Summary: We all make small errors now and again. But what do you do if you make a big blunder? We learn from Jacob and what he did after Shechem about how to get back with God.
When we make small errors we often just breeze over them or remind ourselves not to do that anymore. But what happens when we make a really big blunder - something that affects other lives and our own in significant ways? Sometimes we panic, or we throw up our hands and do nothing, or we allow the enemy to pummel us and tell us how terrible we are.
But in Chapter 35 of Genesis we see Jacob do something after the debacle at Shechem that is a model for us when sin and weakness overcomes us.
After the incident at Shechem, it’s time for some serious cleansing. So God tells Jacob to go back to Bethel - back to the place where God first appeared to Jacob and where he pledged his allegiance to God.
It’s always a good idea to return to worship after we’ve been through a trial. Even though Jacob had done nothing wrong - he recognized that there was rededication needed in all of his family.
Verses 2 - 5
Notice how we started out with just one household god that Rachael took from Laban. Now we have all sorts of trinkets and gods that Jacob’s sons have acquired. When we are not careful, the world will very quickly infiltrate our lives and our families - so it’s no wonder that Jacob’s sons behaved the way they did - without hearts given to God.
First Jacob gathered those things that represented the world - or were anti-God and he buried them at the place of sin before setting off. As we, when we realize we have blown it - we should seek to identify the cause - is it the influence of ungodly friends, a worldly atmosphere, past weaknesses - take out all the foreign gods - then bury them there. Repent - and turn away from those things - then set off to the place of worship.
Sometimes it means going back to that place when you first had a realization of God’s presence in your life. Maybe its that verse or that book you were reading - perhaps worship songs, maybe an attitude of heart - as Jesus said in Revelation 2:4 "you have forsaken your first love." "Repent and do the things you did at first."
Verses 9 - 10
God is reminding Jacob that his nature really has changed. I’m sure he was probably doubting it after the expression of sin by his sons. When you blow it do you start to doubt whether you are even saved - that God is at work changing you? Here God reminds Jacob and He reminds us too:
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Verses 11 - 15
God says three things to Jacob.
1. I am God almighty. We must realize the source of our forgiveness and righteousness is Him- not our strength.
2. You will be fruitful. God is at work. We just need to open up and let Him do the work and stop fighting.
3. What I am doing through you will continue my plan. We need to realize that we are in good company.
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Maybe you are discouraged because of weakness and sin in your life. Do what Jacob did - discover the filth, confess it and bury it at Shechem - then return to Bethel, call on the Lord with first love - and hear Him give comfort to you as he did to Israel. You can do it - as others have before you.
Verses 16 - 20
Ben-Oni means "son of my pain" but Benjamin means (probably) "son of good fortune." It may be that Jacob is saying the loss of my beloved wife is somehow compensated for by the birth of my twelfth son.
Jacob buries Rachael near Bethlehem (or Ephrath as it was known then). Rachael’s grave is about a half hour north of Bethlehem near the road to Jerusalem. The grave is still there - apparently - after thousands of years.
So now with Rachael dead, Jacob has more and more trouble with his sons.