Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Second Time Around - The Aging of Jacob
August 7 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 35:1-15

Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Second Time Around - The Aging of Jacob | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Second Time Around - The Aging of Jacob

By Tommy Bratton Genesis 35:1-15

There are certain places in my life that I count as sacred spaces, those places where I remember feeling closest to God. A couple of years ago, I spent several days at a monastery in Conyers, Ga. During those days of silence, rest and prayer, I experienced God in a real and peaceful way. There were no distractions that kept me from seeking God. My one purpose was to enjoy God and rest in God's presence. My time at the monastery revived my soul, reminded me of my calling, and gave me the energy to go back to my congregation and serve.

Purification

(Genesis 35:1-5)

The days prior to this text were filled with defilement (Dinah's rape) and violence (the murderous revenge by Simeon and Levi). The narrative in Genesis 34 ends with Jacob in despair and his sons not understanding the economic concerns, the threats, the compromise to their religion that grew out of their quest for vengeance and gain.

God told Jacob to return to Bethel, the sacred place where Jacob had experienced God's care many years prior. Jacob instructed his entire family to put away all idols and to purify themselves before leaving. As earlier chapters spoke often of defilement, chapter 35 speaks of purification and a new start.

It is easy to fall prey to the distractions that keep us from living out God's promises. However, God continues to remind us of the times God has been with us in the past and continues to promise strength and presence for whatever comes.

Presence and Protection

(Genesis 35:6-8)

As they began their pilgrimage to Bethel, God protected Jacob's family. They had every right to fear those around them, but God caused fear to be placed in the hearts of the people of the cities that surrounded them. They made their way to Bethel unencumbered.

Throughout Genesis, God provided protection for Jacob. God was there when Jacob fled from Esau after stealing his birthright. God heard Jacob's prayer for protection before meeting Esau again those many years later. Jacob wrestled with God and survived. Because God had been faithful in the past, Jacob had faith to trust God's guidance and strength for the journey to Bethel, a journey of remembrance and renewal.

It is important for us to remember how God has brought us to this place. We fear moving forward sometimes, but God is faithful and we are called to trust God.

Reconnecting with God's Purpose

(Genesis 35:9-15)

Verses 9-12 are reminiscent of the blessing given to Jacob on the night he wrestled at Peniel, without the conflict. God appeared to Jacob and blessed him, reminding him that he would no longer be called Jacob, but "Israel." The name change signified a new person, a new creation.

The new name was also the name of the new nation God had promised to Abraham. The covenant continued through Isaac and was confirmed again to Jacob. God desired the new people of Israel to be a blessing to all people of the earth.

After the blessing and confirmation of the promise, Jacob set up a pillar of stone and made an offering to God. In the wisdom of his old age, Jacob realized the importance of the promise and his part in the covenant, as well as the primacy of God's presence and God's part.

We grow in God's grace through the tough times in life. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." Throughout the transitions of Jacob's life, he grew in his understanding of God's promise to future generations. Jacob moved from manipulation to trust. Struggles help us to recognize our failures, to trust in God, and to give our lives totally to His promise.

May we all find time to rid ourselves of idols, of distractions that keep us from being all God calls us to be. May we remember how God has brought us through tough times and has blessed us. May we reconnect with the holy purposes of God for our lives and for our families. May God bless you all!

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 35:1-15 | with 0 comments
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