Sunday, August 7, 2011

Genesis 35:5-7

I need to take a second to explain why I’ve been so absent this summer! It occurred to me the other day that, since my husband retired in April, this is the FIRST summer in 41 years (when we were dating) that Don and I have both had the summer off together! And it has been so much fun just hanging out together and enjoying a “stay-cation” in beautiful Southern California. Now that he’s retired, there is no money for the fancy vacations, so it’s a good thing we live here! Anyway, we’ve been sailing, kayaking, walking, reading, using gift cards to eat out, watching the sunset from the cliffs at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, going to the Getty, to the SD Zoo, to baseball games, visiting with family and friends - just having a blast dating again! And we’ve been enjoying the grandkids (pool, circus, beach, sleepovers...)!

I’ve been reminded too many times this year that life is precious and uncertain (just went to a memorial service for a dear friend yesterday - the second memorial service I’ve attended this summer and the fourth this year), so we are not taking a minute for granted. We celebrate our 40th anniversary at the end of the month, and I am amazed that the time has flown by so quickly! Anyway, all this is to say why I have been remiss in my study time with you. Be assured, I am still READING and keeping up with other devotionals - just have not been writing... So sorry!

You’ll be glad to see that I’m only going to focus on three verses today!

Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon 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. (Gen 35:5-7)

As Jacob and his family moved on and returned to Bethel, the place where he first encountered God in a personal way, note that they were protected on their journey, even though the neighboring people had good reason to attack them. God is our defense! He is our Rock, our Shield, our Fortress - whom shall we fear??? Even if everyone in the world were against us, God is always for us, and that’s all we need!

Now, the thing that jumped out to me about this chapter (thanks to Jon Courson, bless his heart), is what Jacob renames Bethel. He calls it El Bethel, which means The God of Bethel, or, literally, The God of the House of God. As Courson says, this points out a maturing of Jacob’s faith and spiritual understanding. Courson writes, . . .Jacob understands that it’s not the house of God that is important, but the God who dwells therein. So, too, it’s not the worship that’s important, but the God whom we worship. It’s not the Bible that’s important, but the God of the Bible. You see, the Word is not an end in itself. The goal of Bible study is not to try and gain more intellectual or theological understanding. It’s much more than that. The Word of God is simply a door I go through many times a day to meet the God of the Word. (Courson, P.161)

I know we know this intellectually, but so many time we get hung up on the study itself when the purpose of studying should be to get to know God better - not to stuff our heads full of Biblical knowledge. Being somewhat of a Nicodemus myself (see John 3:1-21), I tend to really love the intellectual stimulation of Bible study - for truly it is exciting and challenging and so interesting! And wouldn’t Satan just love it if that’s all it was for me?

It’s not enough to know ABOUT God - even the demons know about Him! That knowledge is NOT what saves us and causes us to grow. It’s the interaction with the God revealed to us in the Bible that matters - getting to know Him more intimately. That is our eternal purpose. In his prayer to His Father, just prior to His arrest, Jesus revealed the key to eternal life:  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)  He’s what we need - He’s the Beginning and the End - everything we will ever need and more! He isn’t just the Giver - He’s the Gift!

There is a temptation of losing our focus when we enter the house of God. It’s easy for it to become all about the fellowship with others rather than with God. Or we can be so focused on the worship music that we love (or critique) that we forget about the object of our worship. So, when we go to the House of God, we need to remain focused on the God of the House of God! Jacob had finally learned this! And he built an altar there to worship the God who had made Himself known to Jacob when he was at a moment of great need. I have a new resolve today to come to the study of His Word seeking the Word Himself - and praying that way as I begin. LORD, I don’t just want to know ABOUT You - I want to KNOW YOU!

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