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#410 IN THE WAY OF BLESSING, GENESIS 35

In the last chapter, we looked at the paradox Jacob had come into in his attempt to serve the Lord at Shechem. I want to address that issue in the way of introduction to our subject for this lesson.

In GEN 33:17-20, it says that Jacob came to Shechem, bought a piece of land, built a house, set up booths for his cattle, and built an altar unto the Lord. By all appearances, you would think that Jacob came there to serve the Lord – he was very religious. But there’s a song that says, "All those who fear and trust His name…." To fear His name means to stand in holy, reverent awe of His will. The world has more religion in it today than there has ever been since the beginning of time, yet the world today is more corrupt than it has ever been since the beginning of time. The Lord is not primarily pleased with religion but wants us to stand in holy awe and reverence of His Word.

There was a time that I was one of ten people who visited the Montana State Penitentiary to minister to the prisoners. We were there for three days. There was one man who would sit within hearing distance, but he would not join our crowd. I asked the chaplain, "Do you have any objections if I go and invite him to come and be with us?"

"Don’t waste your time," he said, "he has a religion that is outside of the Bible."

With the chaplain’s permission, I went to visit the man. When I asked him, "What is it that keeps you away from us?"

With a big grin, he answered, "I have a religion that is outside of the Bible."

I said, "Wonderful, let me hear it!"

I could have lost him by saying defensively that there is no such thing, but he went on for thirty minutes to tell me about his "religion outside of the Bible." When he finished he asked, "What do you think of it?"

I could have made him defensive again by telling him that he was wrong. He told some of the most gruesome things I had ever heard, but I picked up on some principles that he had pointed out that were Scriptural. I took those principles and pointed them out in the Bible and showed him that those were Scriptural principles. In twenty minutes he went with me to the chaplain to ask for a Bible.

The point I am making is that we can have a religion that is outside of the Bible that seems to have some Christian principles, yet still have a religion that is totally outside of the Bible. We can have a religion that is absolutely contrary to what God has told us to do, and yet seem to be very religious.

Jacob had a religion outside of what God had commanded him to do. God had said, "Arise and return to Bethel." Jacob arose and went to Shechem. He did not observe to do what God had commanded him to do. Jacob erected an altar and called the name of the altar, EleloheIsrael, which means "God, the God of Israel." The Lord had told Jacob, when he appeared unto him, "I am the God of Bethel." So Jacob had a religion, but he had a religion that was outside of God’s Word.

Jacob did not prosper. Jacob’s entire stay at Shechem was a total disaster. It was not until the Lord brought him to the end of self that the Lord again appeared unto him, as we see in GEN 35:1, "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there," in other words, "Don’t dwell at Shechem! I did not tell you to do that! Go to Bethel and dwell there and make there an altar unto the Lord. I did not ask you to build an altar unto the Lord at Shechem." We can, with our human reasoning, have a religion that is outside of the Bible, that is outside of God’s Word, and think that we’re very religious, but the Lord has no pleasure in our serving Him contrary to His revealed will.

In MAL 3:17-18, it speaks of the Judgment Day, "And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels [He’s talking about those who fear the Lord, who hold a holy reverence for His will.]; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." That is the dividing line between the righteous and the wicked: serving God according to godly fear and with a holy reverence for His will.

At the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus tells us in MAT 7:24: "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them…." For us to come under the proclamation of the Word of God and not do it is building our house upon the sand. It is for those who "heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock."

The biography of Jacob teaches us the same principle we find in HEB 13:8. The Lord has his people whom He has loved from all eternity, and the Lord does not allow His people to go on to their own destruction. Like Jacob at Shechem, he can bring himself into a total paradox, into open shame, and into many difficulties, but he cannot destroy himself, because in God’s providence, He brings him into a place that he is at the end of self, and in such a time the Lord reappears.

It is said of the Lord Jesus in HEB 13:8: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." The Lord does not alter. The Lord told Jacob to arise and return to Bethel. He may tarry seven years or ten years at Shechem, but when the Lord’s time comes, Jacob is still going to go to Bethel. The Lord will allow the land to spew him out and that is what happened.

Our blessed Redeemer is the Covenant Head of the new covenant. There is a covenant that God has with His people and you and I cannot alter it. We may try, and we may bring many grievous disappointments in our own life, but we cannot alter God’s eternal purpose because He is a covenant God.

