Last week we went through the tragic events surrounding the rape of Jacob’s only daughter Dinah. As horrible of an event that was, her older brothers made matters worse by taking revenge on the entire city for what one man had done. Because of what they had done, Jacob and his entire family would be targets of revenge from the other pagan tribes that surrounded them. So it was time to move!
Chapters 35 and 36 of Genesis follow them on their journeys and serve as transitional chapters in the book. We see the emphasis shift from Jacob to Joseph through this transition.
But along with seeing this transition, we also see the themes of correction and completion through these chapters. So as we look at their journeys we’ll be highlighting the transition from Jacob to Joseph, the correction of religious practices, and the completion of God’s promises. All of which takes place in three very important journeys.
You know we often find ourselves on a journey that can be difficult at times. But sometimes we focus so much on the destination that we don’t journey well. But it’s the journey that prepares us for that destination. Listen to this true story.
Volleyball was introduced as an Olympic sport in the 1964 Tokyo games. A Japanese women’s team was chosen to represent their nation for the event. Hirofumi Daimatsu, their coach, put the women through a grueling training program that resembled a Marine boot camp. The six day a week training program was quite brutal on the women both physically and mentally. Daimatsu, in fact, was trying to utterly break the women. He promised them two things: those who could not survive would be released from the team, but those who did would win the Olympic gold medal. The training, however, did pay off and they eventually did win the gold. When they stood to receive their medals every woman was crying. “It was a glorious moment,” said team captain Masae Kasai. “We all cried for two reasons. We had won the gold medal and had fulfilled our expectations and that of the Japanese people. Even more, we cried because this would be our last game together, and even though we had been through so much pain and anguish it was worth it. I’m sure we would all do it again.” Even though their journey had been difficult, those women would have gone through it again for the prize of the gold.
We need the journeys of life to prepare us for the chapters of life. God uses these journeys to prepare Jacob and his family for what was next.
I. Jacob’s journey to Bethel
Not only was God moving Jacob out of harm’s way, but He was moving him towards his homeland which was always to be his final destination. But before they left some house cleaning needed to take place. Remember the three themes running through these journeys? Transition, correction and completion. Here we see some:
1. Correction – religious practices
[Read Genesis 35:1-7.]
Over the last couple of decades some in Jacob’s family had picked up the pagan practices of the people they lived amongst. But also, Rachel had taken her father’s idols when they left her homeland. She might have even started worshipping them herself. But regardless of how it happened, it happened. Paganism had entered the household of Jacob and needed to be corrected before they went into the promised land.
Everyone gave Jacob their idols and jewelry associated with pagan worship and he buried them out of sight. They all ceremonially washed themselves and changed clothes as an outward sign of their repentance. The people had been corrected and refocused on the One True God.
So now they journey on to Bethel and worship God there. But something very significant happens after they arrive – Jacob’s mother’s nurse died.
2. Transition – Rebekah’s dead
[Read Genesis 35:1-7.]
Now the reason this is significant is because it signals that Jacob’s mother had already died. If she would have still been alive then she would have been further south with her husband Isaac in Hebron with her maid by her side. But her maid was up near Jacob in Bethel when she died, so Rebekah must already be dead. The transition of family leadership is in motion. But along with the transition, we also have:
3. Completion – God’s promises reaffirmed
God had promised Jacob to take care of him, get him back home, and to build nations from him. Here God’s plans are coming to fruition.
[Read Genesis 35:5, 9-15.]
God brought fear in the hearts of all the surrounding nations as Jacob passed through them. Remember, his son’s treachery could have cost them their lives. But God had a plan and watched over Jacob.