Posts Tagged ‘Bethel’

Genesis 35:11-16 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 4

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

From Last letter,… 

Dear Jacob, 

… How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter…. 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross 

I am still getting my head around all that God said to me. Sorry if I didn’t tell you the full story. Let me fill in some details. 

I didn’t tell you that God said to me, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! (Genesis 35:11 NLT).   

I can’t help but think that I am a blessed man beyond what deserve. Not only has God assured me through my new name that He fights for mebut through His Name, He reveals more of Himself to meEl-Shaddai is a name that speaks His great provision and sufficiency.  

Apparently, kings will come from my descendants. How amazing is that? The Lord is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him. He can turn someone like me into someone who is great, simply because He is great.  

My prayer is that He blesses my children and their children with the kind of greatness that comes from acknowledging that He is God Almighty in their lives. 

But God didn’t stop there. He spoke about the promises He made to my ancestors. He said, “I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:12 NLT). 

I trust Him to fulfil in me all that I am created for and that many people in the future will be blessed and that my descendants will be blessed. 

And that’s the full story. After that God went up from the place where He had spoken to me (Genesis 35:13 NLT). 

Your utterly amazed friend, 

Jacob 

P.S. Loved the quote you gave from Ephesians? (Sounds like a good book). 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

I am as utterly amazed as you are by your encounter with God. How incredible and awesome! 

2 Peter 1:4 (NLT2) says, “And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”  

You may not fully understand what I am going to say to you next, Jacob, but God has spoken to other servants also through His Word about you.  

Not only will kings come from your descendants but also the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  

1 Timothy 6:15 says, “For, at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”  

Thankyou for sharing your amazing story, but Jacob, you are the master of understatement! … 

I am still dumbfounded that you wrapped up your last letter with the words that God “went up” from the place He had spoken to you. What does that mean?  Jacob, where you speaking to God in the form of a person? Was this a bodily presence? A visible person? Face to face with God? Was this a vision? A dream? Did you see Jesus, Himself, a Theophany of the Christ? Or was it just an impression? Please be more specific!  

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

My apologies for not being specific. Let me tell you specifically. I saw God face to face, in bodily form. It was not a vision or a dream and He ascended into heaven after He spoke with me. This may well be a manifestation of the One you speak about in your letter as the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

The experience stirred my heart so much that I set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to me. Then I poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil.  

This was the only way I knew to show my respect for the place where I had met with God, face to face.  This place will always be a very special place of worship to me. 

As you know I originally named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God spoke to me there. (Genesis 35:14 NLT) 

Strange, when He met with me, I somehow felt that He was like the purest of lambs sacrificed for sin on the altar, and He was the drink offering I poured out before Him in worship. Bethel, the house of God cannot contain Him and although He went up from that place, He still remains with me. I am His house and I am overcome with worship within. I am filled with His presence even now. 

Tomorrow we are leaving Bethel and moving toward Ephrath (Genesis 35:16 NLT). From there we will travel to meet up with my Father. Where ever I tread, this land is my inheritance, promised from time immemorial to my ancestors, and now to me.  

Heir of promise, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Pastor Ross

Advertisements

Dear Jacob (from last letter), 

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

… By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what did you do with the women and children that your sons took captive after the massacre? You mention nothing of them. I am just hoping that they were not buried also.  

You must be afraid of retaliation from the towns around you. Despite these horrific events, I’m glad you are moving. I am praying for your protection. 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross,

I must admit I was afraid that the nearby towns might bring violence to us in retaliation and revenge, but as we set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked our family. (Genesis 35:5 NLT). The horrible thing is that they probably feared being murdered too. I suppose it is no wonder they felt fear, after a whole town of men was wiped out by my sons, but this fear somehow seemed different. Terrifying and ominous! 

We do not deserve God’s grace. Now, I leave justice in God’s hands alone for the horrific actions of my sons and my lack of leadership. Only He knows what future awaits us. In the meantime, we have been spared.  