HEB 8:10-11 says, "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind [How is He going to make a place for His will in our hearts and minds? He will bring us to see the destruction that we bring upon ourselves by practicing our own will.], and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest."

Every one of God’s dear people that He has chosen and loved from eternity will come to know the Lord because the Lord will deal with them. He will take them in His hand and chastise them and bring them to where He will purge them from their iniquities. He will bring them to where their hearts will surrender to the will of God.

The terms of this covenant are found in the next verse. HEB 8:12 says, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."

If the Lord were not merciful to our unrighteousness, He would strike us into hell. He will come with that redeeming love and redeem us from our iniquities. He will deliver us and set our feet upon that blessed Rock as it says in MAT 7:24: "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." When the Lord Jesus Christ becomes formed in us, He builds our house upon the rock that we will hear and do His sayings.

The name Jacob means "schemer, trickster, deceiver." After Jacob had exhausted all his own schemes, and his human reasoning had brought him to the end of self, the Lord again renewed His eternal, unalterable covenant that He had made with Jacob at Bethel.

GEN 35:11-12 says, "And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land."

Where was Jacob when the Lord renewed this covenant? He was in the way of God’s command. He was at Bethel. He was where the Lord had told him to go. He had come to Bethel and had built an altar there as the Lord commanded him to do. He had come to perform the vow that he had made unto the Lord: "and the Lord will be my God." How can the Lord be my God if I have not a holy reverence for His will? This is what Jacob has come to: he has come back to Bethel, where the Lord had commanded him to go. The Lord again appeared unto Jacob at Bethel and He renewed the covenant that He had made with Jacob at Bethel.

The important lesson is that the name Jesus does not mean that He will save His people in their sins, but He saves them from their sins as we see in MAT 1:21: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

There are so many people who want to be saved in their sins. They want to seize upon the death of the son for the inheritance, but they have no fruit of repentance; there is no turning from their rebellious ways; there is no turning unto the Lord to walk according to His will.

In GEN 35:9 we read, "And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him," when he had returned to Bethel. All these years that Jacob had spent in Padanaram we do not hear of even one time that the Lord appeared to Jacob. We do not hear that Jacob built an altar unto the Lord. Jacob was thirty years at Padanaram and was not serving the Lord.

Do you and I have times that seem to be like a spiritual famine? Maybe it is because we are still at Padanaram, Haran, or Succoth. Maybe we have built an altar unto the Lord and we are going to serve the Lord in our own way and we are not serving the Lord according to His ordained way. The Lord appeared unto Jacob "when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him." Are we looking for the blessings of the Lord? Do we want the Lord’s blessing upon our souls? Do we want the Lord’s blessings upon our lives and upon our labors? It says, "And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, [then the Lord] blessed him."

This is New Testament Gospel as well. This same principle Jesus taught in the parable of the Prodigal Son. It was not until after the Prodigal had repented of his ways and returned that he again received evidence of his father’s love.

Do you want the tokens of God’s love in your soul and in your life? Return unto the Lord and do His revealed will. Come back into His service.

LUK 15:20 say, "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

He left the land where he had been living riotously. Jacob arose and came back to Bethel. We do not read that the father of the Prodigal Son ran behind him while he was feeding the swine and living riotously. He had no contact with the love of his father. That is the way it is with our Heavenly Father. That is the principle that Jesus is teaching. It was not until he came to himself, arose, and came back. Then his father had compassion, ran to meet him, and fell on his neck and kissed him.

This principle is also taught very clearly by the admonition God gave Jacob in the next verse. In GEN 35:10 we read, "And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob [He’s reminding him that his name means ‘deceiver, schemer, trickster.’]: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, [because he has returned to Bethel] but Israel [which means ‘God commandeth’] shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel."

He is no longer going to go by his own tricks, schemes, ideas, and human reasoning. He’s going to start walking under the will of God. That is his new name because he was back at Bethel. He came back into the ordained ways of God, and he is now walking where the Lord had commanded him to be.

The Lord had brought Jacob to the end of himself and all his scheming. Where must Jacob go? Notice GEN 34:30. Levi and Simeon had gone out and slain all the city of Shechem. "And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house."

