Summary: A new year means you again have 365 days to better yourself in a particular area before the next year rolls around. This morning, we will be looking at a passage that relates to these feelings of wanting to start fresh, setting goals, and making a clean
BACK TO BETHEL
INTRODUCTION… “Kids’ New Years Resolutions” (www.bluefishtv.com)
Today is the first Sunday of 2009 and you may have been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Most people do. With a New Year, comes the opportunity for a fresh start. There is something about writing a new year on a check or when you write the date that allows you to have a clean slate. A new year means you again have 365 days to better yourself in a particular area before the next year rolls around. This morning, we will be looking at a passage that relates to these feelings of wanting to start fresh, setting goals, and making a clean break.
Let’s read from Genesis 35. This passage focuses on a man named Jacob who certainly needed a fresh start. Jacob needed a clean slate with everyone around him, his God, and with himself. I don’t know about you, but I can identify with that. Let’s read from Genesis 35:1-15.
READ GENESIS 35:1-15
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." 2 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. 3 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." 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. 5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. 6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 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. 8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak below Bethel. So it was named Allon Bacuth. 9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel." So he named him Israel. 11 And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you." 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him. 14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
As we read this passage, we find that Jacob is being called back to a place called Bethel. You see, Jacob had been there before earlier in his life. Genesis 28 (verses 10-22) records for us that Jacob is running from his brother Esau because he monstrously cheated him. Jacob stops at a certain place to rest and has a dream that angels are ascending and descending there and God spoke to him. God shared that He would be with Jacob. God shared that all of the promises of Abraham and Isaac would be Jacob’s. Genesis 28:16-17 says, “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." 17 He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” He named the place Bethel. It was after this significant event that Jacob meets his wife, Rachel (Genesis 29) and he has so many ups and downs. Jacob marries, has many children (Genesis 29-30), and many years pass by. Jacob becomes prosperous (Genesis 31). Jacob again meets with his brother Esau and is able to ask for forgiveness (Genesis 32-33). Jacob has a daughter who is raped (Genesis 34). Jacob’s life had its ups and downs just like ours. He knew prosperity and sadness. He knew joy and shame. He knew strength and felt weakness. It was after all of this, Jacob needed a new start.
How about you? How was 2008 for you? How have the past few years been? Are you in need of a new start? Perhaps you have known prosperity and sadness, joy and shame, strength and weakness. In Genesis 35:1, God offers Jacob and his family a new start. Verse 1 of chapter 35 tells us that God told Jacob to head to Bethel. Go back to Bethel. Go back to Bethel for a place of renewal. Go back to Bethel for your clean slate. Go back to Bethel to renew yourself. God’s message to Jacob then is the same as His message to us today.