I once built an altar to God near Shechem. Now, however, that altar is associated with the massacre. It stands there as a silent witness, but an undesirable one. People from the towns near Shechem will blame God and be afraid of Him. I know that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 11:10 NLT), but this has not been a healthy fear, but dread. I can only hope their terror turns to reverence and God will bring something good out of all this. 

With sadness, 

Jacob 

P.S. The women and children that were captured are the responsibility of my sons, so you had better ask them about that. 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

So pleased to hear that you have been spared any more bloodshed. It made me realise that as I set out on this new part of my life this year, my prayer also needs to be that God will spare me and let no evil befall me or my family. 

God has been faithful to you, Jacob. What He promises, He will fulfil. All the best for your journey to Bethel.  

I wonder why you didn’t visit Bethel earlier. Afterall it is only 15 kms from Shechem and surely you journeyed to Hebron to see your father. Bethel is in between. Why did you avoid Bethel?  

Curious, 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Your right. I have been avoiding coming here for 10 years and now, finally, we have arrived at Bethel (also called Luz) in Canaan. (Genesis 35:6 NLT). This is the place where God first spoke to me so uniquely from a stairway to heaven.  

You have to realise that I allowed idols into my household and I haven’t exactly obeyed what God told me to do. Avoiding Bethel was an intentionally rebellious thing to do and has proved to be a big mistake. I have compromised along the way and it took tragedy in my family to get my act together.   

I made a choice to stay in Shechem. I now find myself asking“What have I got to show for it all?” My daughter was raped and I did nothing about it. My sons have massacred all the Shechemite males in retaliation and taken the women and children as slaves. They have sacked and looted the village including the pagan idols and still I did nothing.  

I am ashamed to say that all I did was complain that wouldn’t be able to live there any longer for fear of revenge. It doesn’t get much worse. 

But all this has brought me to my knees and to my senses. We are rid of idols and now I am in Bethel as God commanded me. I built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God appeared to me there when I was fleeing from my brother, Esau (Genesis 35:7 NLT). 

Back on track, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

Thanks for your very candid letter. You have now done what God called you to do. It is apparent that you are back in touch with God and recognise God’s presence in your life. You marked the spot where God had spoken to you many years ago with an altar. I like this. Your about 10 years late but you got there (Sorry. Couldn’t help taking a dig at you). 

I like the way you changed the name of the place to El-Bethel – God of the House of God. It emphasises God and not the place. That says something to me about your relationship with Him. Bethel was already a place which held great meaning for you but you renamed it so you don’t have to live in the past. You have placed emphasis on God, the One who led you from your past experiences into the present.  

Building an altar is nothing without God. Building a house of God is nothing without worshiping God. It looks like you finally get it – God is now central to all things that have transpired in your life. 

When I read about how you emphasized the Name of God, I found myself praying more for God’s presence in my own life. What will it take to make sure I obey God?  

Of course, building an altar and actually worshiping God alone are two different things. I can’t help thinking of the healing needed in the lives of your children. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  

Ross 

Genesis 35:3-4 – LETTERS TO JACOB  

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

I hear you are moving away from Shechem.  I’ve got to admit that I feel relieved. Shechem may be a good place for trade but it is a morally corrupt place and dangerous for your family. You know this of course, from the recent events that have transpired. I honestly don’t know how you will manage. You will need God’s help. 

I am concerned about you. Jacob, I feel I know you well enough now to be able to encourage you to find God’s plan and follow it. God answered your prayers during a stressful time in your life many years ago. Remember. He will do it again. 

I have also been experiencing a little stress recently. Nothing in comparison with you, but I also need motivation to go to the Bethel that God wants for me and honour Him in that place. I can declare that He has never left me, or forsaken me, even in my lowest moments when I haven’t been listening to him. He remains faithful always. 

All the best with your move, 

Ross  

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Just a quick note. You have heard right. We are moving. “We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.” (Genesis 35:3 NLT) 

I have collected all pagan idols and earrings from my family and household, and buried them under the great tree near Shechem(Genesis 35:4 NLT) 

My family and household servants paraded their connections with false religion on their bodies, but at least they gave them up willingly to me. Burying them under the great oak was a good idea. I was trying to indicate that Shechem and its pagan ways are finished? We are dead to the world and alive to God. As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord. 

