So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.
Where is my Bethel?
Jacob first met God at Bethel on his way out of Canaan. Both God and Jacob made promises that time around.
There was a place where I first recognized God’s voice as belonging to Him and listened to what He had to say. There was a place where God commissioned me to a work He has planned out for me. Why the past tense? Because Bethel is not just a place in a physical sense, but also in a temporal sense. Bethel is both a place and a time.
But Bethel is more than just the place I heard God’s voice for the first time or first received my commission from Him. Bethel is the place He brings me back to and reaffirms His purposes for my life. It is not just a physical where, but a mental and spiritual where as well.
Now Jacob is returning to the land and God says, “Go back to Bethel.” Jacob does not just go to the place, but has his entire household purify themselves. There is a very definite spiritual component to the idea of Bethel for Jacob.
So how does all of this apply to me? What can I do with it today? First, I need to recognize my Bethel. Where is my spiritual place of getting all the gunk out of my life and coming back to the simplicity of talking with God? Second, I need to recognize the times when a trip back to Bethel is needed. Am I losing perspective as Jacob was — he said in the previous chapter that he was going to be killed by the folks living in the land and he didn’t utter a word about his family dying, it was all about him? Then I need a trip to Bethel. Is my life filling up with clutter and things that horn in on my relationship with God — Jacob’s household had idols and such with them? Then I need a trip to Bethel. If anything is mucking up my view of God or the plan He shared with me for my life then I need to make a trip to Bethel; I need to come back to the place where I clearly understood God’s promises. From there, I can move back into the grind that is life. Last, because my Bethel is a spiritual where, I am not bound by travel times or TSA checkpoints to get there. The only thing needed for me to come back to my Bethel is for me to recognize that I need to go back and to do so. Decluttering my life wouldn’t hurt, but God can handle that, if need be.
Father God, when I lose focus—as I am prone to do—or when my life, spiritual and otherwise, becomes cluttered with things that drive out the clarity of remembering what You have promised, please recall me; command me back to Bethel so we can meet and I be brought back onto the same page as You.