BACK TO BETHEL

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: GENESIS 35:1-15




INTRODUCTION:


  1. People (even Christian people) like to blame others for their problems, or their circumstances. Some people even blame God. But beloved, the real problem lies within.
  2. This principle is seen clearly in the life of Jacob. One Bible teacher said this about Jacob: "His character was forged on the anvil of experience" (Roy L. Laurin, Meet Yourself in the Bible).
  3. You may recall that back in Genesis 28, Jacob dreamed a wonderful dream (cf. 28:11-22).
  4. But Jacob got away from Bethel, "the house of God." Genesis 34 is one of the darkest chapters in the Bible. Read it carefully and you will not find Godís name mentioned even once. Yet God is mentioned about twenty times in Genesis 35 (cf. 35:1).
  5. Why is that? Because Jacob was going back to Bethel (35:1).
  6. Jacob was backslidden. He was on a low plane spiritually. He knew it. Others recognized it. And of course, God had to remind him of it just as He must remind us sometimes (35:1; cf. Rev.2:4,5).
  7. Jacobís carelessness brought disastrous consequences upon both him and his family.
  8. Now consider Jacobís privileged background. His grandfather was Abraham, that great man of faith. His father was Isaac, another great patriarch.
  9. Remember that God spoke to Jacob face to face on several occasions (cf. 32:30). And yet, Jacob failed God. There are three major blunders in Jacobís life that led to his declension, and we will look at them today. And because of these failures, God had to remind Jacob that it was time to arise and "go up to Bethel and dwell there" (35:1).

 

I. JACOB WAS DECEITFUL IN HIS DEALINGS WITH HIS BROTHER ESAU.

    1. Jacob deceived his father Isaac, and obtained his brotherís birthright and blessing by fraud (Gen.27). He cheated Esau.
    2. Now, Esau was a wicked man. Hebrews 12:16 says he was a "profane person." But I often wonder how many lost souls are kept in darkness because of the unscrupulous behaviour of professed Christians.
    3. And remember that even after wrestling with the angel of the Lord all night, yea even after that memorable night, the very next day Jacob was back to his old tricks.
    4. He promised Esau that he would follow him to Seir (Edom) but he had no intention of doing that (33:12-17). In fact, instead of traveling south to Mount Seir, Jacob went northwest to Shechem.

 

II. JACOB BOUGHT A PARCEL OF LAND OUTSIDE THE WICKED CITY OF SHECHEM (33:18-20).

    1. Jacob "pitched his tent before the city" (33:18). In this, we are reminded of his cousin Lot (Gen.13:10-13). Both Shechem and Sodom represent worldly cities, full of sensual sin and unspeakable wickedness.
    2. Notice that Jacob "built him a house" in Shechem (33:17). He was supposed to be a pilgrim. But Jacob was out of the will of God. And he was a good thirty miles from Bethel, the house of God.
    3. Jacob was not a heathen. But Jacob was not an obedient man of God either; he was a compromiser. And so instead of going back to Bethel, he presumptuously erected an altar in Shechem (33:20). Scofield calls this "Jacobís worship in self-will."
    4. Abrahamís seed were supposed to be different from the heathen nations that surrounded them. God wanted them to be separated from the world and separated from the devil-worshipping tribes that dwelt all around them.
    5. "The seed of Abraham was ordained to be in the highest sense a Nonconformist tribe, a race of separatists. Their God meant them to be a distinct people, severed from all the nations among whom they dwelt" Ė C.H. Spurgeon.
    6. We can see here how dangerous it is to disobey God. Soon, Dinah, Jacobís daughter, started socializing with the young people in Shechem.
    7. APPLICATION: Many a teenager from good Christian homes have been ruined from hanging around with worldly friends. Parents: do you know the kind of kids your children are associating with? Are your children dressing like the kids from Shechem? Perhaps you are living too close to Shechem. Then it is time to go back to Bethel.
    8. Soon Dinah was defiled by Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite (34:2). If you know your Bible, you know this was inevitable.
    9. Then this horrible sin led to an ever greater crime Ė the treachery and violence of Dinahís brothers. In their hot anger they slew all the Shechemites and brought the guilt of murder upon a family that was supposed to be characterized by peace and holiness (34:7-31).
    10. "Children of God cannot mix with the world without mischief" Ė Spurgeon. {cf. II Cor.6:14ó7:1}
    11. Note that after being rebuked by their father Jacob (who apparently was more concerned with his reputation than he was with the heinousness of their crime), there was no sense of shame on the part of his sons. They justified their crime and would not repent (34: 30,31). But Jacob had the last word on his deathbed and he never forgot the fierce cruelty of Simeon and Levi (34:25,26; cf. 49:5-7).
    12. Keep in mind this whole terrible episode would not have taken place if Jacob had not moved his family to Shechem. Maybe there is someone here this morning who has done the same thing. You are getting too friendly with the inhabitants of Shechem. Your children would rather hang out with the worldly Shechemites than go to church or Sunday School orÖBible Baptist Academy.
    13. Then itís time for you to go back to Bethel. Donít wait till itís too late. Donít wait till the devil blasts your family and ruins your children. Donít wait till their lives are blasted with illegitimate children, and abortions, and divorce, and drugs, and jail.
    14. Do not wait until they grow up cold and worldly and wind up marrying unsaved mates from heathen homes. Start moving now.

