The patriarchs built altars to commemorate and remember their special times with God. It’s wise to have tangible ways to ensure those special times are not forgotten, where in one sense, God has spoken to you loud and clear, for we are a terribly forgetful people.
It had been twenty years since Jacob fled to Haran from Beersheba, and it was there in Bethel that God appeared to him, promising to bless him, be with him, and to bring him back. It took a couple of decades but God kept His promise to Jacob as stated back in:
Genesis 28:15 (NKJV) “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
It’s beautiful to read the exhortation of Jacob to his family as he took steps to “clean house” in preparation for a new beginning:
Genesis 35:2–3 (NKJV) “And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.’”
This reminds me of Joshua 24:24-25. Someone once rightly said, “The Christian life is simply a series of new beginnings.”
As we go forward in the narrative, it will be important to distinguish Israel from the other nations. We therefore read, once again, that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 35:10). THIS is the family through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed…it would be through the nation of Israel.
It’s tough to read of Rachel passing while giving childbirth (Genesis 35:19) and the pain she experienced in the process (she called her son Ben-Oni = Son of my Sorrow). But for God’s people, death is simply a departure from earth to heaven (did you catch what we read there in Genesis 35:18? “…as her soul was departing”). Paul the Apostle said the same thing when he was facing death:
2 Timothy 4:6 (NKJV) “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.”
In light of this, Jacob changed his son’s name to Benjamin, which means Son of the Right hand, the place of power and honor.
This chapter also records the death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse (Genesis 35:8) who may have been a nanny to Jacob; and Isaac, Jacob’s father who passed away at 180 years of age (Genesis 35:28). It must have been a tough time for Jacob to lose a friend, a wife, a father, but isn’t it beautiful the way the Bible describes Isaac’s death as being “gathered to his people.” We look forward to seeing God and all our loved ones who have died in faith. This is why Paul the Apostle calls it the “Ministry of Reconciliation,” in 2 Corinthians 5:18.
In Genesis 35:22 we read about Reuben’s fling with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, we could have sped read right by considering it insignificant, but this single act of sexual sin would cost Reuben his birthright (see Genesis 49:3-4; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Galatians 6:7-8). We better consider the cost before yielding to temptation, it may be more expensive than we would have ever imagined.
In Genesis 36 we have the genealogy of Esau who we read three times, was the father of the Edomites (Genesis 36:1, 8, 43) God wanting to make this distinction very clear, Esau was the father of the Edomites, and Jacob was the father of the Israelites.
We read in Genesis 36:12 a name that would eventually be a nemesis to Israel. Amalek was the father of the Amalekites.
The Pharisees were very “sacrificial.” They invented hundreds of rules and regulations in their human attempt to keep the Law. They appeared to be “holy,” but most of them did not know the Lord. They confronted Jesus for allowing His disciples to pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath Day, they even plotted to destroy Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath. This group may have been sincere when they first started, back in the second century B.C. but my how they drifted away. God help us to make sure that we not only start well, but finish well.
The disciples were hungry; the man had a withered hand – a hand he could not use (how hard that must have been) and here were these Pharisees claiming to be godly men without an ounce of mercy or compassion, for the hungry or the handicapped. They had elevated their distorted interpretation of the Bible (their traditions) over truth (see also Mark 7:1-13).
Back in Matthew 9:13 Jesus told them to, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’” We read something similar here in Matthew 12:7, they were supposed to know by now; both are quotations from Hosea 6:6. Apparently the Pharisees refused to do their homework, to go and learn, they were completely unteachable.
Jesus gave them Scriptural examples of how there may be times when human need supersedes the letter of the Law, and more importantly Who He is – He is greater than the Temple, He is Lord even of the Sabbath.
Can you believe they formulated legislation that prohibited healing on the Sabbath? When the man with the withered hand was healed, they should have rejoiced for him and acknowledged their Messiah, instead they plotted against Him how they might destroy Him! Wow, the hardness of man’s heart.
Jesus repeatedly asked these self-righteous religious leaders a very simple question, “Have you not read?” (Matthew 12:3, 5) Often times the reason people formulate strange doctrines is simply because they have not-truly-read the Bible.
Psalm 15 is all about integrity. Not that integrity saves us, faith in Christ does, but if we want to enjoy a life lived in God’s presence (tabernacle), integrity is the key.
People of integrity walk uprightly (Psalm 15:2a).
People of integrity work righteousness (Psalm 15:2b).
People of integrity speak the truth in their hearts (Psalm 15:2c).
People of integrity do not gossip or talk negatively about others behind their backs, or receive slander spoken against their friends (Psalm 15:3).
People of integrity esteem the godly (Psalm 15:4a).
People of integrity keep their word, even if it costs them (Psalm 15:4b).
People of integrity cannot be bought (Psalm 15:5a).
People of integrity shall never be moved, while all others are extremely vulnerable (Psalm 15:5b).
As we saturate ourselves in the Scriptures and treasure God’s wisdom, it will bring life, grace, safety, and firm footing – we won’t slip and we will sleep.
How wonderful His wisdom is to me!
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.