Come Close

Read This Week: Genesis 45

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” – Genesis 45:1-4 NIV

The pivotal moment that we have been angling toward and anticipating these last several weeks in our study finally arrives in verse 1 of Genesis 45. The Bible says no one was with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. when Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers. Overwhelmed with emotion, Joseph declares, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? (v.3). What follows is a powerful reunion and reconciliation between this family that culminates in an improbable occasion of forgiveness and a restored relationship.

Despite the deep wounds inflicted by his brother’s betrayal, Joseph chooses to forgive. He recognizes that holding onto bitterness only perpetuates the cycle of pain and suffering. Joseph’s forgiveness demonstrates the transformative power of letting go and extending grace to those who have wronged us and made us feel small and insignificant. His revelation of his true identity does something important and exposes his vulnerability. Joseph takes a significant risk by unveiling his past and inviting his brothers into his life. Yet, this vulnerable move paves the way for reconciliation that he greatly wanted. He understood that true reconciliation necessitates honesty, openness, and a willingness to embrace discomfort.

Joseph’s movement toward his brothers restores their fractured relationship. What was once marked by animosity and betrayal is now characterized by love and reconciliation. It illustrates the redemptive power of forgiveness and the possibility of healing broken relationships when it seems all is lost. Holding onto hatred, resentment, and anger only weigh us down and stop our ability to move forward and even to love others. Just as Joseph chose to forgive his brothers, we can experience freedom by letting go of bitterness and extending forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

One of the most rewarding and fulfilling things we can do in life is to work towards true reconciliation. But it requires one of the most challenging things—vulnerability and authenticity. But, when we are willing to share our stories and vulnerabilities, we create opportunities for healing and connection. The ultimate goal of reconciliation is to restore a connection and reclaim what was lost. We should desire restoration and not retribution or revenge; instead of holding onto grudges, we should pursue a connection just as Jesus pursued us. We should make every effort to rebuild relationships and highlight reconciliation because that is the accurate picture of God’s heart and a true representation of Christ’s glory.

May we not be bitter or resistant to give others the grace God has shown us. May we say and posture ourselves, like Joseph in the pivotal moments where the opportunities for restoration and forgiveness present themselves, “Come close to me.” (v.4) It is not easy in our lives and amid our pain, but doing so points toward the power of God and leads to amazing blessings. 

A Silver Cup

Read This Week: Genesis 44

Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said. – Genesis 44:1-3 NIV

Genesis 44 continues with the gripping story of Joseph and his estranged family. Joseph, now adorned with authority and wisdom, orchestrates a specific test to discern the hearts of his brothers and their motives at this point in their lives. He accuses them of theft and declares that the one in whose possession the stolen item is found will become his slave. To their dismay, Joseph’s steward discovers the missing item in Benjamin’s possession, the youngest brother and Jacob’s new favorite.

What follows is a moment of profound reckoning. Judah, one of Joseph’s brothers, steps forward and delivers a heartfelt plea on behalf of his family. He recounts their father’s love for Benjamin and the anguish his absence would cause. Judah offers himself as a substitute, willing to bear the consequences of Benjamin’s alleged crime to spare their father further grief.

In this pivotal moment, the narrative transcends mere familial drama, offering profound insights into the nature of forgiveness and redemption. Joseph, deeply moved by Judah’s selfless act, reveals his true identity to his brothers. With tears streaming down his face, he declares, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” Overwhelmed by emotion, Joseph embraces his brothers, initiating a process of reconciliation and restoration that transcends their past betrayal.

At its core, this chapter once again reinforces a theme that has been communicated over and over in the last four chapters: the transformative power of forgiveness. Joseph’s journey, which we have been reading about, has moved from betrayal to reconciliation and serves as a constant, powerful reminder that forgiveness is not just an act of pardoning the offender but a pathway to healing and restoration. Through Joseph’s example, we are reminded that forgiveness is not contingent upon the other person’s reaction or remorse, but it often comes from a place of grace and compassion within the one who has been hurt.

Additionally, the passage underscores the importance of humility and empathy in the process of reconciliation. Judah’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his brother demonstrates a profound shift in perspective, from self-preservation to self-sacrifice. His act of humility creates space for healing and restoration, paving the way for reconciliation to occur.

In a world of conflict and division, the story of Joseph and his brothers serves as hope, reminding us that reconciliation is possible even in the most unlikely of circumstances. As we seek the Lord, may we emulate Joseph’s and Jesus’ example of forgiveness and Judah’s example of humility, recognizing that restoration begins with the courage to extend grace and the willingness to embrace the brokenness of others.

Joy of Restoration

Read This Week: Genesis 43

They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him. As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there. – Genesis 43:28-30 NIV

Like the two chapters before it, Genesis 43 unfolds against the backdrop of a severe famine that has negatively impacted the land of Canaan in multiple ways. To recap, Jacob, the patriarch, reluctantly sends his sons to Egypt to secure some grain, where they encounter their long-lost brother Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery years earlier. Unknown to them because they fail to recognize his face, Joseph has risen to become a powerful official in the court of Pharaoh.

As the brothers stand before Joseph, anxiety gnaws at their hearts. They fear reprisal for their past deeds. However, Joseph’s response defies their expectations. He invites them into his house, treating them with hospitality and kindness. Despite their betrayal, Joseph’s heart brims with compassion. The focal point of the chapter is the feast shared between Joseph and his brothers. This meal symbolizes more than mere sustenance; it embodies reconciliation. Joseph arranges the seating according to birth order, a subtle gesture acknowledging their familial ties. Astonished by this insight, the brothers are puzzled and apprehensive.

The tension reaches its peak when Joseph’s steward discovers his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. This cup, a symbol of Joseph’s authority, threatens to reignite the brothers’ guilt and shame. However, in a moment that captures the central theme of this narrative, Joseph steps forward with a heartfelt plea. He confesses their past wrongs, expressing a willingness to bear the consequences on Benjamin’s behalf. Joseph’s response is nothing short of transformative. Overwhelmed by emotion, he reveals his true identity to his brothers. Instead of vengeance, he extends forgiveness and reconciliation. In this moment of vulnerability, the barriers of distrust and animosity crumble, replaced by tears of joy and embraces of reconciliation. This moment marks the reunion of a fractured family and underscores the overarching theme of divine providence working through human frailty and redemption.

The narrative of Joseph and his brothers resonates across the ages, offering timeless lessons on forgiveness and reconciliation. It reminds us that no sin is too great for God’s grace to overcome. Like Joseph, we are called to extend forgiveness even to those who have wronged us, embracing reconciliation as a pathway to healing and restoration.

This story encapsulates the essence of the human experience—of brokenness and redemption, of estrangement and reconciliation. It challenges us to confront our own capacity for forgiveness and to extend grace to those who have wronged us. In the banquet of reconciliation, we find the nourishment of the soul, transforming bitterness into sweetness and estrangement into unity. This transformative power of forgiveness is not just a narrative element but a call to action for us all. May we, like Joseph and his brothers, embrace the transformative power of forgiveness, and may our hearts overflow with the joy of restoration.

Conflicting Emotions

Read This Week: Genesis 42

Then, ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also. Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. – Genesis 42:3-7 NIV

Genesis 42 is emotional. It is hard to read it and not be deeply moved by the themes of reconciliation, forgiveness, and the mysterious ways God works through brokenness and extracts His glory and purpose through difficult and sometimes unbearable circumstances. This chapter is also filled with conflicting emotions or emotions that stand in contrast to one another around the same issue. Emotions are rarely clear-cut and obvious. We can experience positive and negative feelings about any situation and be torn emotionally about the desired outcomes. This conflict is what is confronting Joseph here in this section. 

It opens with the famine that Joseph had predicted gripping the land, compelling Jacob’s sons to journey to Egypt in search of grain. Unbeknownst to them, their brother Joseph, whom they had callously sold into slavery years ago, has now risen to prominence as the governor of the land. A poignant reunion follows, filled with tension and laden with the weight of past wrongs. As they bow before him, fulfilling the dreams foretold in Joseph’s youth, he recognizes them but conceals his identity, testing the sincerity of their hearts. 

Through a series of trials and tribulations, Joseph grapples with conflicting emotions, torn between the desire for revenge and the yearning for reconciliation. We can all relate to this moment. A moment of conflicting emotions when we have been wronged by someone close to us, and we want them to experience justice for that while at the same time wanting to be in the right relationship with them. It is a difficult moment that we need God’s wisdom and guidance to navigate.