Jacob had no intentions to perform his lie unto Esau to join him at Mount Seir. Laban would have no desire to take him back; he had left Laban. He wanted to avoid Esau (that is why he stayed at Shechem) and he had failed to perform his vow unto the Lord so he could not come unto his altar at Shechem and find the Lord. Jacob had come to a great paradox and did not know what to do!

We read how the Lord brought all of the Prodigal Son’s human reasoning to an end to show him what he missed. This is what the Lord does: He will show us the emptiness of what we think is so rich and full. When we see the emptiness of it, we see what we have missed and what we have given in exchange for the vanities that we have received.

LUK 15:16 says, "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him."

The Lord brought a famine in the land. The Lord had brought all the things he had set his heart upon to nought and brought him to the end of himself. He was feeding the swine and eating the husks that the swine left! The Lord brought him to such a state of poverty so he would realize what he was missing.

Verse 17 says, "And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" The Lord brought him to this state of poverty to realize what he had forsaken.

Jacob had to be so emptied of everything of himself to realize what he was missing by having disobeyed God’s command of returning to Bethel. (The name Bethel means "the house of God," the place where His honor dwelt, the place that God had ordained for worshipping His name.) They had to return to worshipping God in His ordained way.

He said, "How many hired servants of my father’s [He is talking about those who are serving his father and how they] have bread enough and to spare." He has forsaken the service of his father and he is perishing with hunger. Jacob had to realize that he was not serving God in His ordained way. Now he was in a great strait.

Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. God brings man into these extremities to empty them of self. See the admonitions Jacob received in God’s re-appearing. See how the Lord admonished Jacob.

GEN 35:1 tells us, "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother."

GEN 33:17 says, "And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth."

He had set up a permanent dwelling: he bought a piece of land, a parcel of a field where he spread his tents at the hand of the children of Hamor at Shechem. He built himself an altar. He was settling himself for an established residence. See the reproof: "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God."

God was not pleased with the altar Jacob built at Shechem because that was not God’s ordained way. He had no pleasure in all of Jacob’s religion, because it was a religion outside of what God had spoken to Jacob.

He said, "…make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother." He again reproved him: you have turned aside and stayed at Shechem because you are still afraid of your brother Esau; I appeared unto you at Bethel when you fled from your brother.

This was where God had called him to return to, not to Succoth. God was not pleased with the altar that Jacob had built, nor was He pleased with the name Jacob had given it. It was all human reasoning. It was a religion of Jacob that was outside of what God had spoken to him; it was not the Word of God.

This is what is wrong with today’s religion. So many people can barter the Word of God: "But I believe…" or, "The Word of God is old-fashioned." They have a religion and are going to serve God in their own way. The Lord has no pleasure in all the religion that is outside of His revealed will. This is the lesson that Jacob is being taught. These things are written for our admonition.

The reference to "…when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother," was also an admonition of Jacob’s failure to perform the vow that he had made unto the Lord after the Lord had sent Esau away in peace. Jacob’s vow was, as we see in GEN 28:21: "So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God."

The Lord had sent Esau. Esau had embraced his brother and fell on his neck and wept. They had kissed each other. They were reconciled. God had given him peace with his brother. From God’s side, what Jacob had said was performed. Jacob’s vow, "then shall the LORD be my God," was not performed; he was not serving the Lord according to the will of God. He was serving the Lord according to his own human reasoning.

When Jacob awoke from his dream at Bethel (which means "The house of God,") he said, "Surely God is in this place" as we see in GEN 28:16. Yet after God had granted him peace with his brother from whom he fled, he lingered in Succoth instead of hastening to return and perform his vow.

"Surely God is in this place." He knew that God was not at Succoth. "God is in this place," the place where God appeared unto Him and where God said to return. The name of that place is "the house of God."

We cannot worship God as we please. God has ordained how He wants to be worshipped, so we must worship God according to His ordained way.

Now see the immediate effect this reproof had on Jacob. Jacob is at the end of self and sees how these people are going to come and slay him and all the nations are going to rise up against him. He cannot return to Laban. He cannot go to Seir. When the Lord again appeared unto Jacob, see the immediate effect of this reproof.

GEN 35:2 says, "Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments." There are some powerful messages in that. When one comes into the presence of God those filthy garments become so clearly obvious.

