Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Genesis 35:1-4

What we saw in chapter 34 was a family catastrophe that Beth Moore describes as a volcanic eruption. She says, and I agree, that the eruption from within was not Dinah’s rape, but the “homicidal rage” of the brothers that made Jacob’s family “stink to high heaven.” This precipitated the need for a move – for a new start in new surroundings. Beth writes, “ All sorts of scenarios can constitute eruption in a seemingly solid family: the sudden exposure of an extramarital affair, a teen pregnancy, or the DUI of a trusted family member. Even a call from a principal’s office informing a parent that a child was caught cheating on a test can feel like an eruption.” (The Partiarchs, P.160)

Indeed, these kinds of things may often lead to some kind of major move. In this case, it’s interesting that the idea for the move seems to come from God:

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.” (Gen 35:1)

Jon Courson, in his commentary, focuses on God’s response to Jacob. He notes that God does not say to Jacob – “You have blown it! I’m setting you aside and canceling all of my promises!” Nor does He tell Jacob to go through a bunch of religious rituals in order to make atonement. Instead, our God of unlimited mercy and grace calls Jacob to get up and go back to where it all began – to where he first met the God of his fathers – to where he was essentially “saved.” He tells Jacob to go to Bethel.

So Jacob immediately turns to his family and tells them it’s time to clean up their act:

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.” (vs. 2-3)

Now the thing that Jon Courson points out here, that I just love, is that Jacob doesn’t ask his family to clean up in order to please God. Read what he writes:

Notice God didn’t say to Jacob, “If you deal with the pagan gods in your family, then I might give you a second chance.” No, God said, “Rise and let us go to Bethel.” [KJV] Perhaps it was because Jacob was so amazed by this that he said, “It’s time to clean up – not so God will call us, but because He has called us.” (Old Testament Commentary, Volume 1, P. 160)

That is the appropriate response to grace! We obey not to gain His love, but in response to His love (I John 4:19). It’s not what we give up that causes God to call us, rather His call on our lives causes us to pull away from the world with its distractions and pagan “gods.”

I don’t know about you, but this so excites me! We have just seen Jacob’s family commit genocide on the Shechemites, and yet God still offers this family His love and grace! God is not through with this family; He’s only just beginning His work in them.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) It never ceases to amaze me!

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