Because of this dichotomy of thought and emotion, repentance and redemption are central. When Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies and incarcerates Simeon as collateral, their guilt resurfaces, prompting them to reflect on their past actions. They acknowledge the wrong they had done to Joseph, expressing remorse for their betrayal. This pivotal moment sets the stage for a profound spiritual journey, wherein the brothers confront their past and seek reconciliation with Joseph and their father, Jacob.

Genesis 42 serves as a testament to the transformative power of forgiveness. Despite the deep wounds inflicted by his brother’s betrayal, Joseph exemplifies compassion and mercy, extending grace to those who had wronged him. His actions serve as a poignant reminder that forgiveness is not merely an act of pardoning but a profound act of healing and restoration. When we are following Christ and in tune with the word and Holy Spirit, the Lord leads us through our conflicting emotions to His purposeful ends. He helps us successfully steer through a minefield of opposing thoughts to His sovereign will.

Ultimately, the chapter underscores God’s sovereignty amidst the fluctuations of life. What the brothers intended for evil, God orchestrated for good, weaving together the threads of human frailty into the grand tapestry of divine providence. In the fullness of time, Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, embracing them with open arms and offering words of reassurance and comfort.

Favor Not Power

Read This Week: Genesis 41

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. – Genesis 41:41-43 NIV

To this point, we continue to learn that Joseph’s life was marked by adversity, from being sold into slavery by his brothers to enduring false accusations and imprisonment. Yet, he consistently demonstrates remarkable resilience in the face of these challenges. Instead of succumbing to bitterness or despair, Joseph remains steadfast in his faith and maintains his integrity. His resilience is a powerful reminder to us that adversity can catalyze growth and eventual success.

At the outset of Genesis 41, we find Joseph languishing in an Egyptian prison, seemingly forgotten and forsaken. However, Father God is at work, as Pharaoh himself experiences troubling dreams that none of his wise men can interpret. It is precisely at this juncture that Joseph’s path intersects with God’s sovereign will for his life. This interplay within the story reinforces the truth that even in the darkest times, the Lord’s spirit is at work, orchestrating events for a higher purpose for those who believe.

Coincidentally, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams accurately proves instrumental in his ascent to power. This passage begins with Pharaoh elevating Joseph to a position of authority, second only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams played a significant role in this promotion, especially his prediction of seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. This proclamation not only showcased his God-given wisdom but also positioned him as a trusted advisor in Egypt. The Lord’s favor moved him into a place where he could have a real and lasting effect on the Egyptian people and culture.

However, what sets Joseph apart is not just his gift of dream interpretation but also his practical wisdom in implementing solutions. Recognizing the coming famine, Joseph devised a comprehensive plan to store surplus grain during the years of abundance, ensuring Egypt’s survival during the famine. His foresight and diligence exemplify the importance of preparation and prudence in the face of adversity.

This chapter holds several relevant lessons for us in our walks with God. Joseph sought to do God’s will and bring Him glory, which led to God’s favor in his life. He wasn’t seeking power or privilege but was instead seeking God and being obedient to Him. Yet, the Lord granted him favor because of his faith.

The Lord is good like that to us. He wants us to pursue Him and His word, not status among people, but He often blesses us and gives us influence and position in the world to bring glory to His name. May we be like Joseph and have unwavering integrity, even in the face of temptation and injustice. May we be wise and prudent in our planning during times of plenty so we can be prepared in times of trial. May we be faithful and obedient in seeking God’s favor, not personal power.

Night Dreams

Read This Week: Genesis 40

Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. – Genesis 40:1-5 NIV

This chapter introduces us to the characters of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, both serving under Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. Both men find themselves imprisoned in a peculiar turn of events, each plagued by unsettling dreams. These dreams, though seemingly ordinary, carry significant symbolism. The cupbearer dreams of pressing grapes into Pharaoh’s cup, while the baker dreams of birds eating bread from a basket on the ruler’s head. These dreams catalyze the events that unfold in this section, setting the stage for God’s continued intervention and redemption of people and their lives.

