“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and keep me on this journey that I take…and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house…” Genesis 28:20-22
After Jacob’s long and eventful stay in Haran, and the Lord’s deliverance from Laban, his uncle and now angry father-in-law, he began his return to his homeland. Once again God miraculously delivers him, this time from his brother, Esau! However, in spite of his former vow and the Lord’s promise, Jacob had a change of mind/heart and settles in Shechem. There, due to his grand-daughter’s rape and to his two son’s treachery in killing all the males and looting the city, Jacob was forced to move once again. It was at this point that God reminded Jacob to go BACK TO BETHEL (Genesis 35:1a)! The name comes from two words, meaning House of God!
If you stop and think, it is a great thing the Lord has done that He has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us of what He has already told us (John 14:26b)! It can also be a humbling thing to be reminded we haven’t kept our commitments to Him! Notice the Lord makes two requirements for the trip (Genesis 35:2). 1) Put away your idols! It has been well said that an idol is anything or anyone that substitutes for the place of God in your life! 2) Purify yourself! “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John 1:9)!
Not only does the Lord have two requirements for this trip, but He also has two remembrances to keep in mind (v 3). 1) It is God Who first makes a commitment to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15 to bring him back to Bethel! 2) Then Jacob makes his vow to God in Genesis 28:20-22.
I remember a story of a man who was driving his wife and children to a remote campsite to take a camping vacation. He came across a sign stretching across the road that read, “Road Closed! No Entrance!” He drove around the sign proclaiming, “I know where I’m going and how to get there!” After a 10-mile long, bumpy ride, he came to a washed-out bridge! He turned the car around, drove back another 10 miles. When he arrived at the sign, someone had hand-painted a message on the backside of the sign, “Welcome back, Stupid!”
It is never a good thing to disobey God, but if you do make that mistake, it is a very good thing to get back to where you started (Bethel=House of God)!