Scripture: Genesis 35:2-3
Key verses: (2-3) “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your clothes; then come, let us go up to Bethel…”
Reflection: Sometimes things spiral out of control. One bad event leads to another, then another, then another. Has this ever happened to you? Are you in this kind of place right now? We are currently reading through the story of Jacob, and while Jacob has been able to escape a few poor decisions early in life, it seems as though reality is catching up with him. Just a few chapters before our text for today, we find Jacob on the run and about to be confronted by his brother Esau. If you remember, Jacob deceived Esau out of his birthright and his blessing, two not so little things! The reunion of the brothers, however, turns out to be a beautiful moment of reconciliation … until they depart. Esau urges Jacob to come with him back to his land, and yet Jacob makes an excuse to delay his departure and ends up traveling a completely different way. Jacob’s decisions keep having consequences.
As Jacob turns away from Esau, we find him and his family in Shechem. Here, away from his brother, things begin to unravel as his daughter Dinah is raped. Dinah’s brothers are distraught, and the silence from Dinah is simultaneously deafening and heart breaking. In response Dinah’s brothers retaliate, deceiving and then killing the men in the town. One horrific event leading to another, then another, then another.
By the time we get to our passage for today, God intervenes, or perhaps Jacob finally paused to hear God’s voice that had been calling out all along. Either way, Jacob told his household to shape up, to put away their false gods, clean themselves, change their clothes, and head to Bethel (House of God). Bethel is where Jacob encountered God in a dream, where God promised Jacob that God would be with him wherever Jacob went.
There is so much unresolved pain surrounding Jacob and his family, but at this time of despair, Jacob went back to where he experienced God’s presence. In times of distress, where do you go? Where do you turn? Sometimes when it seems like life is spiraling out of control, we need a pause, a reset, a moment to physically and metaphorically wash away the pain and hurt. Jacob went back to a special place, recommitting himself and his family to God. No matter what kind of place you are in right now in life, consider taking a moment to pause and turn to God, remembering God’s promise to be with us always.
Prayer: Merciful God, help us to pause and know your presence. May we remember to turn toward you in good times and in bad, for you are forever with us. Amen.
Author: John Magnuson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].