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Arise, Go Up to Bethel
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor
Overview: The lives and legacies of Esau and Jacob are contrasted once again as they come together to bury their father, Isaac. As it turns out, Esau’s life and legacy seem remarkably prosperous in terms of his family and finances, but no mention is made of Esau’s faith. This omission is rectified in Jacob’s narrative, which, in addition to his family and finances, specifically addresses his faith as a central part of his identity. Although Jacob has struggled in his faith and has suffered due to inconsistencies with his faith, the Lord graciously calls him to rededicate his life. Jacob responds to this invitation by returning to the place where he first met the Lord, repenting from sinful habits that drove him and his family away from the Lord, and recommitting himself to worship the Lord. We, too, should take inventory of our lives in order to ensure that our legacy will not be confined to this world alone.
01. If you do not yet know the Lord or if you have wandered away from the Lord, there is a standing invitation for you to come to or return to the Lord.
02. Coming to or returning to the Lord requires repenting from sinful habits that have drawn you away from the Lord.
03. Committing or recommitting to worship the Lord includes a daily walk and a weekly gathering to honor the Lord for who He is and to remember what He has done.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION & DISCOVERY
1. How would you assess the life of Esau with regard to his family and finances in Genesis 36? How would you respond to someone who measures the success of their life in terms of family and finances but without any reference to the Lord? Is that person truly successful?
2. Why was it important for Jacob to return to Bethel after the terrible experiences he had in Shechem? What events happened there earlier (see Genesis 28)? Do you have a “Bethel” to return to in your life, a place where you met the Lord and were drawn closer to Him?
3. Note how Jacob instructs his family to put away their foreign gods and to purify themselves. What do his instructions suggest to us about recommitting our lives to the Lord? What gods do we have in our lives? What sins need to be confessed in order for us to walk in purity before the Lord?
4. In what ways does the Lord demonstrate favor to Jacob even though Jacob has not been faithful? Note how the Lord protects and perseveres Jacob in the face of danger (35:5) and note how Jacob still experiences grief after recommitting himself to the Lord (35:16-22). Do you recognize the grace of God in your life when you do not deserve such grace, even when life is difficult?
5. When Jacob builds the altar to the Lord (35:6-7), he is keeping a vow he made some thirty years ago (see Genesis 28:18-22). Are there any promises or vows that you have made to the Lord that remain unfulfilled? What is holding you back from committing yourself fully to the Lord?
For Further Reading: Joel Beeke, Getting Back in the Race: The Cure for Backsliding (Cruciform Press, 2011)