The first thing that was noticed when Joshua the High Priest stood before the angel of the Lord in ZEC 3:3: "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel." Those garments are the symbol of our actions and our attitudes.

Verse 4 says, "And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment."

Iniquity means "unjust dealings." When these filthy garments were removed, He said, "…I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee." Jacob was a crook, a schemer, and a liar. This putting off of those old, filthy garments meant to get out from all of that unjust scheming.

Did you know that the Lord takes notice of the thoughts and intents of our heart? We must put off these filthy garments. We must come honestly and uprightly before the Lord.

"…I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." What is that change of raiment? It is to be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man, which is created after righteousness and true holiness. That is putting on the new garment. We have to change our attitude and clean up our act. We cannot serve the Lord in the Lord’s house and continue with a scheming mind and scheming attitude and with unrighteousness and iniquity. We cannot come before the Lord and have His presence if we do not have a change of raiment.

This change of raiment points to the putting on of the new man as well as putting off the old. That taking away of these filthy garments means that we must be cleansed from our iniquity. We have to come to where we have a right attitude, but we also have to put on the new man that is created after righteousness and true holiness. We have to be cleansed in the spirit of our mind. Do you know what that means, "the spirit of your mind"? That means your mental disposition, your attitude towards the Lord and towards His Word, that we now have a holy reverence for the Word of God.

As Jacob’s conscience begins to speak to him, we see that even though he may have been unaware of Rachel’s theft of Laban’s idols at the time, he was certainly aware of the idolatry in his household at this point, because Jacob said unto his household (not just to Rachel, but to his children, his servants, and all of his household) to put away the strange gods that are among you. Jacob is starting to understand his vow where the Lord told him to return unto Bethel where he had vowed a vow unto the Lord. What was the vow? "The LORD will be my God." He says, "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments."

Isn’t that precious? When you and I come to the point that the Lord starts cleansing us, and brings us into that furnace of affliction to take away the dross, then we start examining and seeing in our own heart the idolatry that has to be put away. We see that we need clean garments. We see that we have to put off the filthy garments before we can come before the Lord and expect His blessing.

Again we see the awful spread of the leprosy of sin. Jacob’s whole household was infected as a result of his permissive leadership. He had become aware of idolatry but had not put it out. He had, by permissiveness, allowed this leprosy of Rachel’s sin to infect his entire household. First it was Rachel alone who hid her father’s idols, but Jacob’s command was to "all that were with him." Jacob is starting to clean up his act. He’s preparing to come unto Bethel and perform his oath. What was his oath? Now the Lord will be his God. He is no longer going to serve his own human reasoning and all the idols.

The lesson is profound: Jacob had neglected God’s house and it began the moral decay of his whole house. Jacob seeks to recover his household. He seems to make a humble confession of his error in building his altar at Succoth.

Speaking to his household, Jacob says in GEN 35:3: "And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went." He is confessing to his household that the altar that he built at Shechem was not in the Lord’s pleasure. Put away your idols. Take off your filthy garments and all of this scheming and ungodly attitude that we have. Clean up our act. We are going to return to the house of God and serve the Lord as our God. That was the vow he had vowed that he is now ready to perform. He says, "I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went."

When the Lord goes before with the power of His grace, the hearts are made willing in the day of His power. When there is repentance and the heart has turned to the Lord and is now repenting of all the sins and the ungodly deeds that we have committed and our heart is in true remorse over our sin and turning to the Lord to be forgiven, then the Lord begins to go before Jacob.

GEN 35:4 says, "And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem."

We don’t read that any one of them resisted. The Lord began to alter the attitudes of the whole house of Jacob. Every one of his wives, including Rachel, and his children, gave up their idols. "And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods [that has to include the one of Rachel’s, which she hid from her father, Laban] which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem."

Not only their strange gods, but also their earrings seemed to be associated with their sin of forgetting God. Women today wear big earrings – is that a sign of Christianity? No, it’s a sign of having forgotten God.

HOS 2:13 says, "And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD."

When we make an ornament of this pile of clay we are forgetting God. If we understood God we will realize that we are created of the dust and we don’t have to do so much to make an ornament of this monument of clay.