 

III. JACOB PERMITTED THE USE OF IDOLS IN HIS FAMILY (35:2).

    1. It is evident that Jacob winked at the idolatry in his household. Just like many Christian parents today who wink at all the worldly garbage in their house Ė TV, Hollywood, video games, trashy literature, cigarettes, alcohol, rock music, etc.
    2. Let me be blunt: some dads are not strong enough to command their households. They wink at sin. They look the other way. They put up with nonsense they never should have to put up with.
    3. They allow their kids to dress like pagans.
    4. Their kids get way out of line but they do not get a spanking.
    5. Dads: God holds you responsible. But too many dads are weak, inconsistent, insincere, and lazy.
    6. The kids put the pressure on (or perhaps a worldly wife will put the pressure on) and many dads give in. "OK Ė You can watch that trashy movie" or "Alright, you can wear that immodest dress," etc.
    7. We have had members who backed me up 100% when it came to my position on dress standards. But then their little darlings became teenagers, and rather lay down the law they turned against their pastor. But I didnít change the standards.
    8. Please look carefully at what Jacob said after God told him to go back to Bethel. "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and BE CLEAN, AND CHANGE YOUR GARMENTS" (34:2).
    9. Some Christians around here need to clean up and change their garments too. Get rid of those smelly, worldly garments.
    10. There are a lot of idols around here. Just drive around the neighborhood and you will see tacky little shrines all over the place. Beloved, what is the idol on the throne of your heart?
    11. Money? Your career? Your job? Your car? TV? Rock music?
    12. "The dearest idol that I have known,

                   What eíer that might be;

                   Help me to tear it from its throne,

                   And worship only Thee."


CONCLUSION:

  1. So Jacob left Shechem and returned to Bethel (35:6). "And he built there an altar, and called the place El-bethel ("the God of Bethel" or "the God of the house of God"): because there God appeared unto him" (35:7). It is good to go back to Bethel (house of God) but we better make sure we meet the God of the house of God. It is easy to go to the house of God and not meet God.
  2. And we are told that "God appeared unto Jacob againÖand blessed him" (Gen.35:9-15).
  3. This is the first mention of a drink-offering in the Bible. It represents the Lord Jesus Christ pouring Himself out on the cross for you and for me.
  4. In that great Messianic psalm, Psalm 22:14, it says, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."
  5. Isaiah said in Isaiah 53:12, "He hath poured out His soul unto death."
  6. These Scriptures speak of the substitutionary death of Christ. Jesus took our place on the cross. Have you been to the cross?
  7. You cannot go back to Bethel until you first go to the cross and get things right with God.


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