to the land of promise and now here again God appears as if he was still on that journey home. Those ten years living in “safety” with the world did not happen as far as God was concerned. When you and I refuse to obey the Lord in areas of our life we just don’t go anywhere and so when we return we start right where we strayed off. When we awake to the reality that we are not growing we need not look any further then to the areas where we refused to obey. That can take a few day or a lifetime it’s up to us!
Vs. 10-12 The blessing that is pronounced upon him by the Lord is not new, as they are the same words that the Lord spoke to his Grandfather Abraham and the same that was spoken to him 30 years earlier. God reminds Jacob of how He saw him and not how Jacob saw himself. “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.” Yes, he had acted more like the “heal catcher” than a man “ruled by God”. But God reveals to Jacob a powerful truth that we often live as we think of ourselves instead of living based upon how God sees us. Jacob had a glorious encounter with the Lord but it faded and with it the reality of whom he was in God’s eyes and his behavior reflected what he saw. He moves and dwells in places hoping to recapture the experience he once felt with the Lord only to find himself moving further away. But when he responds in obedience to following the Lord the Lord reminds him of who he is. Jacob didn’t need something new; no all he needed was to be reminded a fresh of what was already true and encouraged to cling to the Lord again. Jesus said something remarkably similar to the Church at Ephesus; “You have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works”. The first works are Love and Trust!
God tells Jacob that He is the God almighty “El-Shaddai” the infinite supplier of all Jacob needs and will ever need, from whom all grace flows! He is the same God that spoke the same things to his father and Grandfather, all that He had promised them He promises Jacob. “But I’ve failed to live up to what my name means (Ruled by God)”! When we are in the “beloved”, seated in heavenly place in Christ Jesus, it is our failure to realize this that often leads to our wondering.
Vs. 13-15 God goes up from Jacobs presence at Bethel as Jacob watches. Jacob then makes a pillar, pours out a drink offering and then an offering of oil as acts of worship to the God who knows his name. Wine is a symbol of joy and oil of refreshment thus Jacob has fullness of joy and refreshed which is always what lies behind true worship. All to often instead of this we act as if God has robbed us of what we wanted instead grateful of what He has so richly blessed us with.
III. Vs. 16-29 So this is living
Vs. 16-20 We are not told how long Jacob stayed at Bethel but we are told that they left and that some where between Bethel and Bethlehem Rachel goes into labor. This is her second child and her prayer was to give her a child or she would die, so she fulfills her own prophecy. Jacob told Laban that the one that stole the idols would not live and she doesn’t.
Rachael names the child “Son of my sorrow” and Jacob renames him “Son of my right hand”. Her death parallels her life, she was robbed of the sole love of her husband, in competition with her sister she dies at getting what she wanted but at the price of her own life. How tragic life is when it is lived by the world’s standards, always seeking after what the world values at a price we can’t afford! Jacob loved her to the end but perhaps now he realized he did her no favors when he loved her above the Lord!
Vs. 21-22a Here is another painful event in Jacob’s life as the death of Rachael opens the door for Leah’s first son Ruben to sleep with Bilhah Rachael’s handmaid. It seems as though this was not about a romantic interest but rather a power struggle to claim what was already his, the rights of the first born. This no doubt was because he witnessed dad just naming Rachel’s last son “son of my right hand”. Three of Leah’s six boys have disqualified themselves as being the child of promise so now the lot will fall upon Judah.
Vs. 22b-26 The list of the 12 sons is no all-star team to say the least as they fit what we would call dysfunctional thus the choice of this family is that of grace and not merit. As Stephen rightly said before the Sanhedrin “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?”
Vs. 27-29 The last tragic event in this chapter to happen to Jacob is the death of his father. Thirty years had passed since when Isaac thought he was going to die and Jacob deceived him for the birthright that already was his. It would have been interesting to see this meeting between the son whom the father ignored and father whom the son disappointed. Was their sorrow for the past and repentance together before the Lord? We will have to wait to find out but I pray that you and I make sure that we do so before the Lord returns for us!
After viewing this chapter one might ask what good does it do to get right with God? “Three deaths a powers struggle with your oldest son!” Why I thought if we were obedient to God and followed Him in total surrender comfort and ease would follow us? Hey, Christian peace with God does not mean ease with God. If you think that obedience will lead to ease you might try looking at a furniture store for a lazy-boy? The point of obedience and surrender is not ease and smooth sailing it is to be more like Jesus and what our Lord lay on was not as Lazy-Boy but rather a cross!