Summary: No matter how far you have gone away from Him, God still loves you and still calls you.
BACK TO BETHEL
INTRO: Jacob is one of the strangest characters in the Bible. Someone has said that he is the worst and the best man in the Old Testament. When we see him cheating his brother, Esau, he is at his worst; when we hear him making his vows unto God after his vision, he is at his best.
After his sin against Esau, Jacob’s mother advised him to flee. He left his home in a hurry, and he spent his first night under the stars with a stone for a pillow. It was there that God appeared to him. The next morning he made his vow, saying, “This is my God and I will follow Him all the days of my life, and of that which He gives to me I will give the tenth unto Him.” He went on his way; he became rich; he forgot God and the vows he made at Bethel. The years go by and now he is coming home. He has another experience with God: he wrestles with the angel and prevails. He meets Esau and Esau forgives and forgets. But Jacob is not yet filled with peace, for his sin is still on his heart. Then it is that God calls him; “Go back to Bethel. Go back where you made your vow, back where you first felt My presence. Go back and renew your vows and start life over again.”
Jacob was glad to go. He had sinned deeply and felt the need of God’s mercy. He had cheated others and had been cheated. Life held no peace of heart for him for he had sinned too greatly. He felt the need of God. He heard God’s call and went back to Bethel and rededicated his life in that holy place.
Today many of us are far away from God. Back in the years past we remember our Bethel. We had an experience with God. But as the years have passed, they have taken away some of our spiritual freshness. WE have neglected our duty, we have back-slidden.
No matter how far you have gone away from Him, God still loves you and still calls you. You are so busy with the world that you cannot hear Him, but He is still calling. Back to Bethel — what does it mean to us today?
I. IT MEANS BACK TO A REMEMBRANCE OF OUR FIRST LOVE.
Jacob’s first love was for God, but he had forgotten Him in the mad rush. Surely we love Him best of all, too, but we often are indifferent to Him. In the Revelation Jesus rebuked a certain church, saying to it, “You have left your first love.” That is true of many of us. Once we found our highest joy in serving Jesus, but some of us have been drifting with the tide. Other loves have entered and God has been left outside of our hearts.
ILLUS: A Christian man was saying good-by to his son. He put his hand upon his shoulder and said to him, “Wherever you go, always remember whose son you are.” Wherever we go we should remember that we belong to God, that He is our first love. When temptations come our way, let us say, “I cannot do this thing, for I belong to God.”
What did Jacob say to his family when he started toward Bethel? (v. 2). They gave up their strange gods, and Jacob buried them under an oak. We need to dig a grave for our false gods. We need to tear them out of our lives and bury them forever.
Back to your first love means back to the right life and the right spirit. It means back to a life where God is put above all else in all things.
ILLUS: A man attended church one day and heard a preacher say that. He left the church saying, “That preacher is a fool. He seems to think that religion has something to do with a practical personal life.” My friends, it does. We ought to get back to our first love and carry God with us in every walk of life.
II. IT MEANS BACK TO THE BETTER LIFE WE ONCE KNEW.
ILLUS: A child climbed up into his father’s lap and asked, “Daddy, is God dead?” The father answered, “Why do you ask that, my child?” The little boy said, “Well,. I don’t hear you talking to Him any more.” The father dropped his head upon his chest in shame.
Do you recall how you used to pray? Have you quit praying. God is not dead but He might as well be for many people, for they never pray.
ILLUS: A young man was led to the electric chair and with his last words he said, “If I had had the right kind of father and mother, this would never have happened.” A gambler in the penitentiary said, “My father was to blame. When I was a child he taught me to drink and curse.”