Summary: Return to the Lord and let Him remind you of His commitment to you and renew your faith to face life’s sorrows.
There is an old West African proverb which says, “The man who tries to walk two roads will split his pants.” (Janet Weiss, Leesburg, Florida, heard in a conversation by her father, a missionary to the Maninka tribe; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s the way it is with those who try to live for the Lord and the pleasures of this world at the same time. They are trying to walk two roads, which can only lead to disaster in the end.
That’s what happened to Jacob. God had called him back to Bethel, but he chose to settle just 15 miles away in Shechem at the crossroads of trade where he could get rich. Sure, he built an altar there, but his attempt to live for the world and for the Lord at the same time tore his family apart. Jacob’s daughter fell in love with a man who violated her. His sons became murderers and thieves, and He was disgraced.
Adrian Rogers once said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you’re willing to pay.”
Some of us have been there, haven’t we? We’ve walked away from God only to find it costing us more than we ever thought it would.
Even so, God in his grace wants us back for Himself. He calls us to come home to Him and provides a way back. You say, “Phil, I’ve made a mess of my life. How can I find my way back to God? How can I find my way back to joy in His presence again?”
Genesis 35:1 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.” (NIV)
Even though Jacob had messed up so badly, God was not done with him yet. God in his grace calls him back to the place where they first met face to face, and Jacob listens to that call.
Genesis 35:2-3 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.” (NIV)
Jacob makes plans to go back to Bethel to meet with God, but 1st, he has to get rid of all the idols they have picked up along the way.
Genesis 35:4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. (NIV)
Evidently, the rings in their ears were magic charms. You see, they had stopped trusting in God and had begun to put their trust in magic charms and other things, which didn’t do them much good, did it? So Jacob buried all their idols and charms, declaring that they were going to trust in God and God alone.
Genesis 35:5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. (NIV)
The Lord protected them like no other god could.
Genesis 35:6-7 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 (i.e., the God of Bethel), because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. (NIV)
Jacob heard God calling him, “Come back to Me.” He got rid of all their idols, and he returned to the place where he first met God. And that’s what we must do if we want to find our way back to God. That’s what we must do if we want to find our way back to joy in His presence.
First, we must listen to God calling us back to Him. No matter how bad we’ve messed up, God desires us to be with Him forever. As Josh McDowell put it when he was here, “God is passionate about being in relationship with us.” That’s why He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for our sins and rise again. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, so we could be in relationship with a Holy God.
So now, in His grace, God is calling us all to come back to Him, but before we do that, like Jacob, we have to get rid of the idols. We have to bury anything that we’re depending on for our security besides the Lord Himself, and Resolve to trust God and God alone. It may mean letting go of a relationship that we know is not right. It may mean letting go of some of the stuff that gets in the way of our relationship with God. It may mean giving away some money, which if truth be known has become our security, more so than God Himself.