Going Home

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.’ And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone'” (Genesis 35:1-3).
Plans change. My scheduled trip to Nepal to work for two weeks at the end of this current trip has had to be canceled, and I have just rearranged my tickets to go home early. That is always good news. Going home may be among the most evocative and beautiful words in the English language. They connote family, friends, comfortable surroundings and circumstances, and the end of pilgrimage and exile. It is great to be going home.
Jacob understood an additional, even deeper meaning to such a journey. Though the text of Genesis does not call Bethel Jacob’s “home” (at least in the sense of having already been home) it does imply a “home-coming.” Jacob is to go to “God’s House” (the literal meaning of the name), where he had a vision of God twenty years earlier on his exit from Canaan. He is to dwell there; i.e., make it his home. And he realizes the import of this command and prepares accordingly.
Certainly to those of faith, our spiritual and true home must be where God is. We sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” asking “If Heaven’s not my home, O Lord what will I do?” We are “strangers and pilgrims” in this life (Hebrews ll:13), looking longingly for the time when we will be gathered home.
Jacob also understood that a home-coming requires preparation. I find his instructions to his household to be very applicable to anyone striving to “go home to be with God.” First he says, “put away your foreign gods.” None can dwell with God who gives himself in service to another. No desire, commitment, or love must hinder our relationship with the Creator. He must be first in our lives.
Secondly, Jacob says, “purify yourselves.” God is holy (Leviticus 11:45) and he calls all who would have fellowship with him to holiness (1 John 1:5-7). Our means of purification is the blood of Jesus, which is obtained by obedient faith as we confess him as Lord, turn from sin, and are washed and sanctified in the new birth of baptism (Romans 6:3-7; 10:7,8).
Finally Jacob instructs his people, “change your garments.” Clothes may not make the man, but one’s deeds certainly indicate his character. Jesus taught, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Peter commanded, “Repent therefore and be converted (i.e., changed)” (Acts 3:19). One’s inward renewal is marked by an outward transformation (Romans 12:1,2, Ephesians 4:22ff). True, wolves may wear sheep’s clothing for a time, but genuine salvation always results in a godly, wholesome life. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11,12).
Since the fall from Eden, man has wandered on this earth lost, alone, and away from God. Through Christ, we are now invited home. If we deny all other gods, accept the pure blood of Christ, and transform our lives to be like him, we can know the blessing of being eternally in God’s house.

Share your thoughts: