Last week in our look at the life of Jacob (through the book "Escaping with Jacob" by David Ramos), we saw Jacob's failure as a father and leader. The story of Dinah is a difficult one to understand and Jacob's role (or lack thereof) is frustrating. He's been growing in faith and his life seems to be going so well, and suddenly we are reminded that things often go wrong when we take our eyes off of God and rely on ourselves.
Week 17: Read Genesis 35:1-15 (Half-Time)
"After the flurry of events that have occurred, Jacob is called to go back to Bethel. He and his family follow God's orders by burying their false gods, changing their clothes, and traveling to their new home. Through it all God guides and protects, even going so far as to place "the terror of God" upon the people in neighboring towns. Jacob is completely within the care of God.
Much of this section acts as a reminder to what has happened before. Jacob was already familiar with Bethel because that was the place of his incredible dream (where he saw angels ascending and descending). His name had been changed to Israel during his wrestling match; and the promises God gave afterward were reminders to Jacob that he is in line to receive what was promised to his father and grandfather.
This short section ends appropriately with Jacob erecting an altar. This altar would serve as a physical reminder of God's activity in Jacob's life - from protecting him, to comforting him, to growing him in ways he could never have imagined. I see these verses as a sort of half-time in the life of Jacob. The first half of Jacob's life up to this point was difficult to say the least. It was the story of him becoming Israel by overcoming the challenges of faith, honesty, diligence, and reverence. We now see a very different man at Bethel than the trickster (to put it kindly) who originally escaped there for his life. He has become a leader, imperfect and damaged, but fully committed to God. This half-time also acts as a calm before the storms that are coming. Therefore, right in the center of the story is the presence and promise of God.
Regardless of what you might think about Jacob - whether you see him as a guy who could never get it quite right, or as an amazing redemption story - one thing readers cannot deny is that God is at the heart of his story. Everything in Jacob's life happens or doesn't happen by God's hand. He is the One who protects Jacob, who leads him to new lands, who reprimands him when he falls short, and who consistently pours unmerited grace into his life.
Although Jacob's life was difficult, it gives me hope. No matter what direction his story took, God was there. We can practice our own half-times. I encourage you today to set aside some time and write down what promises God has kept in your life up to this point. Then, below that, write down what worries you have for the future and how you are hoping God will show up. The best way to fuel our faith for tomorrow is to remember what God did yesterday."
Takeaway from today's lesson: Taking time to remember that God is at the heart of our story is important and recharges our faith. It also helps to remember that God doesn't expect us to be perfect; grace is given even when it isn't deserved.
Prayer: God, help me to see what you have done in my life so that I can believe in the things you will do. Amen.