Our readings for today are Genesis 35 and Luke 9:37-50. Praise God that we have Bibles AND are free to read them.
In the Genesis reading we see that Jacob’s return to Bethel, the “house of God”, was special. It was there that God had first spoken to him. Now Bethel was to become a refuge.
There are three things in this text establish Bethel as a refuge: First, the altar, which speaks of worship (vs. 3 & 7);Second, the repeated promise, which speaks of God’s presence (vs. 9-13); and third, the stone pillar, which speaks of remembrance (vs.14-15).
(1) We need to remember that worship is essential if you and I are to find inner peace in a troubled world. We waste our time looking elsewhere. Like Jacob, we need a time and place set aside especially to meet with God. We need to settle there – to be consistent in keeping a daily appointment with the Lord. Jacob told his family to “get rid of the foreign gods you have with you.” In worship we clear our hearts and minds of everything that competes with God for our attention, and focus completely on Him. Remember that God describes Himself as “a jealous God”.
Perhaps the best definition of worship is “expressing appreciation to God for who He is.” That is, we think about God’s qualities, His attributes, His loving acts, and we praise Him for who and what He is. Our Bethel, is daily worship. There we begin to experience the peace that Jacob found. There is a problem if we think of worship as happening only on Sundays, or as a part (the singing) of our gatherings. “Worship”is to be a regular(daily, hourly, minute by minute) experience. I am reminded of Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”
(2) God’s presence is experienced as we hear His voice speaking to us. This is what Jacob experienced at Bethel (vs. 9, 11). This is what we experience as we open the Scriptures and read, not for new information alone, but to hear and respond to what God has to say to us personally. In God’s word we hear His promises, sense His guidance, find His empowering. Our Bethel is Scripture, for in the Word we sense the presence of the One who met with Jacob at Bethel so long ago. Could I encourage you to seek out the voice of God, plead with Him to speak to you through the Scriptures. God is faithfull, He will do it. We need to be patient and attentive.
(3) Remembrance is the way we re-enter the presence of God at any moment throughout the day. The stone pillar that Jacob erected at Biblical Bethel is best understood as a zikkaron. In the Old Testament a zikkaron is any object or religious celebration intended to help a believer identify with God’s active presence in history. Whenever Jacob saw the stone pillar, he was carried back in memory to the fellowship with God he experienced at that place.
The Bethel you and I create by worship and by reading Scripture serves as an anchor for our day. At any moment we can return in memory and find fresh strength.
How important that we apply ourselves to the words God spoke to Jacob: “Go up to Bethel: and settle there.”
Go to the Scriptures, and be immersed in them.
We also have the tangible reminder given to us by the Lord Himself, in the Lord’s Supper – “do this in remembrance of me”, to remind us of the Lord Jesus, His love for us, His death and resurrection.
In the middle of Luke 9 we have the account of the Transfiguration. Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray (v.28). Moses and Elijah appear. They were speaking to Jesus about his departure (his Exodus). This “Exodus” would bring about the deliverance of his people from the bondage of sin.
Up on the mountain our object of worship is affirmed – “A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”(Luke 9:35)
Have a great day, worshipping and remembering our wonderful Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.