Read Genesis 35:1-29
Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 35 was not his first…and not the first in Bethel. In fact, seven chapters earlier, in Genesis 28, Jacob experienced the Lord in a dream in Bethel. Through the dream, he saw a vision and received assurance of God’s plan to use Him. In response, Jacob had made a conditional vow. If God would protect and provide for him, he would allow the Lord to be His God. He also commemorated the encounter by setting up a rock pillar and pouring oil on it. It was then that he named the location “Bethel” or “house of God.” Have you ever had a Bethel experience with the Lord where His presence was real and His call loud and clear?
Jacob moved on from there. But just a few chapters later in Genesis 31, God instructed him to move from Canaan back to the land of His relatives. In that chapter, the Lord specifically referred to Himself as “the God of Bethel” (31:13).
Once again, in Genesis 35, God directed Jacob’s feet and attention to Bethel…the place where the patriarch, months earlier, had established such a meaningful spiritual mile marker. This chapter seems to be something of a turning point to Jacob. It seems that it was here that his new name, “Israel,” began to stick. No longer was he the deceiver/supplanter implied by the name “Jacob.” As Israel, he was one with whom God had striven, and he had come out on the other side, more committed to Him.
Our lives are like spiritual journeys, aren’t they? We don’t become all that God wants us to be overnight. The transformation He works to bring takes place over time. We experience it as we surrender to Him, often as the result of many meaningful encounters with God. And sometimes we just need to return to past spiritual milestones where we remind ourselves of God’s work and His faithfulness.
How about you? I posed the question earlier about past “Bethel experiences” in your life. Do you need to pause and reflect on those experiences? You may find great benefit in reorienting yourself today based on previous encounters with and commitments to the God who is striving to see your full devotion to Him.