Enter Joseph, the young Hebrew man we’ve been journeying with for the last three chapters. He is also imprisoned and coincidentally possesses the gift of interpreting dreams. Upon hearing the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, Joseph offers to interpret them, acknowledging that interpretations belong to the spirit of God. Through divine guidance, he deciphers the dreams, foretelling the imminent fate of the two men. The cupbearer’s dream signifies restoration to his former position, while the baker’s dream foreshadows a grim outcome – his execution by Pharaoh’s decree.

True to Joseph’s interpretation, the events transpire exactly as he predicted. The cupbearer is restored to his position, but unfortunately, the baker meets his demise, just as Joseph had prophesied. However, amidst the intricate web of dreams and interpretations, this particular section of Scripture highlights and calls attention to a broader theme – the ever-present concept of redemption. Joseph, despite enduring betrayal and hardship, remains steadfast in his faith and commitment to interpreting dreams, ultimately paving the way for his eventual salvation and rescue from oppression.

Genesis once again gives us spiritual insights into our lives. It teaches us the importance of faith, even in adversity, and the significance of using our God-given talents and gifts for the greater good and furtherance of His kingdom. Moreover, it highlights the notion of God’s timing in our lives and how He can use us on time in the lives of others as His sovereign plan unfolds in mysterious ways, often beyond our own comprehension. 

But there is another lesson to glean from this chapter. We relate not only to Joseph but also to the butler and the baker. In this view, Jesus is like Joseph to us. He was an innocent man who came into our place and described our predicament or condition. He revealed God’s message to us, which was proven true in three days. Joseph, like Jesus, shares a message from God that can bring life or death. When we look for a message from God, we look to Jesus like those with night dreams in this passage. We look for the good news of the gospel, and that news and message rescued us.

Through the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, we witness God’s activity shaping destinies in the lives of people like us. We then observe Joseph’s strong faith and his pivotal role in interpreting these dreams, ultimately leading to his restoration and eventual rise to power in Egypt. As we reflect on this, may we find inspiration in Joseph’s journey and the overarching message of hope, wisdom, and divine providence.

In The Darkness

Read This Week: Genesis 39

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. – Genesis 39:20-23 NIV

Genesis 39 is a profound exploration of resilience, integrity, and divine providence. Within its verses lies the captivating story of Joseph, a young man sold into slavery who rises from the depths of despair to become a beacon of hope and righteousness. Through the lens of this chapter, we embark on a journey that delves into the complexities of human nature, the dynamics of power, and, once again, the benefits of enduring faith in the face of adversity.

At its core, this section recounts the trials and triumphs of Joseph, who finds himself in the household of Potiphar, an Egyptian official. Despite being torn from his family and thrust into a foreign land, Joseph demonstrates unwavering integrity and diligence in his service. His remarkable qualities do not go unnoticed, as Potiphar soon entrusts him with managing his entire household. However, Joseph’s ascent to prominence is abruptly interrupted by a test of character that will define the course of his destiny.

Enter Potiphar’s wife, a figure whose advances Joseph steadfastly rejects out of loyalty to his master and fear of sinning against God. Faced with her relentless pursuit, Joseph stands firm in his principles, refusing to succumb to temptation. Yet, his refusal incites the wrath of Potiphar’s wife, leading to false accusations of assault and resulting in Joseph’s imprisonment.

Joseph’s faith is tested once more in the darkness of his confinement. Yet, even in the depths of despair, he finds solace in the knowledge that God remains ever-present, guiding him through the trials that beset him. Through divine intervention, Joseph gains favor with the prison warden, who entrusts him with overseeing the other prisoners. He shows amazing resilience despite injustice and adversity, and his unwavering commitment to righteousness and faithfulness to God ultimately paved the way for his redemption and eventual ascension to a position of authority in Egypt. In this, we witness the intricate interplay between human agency and the Lord’s providence, as Joseph’s steadfastness in adversity aligns with God’s overarching plan for his life. He grew in spiritual stature and maturity in the darkness.

