HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him. And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. But Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth. And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. 11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; 12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. 13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. 14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. 15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel. 16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. Genesis 35:1–20

There are several popular shows today about how to organize your home. But before the experts can display your items neatly in clear matching bins, they have an important request: Edit! Go through all of your belongings and get rid of what you do not need. Only then can they put your home in order.

In Genesis 35, Jacob and Rachel had some purging to do. God had instructed Jacob to settle in Bethel and build an altar to Him. Even though Jacob had robbed his brother and was running away in self-preservation, God protected and prospered him. This altar would remind him of that truth. Before Jacob could move, Jacob led his household in a major purification project. Jacob instructed them to bring all the foreign gods they had acquired, and he buried them (Genesis 35:2–4). This is the first purging process of its kind recorded in Scripture—and the first clear call to monotheism. As God deepened His call on Jacob’s family line, He expected undivided devotion.

In Bethel, Jacob built the altar. Then God appeared to Jacob again, calling Himself “God Almighty” (v. 11), reiterating yet again His covenant promises. He also changed Jacob’s name once more to “Israel” (v. 10). As the Jacob and Rachel narrative comes to a close, the entire scene speaks of transformation—the slow and deliberate work of God in the lives of His own. Jacob’s family had moved on, but they had not yet reached Bethlehem when Rachel went into labour. Sadly, it was a difficult birth, and Rachel died. Her final words were to name this baby Ben-Oni (Son of My Trouble). Jacob later changed it to Benjamin, meaning Son of the Right Hand.

Through Rachel’s life—and Jacob’s—we see the nature of God. He accomplishes His will in spite of our failings. We also learn what it means to follow Him with a singular focus, to purge our idols. Are there idols you need to purge?

Let us pray

Lord, forgive us for the things we cling to instead of you. Open our eyes to idols we are unaware of and grant us godly grief and repentance. Teach us to flee from everything that distracts us from you.

Author: Patriarch Gregg

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