Sunday – April 9, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship
Word On Worship – Sunday – April 9, 2017 Download / Print
Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
From outward appearances Jacob was not that far from God — only thirty miles from Bethel. He had also built an altar at Shechem, so there must have been some kind of religious observance there. Spiritually, however, Jacob was not near to God at all. Jacob told Esau he would meet him at Seir, but he went the opposite direction to Succoth, then to Shechem. Jacob somewhat passively accepted the rape of his daughter and even entered into an agreement whereby the purity of the covenant people of God would be lost. Jacob was preoccupied with prosperity and security at the expense of purity and piety. He is near Bethel but not near to the God of Bethel.
Jacob’s condition is not that different from many Christians in our own time. We may appear to be walking close to God while the opposite is true. We may still continue to preserve the forms and observe the rituals of piety, but, in fact, the reality is not there. Paul described this condition as “…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” (II Timothy 3:5). We may be like those in the church at Ephesus, who have “lost their first love” (Revelation 2:4), or those at Laodicea who, due to their wealth and security, considered themselves to be doing well spiritually when they were destitute, cold, and indifferent (Revelation 3:15-17).
Christians seem to ever be seeking some new and exhilarating experience. They wish to go from one novel experience to another. In the Scriptures, however, very little of this happened either to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. What Jacob did at Bethel was hardly novel, and what God said to him at His second appearance was nothing new. That should tell us something. What was really important for Jacob was that he gained a deeper appreciation of what he had already experienced but not fully grasped. He needed nothing new, but a greater grasp of that which was old. It may be that the most acceptable manner in which we can serve God will not be by engaging in something untried before, but by “doing our first works,” by reminding ourselves of our covenant vows, and seeking anew that spiritual communion which is the life of our souls.
But perhaps I am assuming too much. It may be that I should not be urging you to “go back to Bethel” at all, particularly if you have never been there. If you have never come to the point of recognizing your sinfulness and impending peril, the point of recognizing that the only way to God’s heaven is through some means which God Himself provides, then you must come to God by faith for the first time. You must, in biblical terminology, be born again. I pray that you will do this now by simply acknowledging your sin and your utter inability to gain God’s favor or admission into His kingdom. The way has been provided in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who died in your place and Who offers His righteousness to all who will believe on Him alone for salvation.