Jacob made no attempt to sell or alter these pieces of gold and silver. He made no attempt to alter them from idols into something useful, but he wanted to abstain from the very appearance of evil. He wanted to take all of these things that were displeasing to God and he wanted to be cleansed from them. He put them under an oak and left them, and went on his way.

When the Lord goes before us, He also prepares the hearts to will and to do of His good pleasure. Jacob had no need to fear the nations as long as the Lord was on his side. In the verse just before, Jacob was so afraid that they were going to come and kill his whole house – all the nations would come together because his two sons had slain a whole city, but Jacob had no reason for fear when he was walking in God’s ordained way, because then the Lord would go before him and the Lord would restrain them.

GEN 35:5 says, "And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob."

Jacob knew that according to what had been done it would have been his "just desserts" if all these other nations would have pursued and slain him and his house, "but for" God’s restraining grace. Jacob’s fears were not unfounded had the Lord not restrained them.

We see his fears in GEN 34:30: "And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house."

These fears were not unfounded. However, since Jacob had cleaned up his act and taken away the idols and arisen with his whole house to return to Bethel to serve the Lord according to His ordained way, the Lord restrained those that would have harmed him.

When the Lord puts His terror upon the kings of earth they are impotent. They are not able to touch him. In the times in which we are living, there are many things to cause our hearts to tremble in fear. We see so much iniquity coming upon the face of the earth and how homosexuality is being set in governments and in high places. We see how abortion is running rampant. We see how the Lord has set his judgments of AIDS and of all the different things that are judgments of God upon the face of the earth. Men’s hearts will fail and faint for fear for seeing of the things that are coming upon the earth, but for those who walk in God’s ordained way, God is still the God of the universe and He restrains all the kings of the earth, or all the things that would come against us.

PRO 21:1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."

The Lord turns the king’s heart just like He turns a stream of water. That is with gravity. There is a power and force that you and I have no might against, and that is the force of gravity. The Lord uses that gravity to draw the mind of the king to do His will and to bring about His purpose.

Jacob did not build any altar at Haran. He did not build an altar at Padanaram. He had departed from the Lord, his God, but now he must retrace his steps. This is something for us to remember: we can run away from the Lord, but sometimes we have to creep back on our knees. Running away seems so easy, but creeping back seems so difficult and we have to come back on our knees.

This is not unique with Jacob. We read the same thing of Abraham, after he had left Egypt, in GEN 13:3: "And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel [Where did Abraham go? He went to Bethel, to ‘the house of God.’ He came out of Egypt and went to Bethel], unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai."

Abraham strayed away from the Lord. Abraham strayed into the world, but the Lord brought him back and he journeyed back "…even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning…. [verse 4] Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD."

Sometimes the Lord allows His dear people to stray away from Him, but He brings them back to the place where they were at the first – at Bethel, at the place of God’s ordained worship where they will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Do you know what it means to worship God "in spirit"? It means to worship in the mind of Christ - the mental attitude, the mental disposition of Christ. What was that? In the Garden of Gethsamene, while He was sweating blood in an agony, He prayed more earnestly, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." It is in that spirit of Christ, in that spirit of unconditional surrender to the will of God that He was willing and able to step into the Father’s wrath and take the cup of the dregs of the wrath of Almighty God and suffer the vengeance of His own Father that was upon you and me for our sins. He was willing in the way of obedience to step into that wrath of the Father. He said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." That cup was filled with the dregs of God’s wrath upon sin and He took that cup because it was the Father’s will. You and I must come to the point that we can pay any kind of sacrifice, that there is no such thing as putting a price on violating the will of God. What God says, we do it without any bartering. That is to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

Some times we may run away from the Lord. You and I may desert His will, but He brings us back, with weeping and supplication, on our knees. We have to creep back to where we left Him, to the place where He was at the first. Like Abraham "Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first." That is where he had to return: he had to return back to Bethel.

In JER 31:9-11 we read, "They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born. Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he."

Who is it that the Lord has redeemed us from that was stronger than us? He has redeemed us from that ugly monster "I"; that hellish master Satan; that serving of the god of this world. He has redeemed his people from "him that was stronger than he," and He has brought him "as a shepherd doth his flock." Do you see the difference between serving the Lord and Satan? It is like following a shepherd that is there to look after and feed His flock. If we serve that prince of the power of the air, he is a hard master. He has neither love nor sympathy.

