"THE CALL TO BETHEL"
Intro. Jacob is fearful, his sons have done a horrible thing of treachery and deceit that has put the whole family in jeopardy. The consequences of their deed could be disastrous. On his death bed Jacob cursed the anger and the self will that led to their actions. Jacob realized that they would have to move on, it was not safe to stay there. This is when God said to Jacob, "Arise and go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make an altar unto God."
I. GOD OFTEN CALLS PEOPLE BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.
A. Bethel was the place where Jacob had his first encounter with God.
1. That first true encounter with God is always an exciting experience.
a. The first time I became aware of the reality of God.
b. The first time God revealed Himself to me.
c. The first time God spoke with me.
2. Bethel was the place where God began to reveal Himself to Jacob.
a. God declared to him:
I [am] the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac:
b. God promised to him: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
And, behold, I [am] with thee, and will keep thee in all [places] whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done [that] which I have spoken to thee of.
3. It was here that Jacob became conscious of the presence of God. "Truly the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not."
B. This is where Jacob made a covenant with God.
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
And this stone, which I have set [for] a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
1. God is basically calling Jacob back to the place where he made a promise and a commitment to God. He promised that if God would do certain things for Him, then Jehovah would be His God. God has done the things, but Jacob is slow to keep his promise.
2. Now circumstances and fear are driving him back to the place where those commitments were made.
3. God oftentimes uses strained or frightening circumstances to bring us back to Him.
C. Through Jeremiah the prophet, God called the people back to Himself. Back to that first love that they had for Him, where they made their commitment unto God. "All that the Lord says, we will do."
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love during the time of our engagement, when you were seeking Me. You were willing to go anywhere with Me.
Throughout Israel the cry was holiness unto the LORD.
Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:
Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?
Neither said they, Where [is] the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?
1. God is complaining of the loss of their first love. The love in the time of espousal, or engagement.
2. There was no sacrifice too great, no distance too far to keep them away from the one they loved.
3. God is saying, "What happened?" "Where did I go wrong?"
D. When Jesus wrote to the church at Ephesus, He commended them for many things, yet He had this against them.
1. They had left their first love.
2. He called on them to remember those first days, the love they had. No sacrifice was too great, no distance too far, ready to follow the Lord to the end of the earth.
3. He next told them to repent.
4. Then he called them to do the first works over.
5. The penalty for failure to heed His warning was to lose His fellowship. He would remove His presence from their midst.
II. JACOB'S PREPARATION TO RETURN.
A. His command to the family to put away the strange gods.
1. These are the things that they had allowed to come into their lives and remove them from a full commitment to God.
2. Jesus spoke of the thorns that choke out fruitfulness in our lives. "The cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust for other things."
3. He warned us about His coming for the church that we need to be careful that our hearts are not overcharged with gluttony, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, so that day catches us unprepared.
4. What were some of the gods that they had been embracing?
a. Mammon, the lust for power and possessions.
b. Ashtoreth, the worship of sex.
c. Baal, the worship of the intellect.
d. Molech, the worship of pleasure.
e. A man may claim to be an atheist, but what he is saying is that he does not believe in the God that is revealed in the Bible, but that man has a god, some master passion that controls his life.
5. These are the gods that so often remove us from that place of the consciousness of the true and living God and fellowship with Him.
6. As with Jacob the worship of these other gods, can bring us to the place of despair and fear of the retribution that is going to come upon us for the things we did in the pursuit of our god.
B. His determination to build an altar vs. 3, to the God who answered him in the day of his distress.
1. There was another time when Jacob had to flee in fear from the consequences of his deceitful actions.
2. It was in that night of fear and uncertainty that he first met God.
3. Now he again must flee in fear from the consequences of his son's deceitfulness, and treachery, where does He turn? Back to Bethel. The place he first met God and received the promises of help.
C. It is amazing how messed up our lives can become when we try to leave God out of our lives.
1. Hell is the place that is void of the blessing and the protective hand of God.
2. It is something that we create for ourselves when we ask God to stay out of our lives, and not to interfere with our pursuit of another gods. I want to live for pleasure, I will have more of this world's goods, and I do not care what it takes to get them. Don't try to stop me from the pursuit of sexual excitment, stay out of my life.
3. People do not realize the horrors of hell that they are creating for themselves when they ask God not to interfere with their lives. The tortured mind, the guilty conscience, when you awake to the consequences of your folly.