As they say ‘nostalgia isn’t what it used to be’. Some people tell me they preferred things as they were years ago. I suspect we look back and remember the things that we like. Were all the summers better? Was family life better? Those who look back all of the time fail to see what God is doing in the present but sometimes there are good reasons to look back as we shall see today.
We saw with Abraham after his unfortunate journey to Egypt, he went back to where he was when God had blessed him and there he called on the name of the Lord again (13:3-4). It made sense, God had appeared to him and made wonderful promises but when the famine came, instead of holding on, he went to Egypt and it had been nothing but trouble for Abraham, or Abram as he was at the time. On leaving he made for the place where God had spoken to him. For Jacob, Bethel was a special place, it was where he had first encountered the Lord and it is probably where he should have settled after leaving Haran (31:13). His time in Shechem had been a disaster but now the Lord called him to Bethel. Sometimes as Christians we can lose our way, it’s then that we need to go back to the things we were doing before; reading the Bible, sharing fellowship and spending time with the Lord in prayer.
Jacob can be seen to act in a more godly way than we have seen before. This could have been because he was afraid of the local people after the events of the previous chapter or perhaps it was an awareness of the holiness of God. It would be nice to think it was the latter. Whatever the reason, without any prompting from the Lord, Jacob decides to rid the camp of all of the false gods they had been keeping. It was a big step but it was the right thing to do. God is not mocked, we cannot serve the Lord and false gods. There is of course a challenge for us here. Not that many of us keep false gods around as they did. But what about the things we keep inside, the things that consume our time and attention. Some of those things are sinful but some may appear relatively harmless. If they are detracting from our walk with the Lord then we should, like Jacob, get rid.
God was so gracious to Jacob, when he perhaps felt vulnerable and exposed; the Lord repeated the promises he had made to him before. Once should have been enough, if God says something, it will happen. But so often God speaks to reassure.
“For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13)
“But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:17)
Oh, let me hear Thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will!
Oh, speak to re-assure me,
To hasten or control!
Oh, speak, and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul! (O Jesus I Have Promised – John E Bode)