“Then 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.’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. 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.’ 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. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 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.”NIV

It is the sheer mercy of God that He would speak to Jacob again, and give him guidance, after the mess of chapter 34.

One or two things stand out to me as I read this passage:

  • Go where God tells you to go. If God lays a particular place on your heart you will know it. (I don’t mean simply somewhere you enjoyed while on holiday and you took a passing fancy to living there! Not, of course, to say that God will never call people to live in their favourite holiday destinations. But I suppose you always have to check your motives);
  • Do what God tells you to do. In Jacob’s case this was to ‘’build an altar’’. But Jacob knew that before he built that altar there were things that needed to be dealt with in his ‘’household’’ (2). He called for deep repentance and purification. ‘’Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar…’’(3). ‘Let’s deal with what we need to deal with first’, said Jacob. What has God been telling you to do? Perhaps He’s been speaking to you for a long time? Why the delay? Do it today – if you can, and if you know it’s the right and wise thing to do.

In this story look what they did – Jacob and his family. They dealt with their idolatry and pursued holiness (2, 4). There is a time for ‘getting rid’ of things which are holding us back and blocking the flow of God’s power, and ‘burying’ them. This we do in the light of that great altar of the Cross;

But look also at what God did (5). There was a manifestation of His power.

Yet what came first?