God appeared unto Jacob at Bethel before he went to Padan-Aram and also on his return. The Lord came down and spoke to him.

In GEN 35:9 it says, "And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram," when he came out of the place that he was fleeing to with human reasoning. He was fleeing without fleeing to the Lord.

The first thing God said to Jacob was to reprove him of his scheming and admonish him of his new name.

Verse 10 says, "And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel."

When you and I come before the Lord, we have to confess, "My name is sinner." We have to confess that we have sinned in thoughts, in words, and in deeds, and now our only pleading ground is that precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we have to come for a pardon. When we learn to see Christ, sweating in His blood, pleading, "Father, if it be thy will, remove this cup from me," when we get a faith view of that, then we learn to understand the sinfulness of sin. We learn to realize that the Father would rather bring that upon His own Son than to let one sin go unpunished. We learn to realize that sin is exceeding sinful.

After we have crept back on our knees, and have been back to the place where we left the Lord and return unto the house of God, then the Lord comes and says, "Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob." You are no longer going to be a deceiver. You are now going to be Israel, which is "God commandeth," in other words, you are now going to come into the kingdom of Christ. You are now going to come under His leadership and start doing what He says.

All the years Jacob spent with Laban and in Succoth were spiritually unfruitful. Jacob was building with hay, wood, and stubble, and it all perished in the furnace of affliction.

This same principle comes through in the history of Israel. See this in HEB 11:29-30: "By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. [By faith Israel crossed the Red Sea. Now look at the next verse: it speaks of forty years later.] By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days."

What happened to their faith in those forty years? Through unbelief, and because of unbelief, that whole generation perished in the wilderness. They had strayed away from the Lord. That whole generation never entered the Promised Land. By faith they crossed the Red Sea and by faith the walls of Jericho fell down flat. That is the two consecutive verses in HEB 11. It mentions nothing of faith in between. Those forty years were spiritually unfruitful.

Are there not some blank spots in your life? Are there not some times in our lives that we look upon and see how unfruitful they were, when we have departed from the Lord? We think back on how the Lord blessed us in our youth or in our early life, and then we have a blank spot. Then may the Lord bring us back to Bethel, to those times and seasons of fellowship with our God.

Upon his return unto Bethel, God reaffirmed that Jacob must walk under his new name, and then pronounced His blessing upon Israel. He reaffirmed that Jacob must walk under his new name, in other words, under the kingship of God.

In GEN 35:10-13 it says, "And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: [I am the all sufficient One!] be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him."

God had condescended to come down and speak with Jacob. God Himself came down, "And God went up from him." God had come down to where Jacob was and spoke to him and restored his fellowship with God. Jacob was fully restored in fellowship with his God.

GEN 35:14-15 says, "And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel."

Do we desire to dwell at Bethel? If we do, put off the dirty garment and put away the idols.

The next verse teaches a very important lesson. GEN 35:16 says, "And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath."

Ephrath is Bethlehem, that is, "The House of Bread." What a blessing Beloved! From Bethel to Ephrath is "but a little way to come." Bethel – where we come into communion with God – is such a very little way until we come unto the house of spiritual bread.

When our abode has returned to the House of God, that is, when our communion with God has been restored, "it is but a little way" to where spiritual nourishment and satisfaction is found, where our hearts can feed upon that heavenly manna – the Lord Jesus Christ.

GEN 35:16-18 tells us, "And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin."

All Rachel’s idols had to be buried. Deborah, Jacob’s link with his old unregenerate life, had to be buried. (Deborah was Rebekah’s handmaid.) Rebekah was the one who taught him how to steal and connive. All that was connected with his old, unregenerate life is buried, and now Rachel, the leading link of Jacob’s life at Padan-Aram is buried. These idols keep getting buried.

The Lord writes "death" upon everything of the flesh. Everything that leads us away from the Lord, He will write "death" upon it. He is going to remove it out of our way. The sentence of death is written upon every attraction of the flesh when we walk in communion with God. We learn to understand that new name of Israel, "God commandeth," and we obey. Amen.


These on-lines sermons are a ministry of Gospel Chapel located in Conrad, Montana. We also have a daily devotion. For a list of sermons on cassette please visit our on-line tape catalog. See also, our sermon notes.

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