My grandfather Abram built an altar at Shechem near this great oak TreeSo buried the remnants of our idolatrous living in the shadow of his altar as a sign to God that I mean business? It’s not going to be easy. 

Respectfully, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

I am impressed and inspired by your letter. Like you, I want to bury what is past and enter into new pathways that God has designed for me. May God help us bury all that stands in our way of serving Him.  

Acts 3:19 (NASB) says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” 

This letter will probably get to you while you are traveling.

By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what did you do with the women and children that your sons took captive after the massacre? You mention nothing of them. I am just hoping that they were not buried also.  

You must be afraid of retaliation from the towns around you. I’m glad you are moving and I am praying for your protection. 

Looking forward to your next letter.  

Praying for your protection, 

Ross 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 28:18–22 – TURNING A DREAM INTO DESTINY

Dream to Destiny

Dream to Destiny

Approaching the little Baptist Church near the station I can hear the voices that once drowned out the clatter of trains singing their praises again. The pump organ, now gone, for just a moment fills the room again with it’s sonorous tones as worship at full volume rises above the matters of the week. Mrs Young smiles as her head bobs above the music manuscripts, her strong vibrato voice somehow coaxing “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing” just one more time.

I am the ragged young man with long hair and a beard and no shoes who sits in the second front seat on Sunday mornings, and the man wearing a suit and tie always greets me at the door. There he is again, smiling and welcoming me in. I can see it, the photographs of remembrance still evoke the same emotions though the faces are fading in sepia.

We were a Church together with all the seemingly disparate parts meeting as one. We loved eachother. It will be a place I will always remember and return to, marked; a memorial in my mind. It is Jacob’s anointed stone and represents for many a stairway to heaven; access to God. It must be the very house of God; a place where dreams are transformed into destiny.

Nothing has changed for Jacob in Genesis 28, yet everything has changed. He is still running, still in a desert landscape, still propelled to leave home, still rejected by his brother, yet Jacob wants to preserve this moment, this milestone, this inspiring vision for his life, so he takes the stone he rested on, sets it upright as a memorial pillar, then anoints it with olive oil. It will represent that the dream he had of a stairway to heaven and the promises of God have been set apart for God’s purposes in his life. This is his first place of worship; the first place where he has made contact with God in a significant way. He names it Bethel; house of God; a place to meet with God and listen to Him speak. This must be the very house of God. A place where dreams are transformed into destiny.

Then Jacob makes this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if He will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me” (Genesis 28:20-22 NLT).

Jacob knows he needs God’s help, so he expresses it in terms of a covenant of commitment. He is saying in effect “Since you have promised these things then I’ll serve You. I commit my life to you”? As a covenant seal Jacob commits himself to paying a tithe. Tithing is a principle that unrolls gradually in the Bible, like a scroll. God doesn’t command him to do it. He isn’t planning to tithe regularly. This is the only recorded time that Jacob intends to tithe, a once-off offering that Jacob wants to make. It declares his trust and dependency upon God who provides and cares for him.

For once in his life Jacob is more concerned with giving rather than grabbing. Tithing won’t save him or ensure that God will bless him with material things. God has already promised to do this. Tithing is not a talisman against evil. For Jacob, it is an expression of his commitment to God, a response of his heart to God’s purposes for his life. My Pastor speaks about it as living the unlived life.

God invites me to respond to Him today; to commit my life to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, entrusting my life into His care; to meet with and listen to God and His purposes; to respond to Him with all my heart; to determine to live a life of generosity and recognise a place of personal worship as the house of God. That’s when God turns my dreams into destiny.

Pastor Ross

If this article has resonated with you, would you please pass it forward to those whose lives you think may also be touched by Words of Life. Thanks and may God bless you.

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration of Job. You will not read another commentary like it.

Related articles