Thoroughly Equipped: Buried Unto Death, Raised Unto Life

Today’s reading is Genesis 35:1-36:43, Matthew 12:1-21, Psalm 15:1-5, and Proverbs 3:21-26.

In today’s reading we find Jacob continuing his journey back home.  And he walks down memory lane when he goes to Bethel, where God had first met and spoken with him when he was fleeing from Esau.  The two accounts have a lot of similarities, yet we see this time Jacob’s reaction to what God said is different.  He is more mature.  He has seen that God is trustworthy.  He has reconciled with his brother and seems more free to listen and carefully follow God’s instruction.  He is not fearful as he was when he stopped at Bethel twenty years prior.  He is not running away; he is heading home.  He is not fleeing in fear; he is going forward with the mission to listen and follow God’s instruction.  Matthew Henry had this to say:

Beth-el was forgotten. But as many as God loves, he will remind of neglected duties, one way or other, by conscience or by providences. When we have vowed a vow to God, it is best not to defer the payment of it; yet better late than never.

God was mercifully taking Jacob back to a place and an experience he had forgotten.  And his return to this place sparked important action.  Let’s look at the verbs in this passage.

Then God said to Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.”

So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Get ready, move, settle, build.  There are a lot of things on that to-do list.  And of course, it had to be done in that order.  And what was Jacob’s reaction to God’s instruction of action?  Immediate obedience.  “So Jacob…”  It was a simple response but had a powerful impact on Jacob and his whole family.  Jacob’s simple response was a great act of leadership. He told his whole household and they followed his leadership.  They were going back to Bethel, a place of holy and personal interaction with God.  When Jacob was there before, he was all alone.  But this time he was leading his whole household to this holy place and to a holy experience with the living God.

So, as the leader what did Jacob tell his household?  Look at the verbs in that account.

Get rid of, purify, put on the clean, go, build.  And for what purpose?  To honor God who had been faithful and true.

So, how did they complete these actions?

So they gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem.

They gave it all up.  All the idols they had held on to for so long.  All the earthly, worldly things they had held back from the Lord.  And what is the next action verb?  He buried them.  As unto death.  And so it is with us.  We must bury our idols before we can move on into all that the Lord has for us.  We can’t carry them with us if we want to honor God and go and build the life He is calling us to build.

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

                                                                                                            Romans 6:4

What is the significance of Shechem?  This location, in the middle of the nation, provided the most important crossroads in Israel.  Because of its central location and because of the three main crossroads it contained, Shechem saw a lot of traffic in its history. So, Shechem seems to be a great location for many of the patriarchs of our faith.  Shechem had great spiritual significance for Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Joshua.

Let’s take a peek back at Abram’s time at Shechem, and as we go forward in our Bible reading we can recognize the importance when others stop at Shechem.  Genesis 12:6-7 finds Abram continuing on his journey:

            Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Abram was on the road to Bethel, but first he made a pit stop at the great oak at Shechem. This was a famous sanctuary, and a large tree was often a landmark feature at such holy places.  But Abram worshipped God there, not the local false deity.  Many other famous events took place at the oak of Shechem. There the Lord appeared to Abram and confirmed His promise by saying, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7).  This was quite a statement, since in the previous chapter, we found that Sarai was barren.  So how did Abram respond?

            He built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.                                                                                                                                                          Genesis 12:7 

This time at Shechem was a time of renewal of religion.  Abram had already had a “revelation” back in Mesopotamia.  This revelation led to a healthy religion.  Abram believed in God.  But Abram’s journey was not over, just as our journey is not over when we believe in God.  It is not about religion, not even about what we believe.  It is about relationship.  And that is what Abram got a glimpse of when he stopped at Shechem.

And so did Jacob, Abram’s grandson. He led his family in burying the past, the idols, the things upon which they had emotionally depended.  He buried them before he moved on.  What about you?  Is there anything you need to spiritually bury, to lay down and walk away from, so that you may go forward into the good future God has for you.  Bury your idols, honor God, and move forward into great peace, perfect love, and unfailing security.

And what was the result?  They received an extra measure of peace, comfort, and protection.  They walked in an added measure of covering.  Today, ask the Lord if there are any idols in your life which need to be buried unto death, so that you can move forward toward all that God has for you.

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