Search This Blog

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Lessons on Worship from Jacob

The life of Jacob and his transformation for deceived to the one who “wrestles with God” [Israel] is fascinating. Though I’m many books could have been written or have been written about him and much can be learned from commentaries, I have been blessed over the past few weeks studying Jacob’s life during my private devotional time. [I also enjoyed the fact that the Sunday School material that we are using from LifeWay was also covering the material.] I believe that there are some key lessons we can learn from Jacob about worship found in Genesis 35:

1Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 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.  5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. 6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. 8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

Context: After Jacob’s daughter is assaulted, her brothers deceive the people of Shechem into believing that they would be willing to intermarry, but only if all the men were circumcised. Later they go into the town and slaughtered all the men and seized all they own and taking those who are left as slaves.  Jacob seemed convinced that the peoples around him will attack and take revenge. God now appears to Jacob. God had appeared to Jacob before: [1] as he fled from Easu and saw the ladder to heaven and asks for God’s protection; [2] again when Laban was displeased, God instructed Jacob to return home. [3] Before encountering Easu, Jacob wrestled with the angel all night, who changed his name to Israel. Jacob’s life was punctuated with God speaking to him in the midst of crises. This time God instructed him to go to Bethel and build an altar, the place where he first met God. God had consistently taken the initiative in Jacob’s life, especially during difficult times.

1. God took the initiative in speaking to Jacob.
Notice that verse 1 of the chapter begins with “Then;” after the context, we had just described. Jacob was probably fearing for his life, and “then” God took the initiative and instructed him to go to Bethel, that place where God first revealed Himself to Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother.  This is one of the few times in Old Testament when God commands that an altar be built; that He be worshiped in a specific place.

Why would God tell him to return to Bethel? You will remember that some 20 years before, fleeing to his uncle’s land to get away from Easu, God had revealed Himself in a dream. During that time God made this promise to Jacob:
13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” [Gen. 28:13-15]
God was taking Jacob back to the first time He had revealed Himself to the young deceiver.

2. God desired that Jacob remember the nature and character of God.
God could have just repeated the promise to Jacob where he was, but in returning to Bethel, God wanted Jacob to learn something about the nature of God, that He was faithful to what He says He will do. God had promised to not leave Jacob; He wanted Jacob to return to the place of the promise. In doing so He was reminding Jacob of His nature and character: The Faithful One, Provider, and Protector.   God wanted Jacob to worship Him at that place, remembering what He has promised. Part of worship is acknowledging who God is and what He has done.

3. They made preparation for meeting and worshiping God.
In preparation for the return, Jacob instructed his family [which would have also included all those working for him] to put away their idols. His four wives and their servants had come from a culture that worshiped many gods. Rachel had even stolen her father’s idols when she left to return with Jacob to the land of Canaan. Jacob’s understanding of who God is had grown to realize that God was not going to be “one among many gods,” but the only true God. If they were to meet with God in worship then they needed to prepare.  As someone has said, “Christ must be Lord of all or not Lord at all.”

4. Jacob responded in obedience to what God had commanded centers his worship on God alone.
Upon arriving Jacob built the altar and named the place “El-bethel” Bethel means “house of God;” El-bethel means the “God of the house of God.”  What difference does this make? Jacob’s focus in the first meeting was centered around the place: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God” [28:17]. Before he placed conditions on God: “if you will do this, then You will be my God..” [28:20] Now, his focus was the God who had kept every promise. God had protected Jacob and his family and even had put the fear of them in the people in that area.  Jacob’s attention was now on the presence of God in this place and not just the place. God had kept His promise, revealing His nature and character.

5. God repeated the promise to Jacob, but Jacob’s life had been transformed; now he could live out the promise as God intended. 
After going the Bethel and building the altar, God spoke to Jacob again, repeating the promise:
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 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. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.  14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

God’s speaking this time could have been in response to Jacob’s obedience to His command in 35:1. He and his entire family had put away all other gods, they had purified themselves to prepare to meet with God, Jacob had built the altar. God chose to speak again and He repeated the promise previously given some 20 years before.  Why? One possible answer might be that even though many things, good and bad had happened, God was revealing Himself true to His promise, even though Jacob had not been perfect. God’s ultimate plan to bring a Savior to the world through this family line was to be fulfilled.

Another reason might be that this was not the same Jacob from 20 years before. He was Israel; he was a changed man, one who would listen to God and obey.  In response to God’s repeating of the promise, Jacob set up a stone marker and anointing it with oil as an act of worship and renaming the place, Bethel. God had spoken, God had promised in the past and Jacob was now confident that God would keep His promise, the very promise He had first given in the beginning. He need only live in obedience to the God of promise.

Truth to take home...
1. God takes the initiative in worship.
2. God is faithful, even when we are not.
3. God is present, even when we are not aware of His presence.
4. God will provide.
5. God is in control; He knows the future, we can trust Him.
6. We must prepare to meet Him in worship
7. We must respond in obedience and thanksgiving.

No comments:

Post a Comment