Like many others in Scripture, this chapter shines a light on the nature of power and moral responsibility. While tempted, Joseph’s refusal to compromise his principles underscores the importance of ethical conduct and the dignity of every individual. His exemplary behavior starkly contrasts the moral failings of those around him, highlighting the transformative power of integrity and virtue in the midst of a corrupt and fallen world. This shows us that in our own age, which is marked by moral ambiguity and ethical compromise, we, too, can be examples of hope and inspiration. We can emulate Joseph’s unwavering faith, resilience, and commitment to righteousness, knowing that even in the darkest of times, God’s hand remains ever-present. We, too, can be a light in the darkness.

Divine Extraction

Read This Week: Genesis 38

At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There, Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son named Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. – Genesis 38:1-5 NIV

Genesis 38 is a chapter often overlooked or cautiously approached due to its sensitive content and apparent break from the main narrative. However, beneath its surface lies a story that is very familiar to life and encapsulates themes of deception, redemption, and the mysterious workings of God’s providence. With the backdrop of the patriarchal era, this chapter unfolds amidst the lineage of Judah, one of the sons of Jacob. It begins with Judah’s departure from his brothers, venturing into the world of Canaanite culture, commerce, and religious practice. Here, he forms relationships that will profoundly impact his life and the future of his lineage.

The story itself revolves around the characters of Judah, Tamar, and the twins Perez and Zerah. It opens with Judah marrying a Canaanite woman named Shua and fathering three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Yet, things take a tragic turn with the deaths of Er and Onan, leaving Tamar, Er’s widow, in a state of limbo as she awaits the fulfillment of levirate marriage customs. Then, in a series of events marked by deception and betrayal, Tamar resorts to a disguise to trick Judah into fulfilling his duty as a kinsman-redeemer, or a relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the responsibility to act on behalf of another relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. Disguised as a prostitute, she seduces Judah, who unwittingly impregnates her. This act of desperation underscores Tamar’s resilience and determination to secure her future and ensure her place within the lineage of Judah.

Despite the moral ambiguity of the actions portrayed here, the overarching theme of God’s sovereignty and providence emerges as a guiding force, just as it has at each step in the book of Genesis. Despite the characters’ flaws and shortcomings, God’s plan unfolds with design and inevitability, using even their missteps to accomplish His purposes. Through this incident of Tamar’s cunning and Judah’s unwitting participation, Judah’s lineage is preserved. Ultimately, this leads to the birth of Perez, an ancestor of King David, and, according to the Scriptures, the birth of Jesus.

Once again, redemption and restoration emerge as prevailing ideas and outcomes. Through Tamar’s bold actions, Judah is confronted with his own moral failings, leading to his repentance and acknowledgment of Tamar’s righteousness. In the birth of Perez and Zerah, we witness the restoration of Tamar’s honor and the continuation of Judah’s lineage. God is a good Father in this way for us as well. He redeems our faults, deficiencies, and poor choices when we repent and turn to Him. He extracts His glory and restores us; human elements and weaknesses do not derail His sovereign plan. God enacts a beautiful, divine extraction of his purposes from the ugliness of sin and broken people.

This section may seem like a detour from the narrative of Genesis, but it’s not. Its significance lies in its exploration of the human condition, God’s provision, and the triumph of His redemption. Through the unique interplay of characters and events, we are reminded that despite deception and betrayal, God’s purposes remain steadfast, weaving together the threads of human history to fulfill His greater plan of salvation.

Faith Amid Adversity

Read This Week: Genesis 36-37

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in his old age, and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. – Genesis 37:3-4 NIV

Genesis 36 presents a fascinating exploration into the lineage of Esau, the elder twin brother of Jacob, whose story intertwines with the narrative of the patriarchs in the Bible. Often overshadowed by the prominence of Jacob, Esau’s descendants, as detailed in this chapter, offer valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics, heritage, and divine providence. This chapter meticulously outlines the genealogy of Esau’s descendants, detailing his marriages, children, and the formation of tribal communities that would shape the landscape of the ancient Near East.

Genesis 37 shows us, through the lens of Joseph’s famous story, that we are still susceptible to the human condition of sin and how despicable choices of people can intersect with the overarching sovereignty and plans of Almighty God. Central to this chapter is the iconic “coat of many colors” given to Joseph by his doting father, Jacob. This garment becomes a symbol of favoritism and Joseph’s unique role within the family. Its significance lies not in material value but in the relational dynamics it signifies. The jealousy it incites among Joseph’s brothers catalyzes the ensuing events that are both chilling and providential.

Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy over his father’s favoritism reaches a boiling point as they plot to rid themselves of him. Their actions speak to the depths of envy, hatred, and the destructive nature of unchecked resentment. Yet, amidst their betrayal, we witness the dichotomies of family relationships and the tensions arising from competing desires for love, recognition, and validation. But God’s hand of providence is unmistakably present amid Joseph’s trials. Despite being sold into slavery and facing countless hardships, his journey ultimately leads him to a position of power and influence in Egypt. His rise from despair to prominence underscores the theme of divine orchestration amid human frailty.

This section offers timeless lessons for us today. It prompts us to examine our relationships, motivations, and responses to adversity. Moreover, it reminds us of the transformative power of forgiveness and redemption, as evidenced by Joseph’s eventual reconciliation with his brothers. It serves as a foundational chapter in the biblical narrative, laying the groundwork for the trials and triumphs of the Israelite people. Through the lens of this story, we can reflect on our tendencies in the flesh and our sinful human nature, the interplay between free will and divine intervention, and the enduring power of faith amid hardship. Exercising faith despite our circumstances is relevant to every generation of believers.

As we journey through our challenges in life, may we draw inspiration from Joseph’s unwavering trust in God’s plan and care for him, knowing that even in the darkest times, we are never truly alone. We can place our faith in the Lord Jesus amid any adversity the world offers.

Return to Bethel

Read This Week: Genesis 35

So Jacob said to his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” – Genesis 35:2-3 NIV

In Genesis 35, we witness another crucial moment in a long line of pivotal moments in the life of Jacob, the patriarch of the Israelites. This passage unveils a journey of spiritual renewal, reconciliation, and divine promises. At its heart lies the significance of Bethel, where Jacob encounters God and reaffirms his commitment to His covenant. This narrative, like so many others, can inform our lives, help us glean insights into our walk with God, and give us wisdom for our spiritual journeys. It can help us understand the significance of our own symbolic return to Bethel.

Before diving in, it’s essential to grasp the preceding events. We’ve seen how both triumphs and trials have marked Jacob’s life. He’s encountered divine promises, wrestled with angels, and endured familial strife. Amidst this tumultuous path, his relationship with God has evolved, culminating in his encounter at Bethel. This section begins with God instructing Jacob to return to Bethel, where God initially appeared to him (Genesis 28:10-22). This command represents a call to spiritual renewal and reconciliation. It prompts Jacob to confront his past, both the blessings and the mistakes, and recommit to the covenant with God.

Upon receiving God’s directive, Jacob instructs his household to rid themselves of foreign gods and purify themselves. This act signifies a turning away from idolatry and a return to true worship of Yahweh. It’s a potent symbol of spiritual cleansing and reconciliation with the Lord and an ancient reminder to us that we should always be mindful of the things that hinder us from following Jesus.

As Jacob and his household journey to Bethel, God’s presence surrounds them, offering protection and assurance. There, Jacob builds an altar out of his devotion, and in response, God reaffirms his name change to Israel. This affirmation reiterates the promise not only to him but to his countless descendants. This moment resonates with profound spiritual truths that are applicable to our lives today. Just as Jacob was called to return to Bethel, we too are invited to revisit the places of our spiritual beginnings, to rekindle our relationship with God. Bethel represents a space of encounter, where we lay aside distractions and idols, purifying ourselves for divine communion.

Like Jacob, we’re called to undergo a process of purification and reconciliation, putting aside anything that hinders our relationship with God. It’s a journey of introspection, repentance, and surrender—a process toward renewed faith and intimacy with Christ. Bethel is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and the fulfillment of His promises. Just as God reaffirmed Jacob’s identity and inheritance, He assures us of our identity as His children and our inheritance in His kingdom through the cross. In moments of doubt or despair, we can look to Bethel as a testament to God’s enduring covenant, the new covenant of Jesus.

Genesis 35 invites us into the sacred narrative of Jacob’s return to Bethel, urging us to embrace our own spiritual renewal and reconciliation with ourselves and others. As we revisit the places of our spiritual beginnings, may we encounter the Lord in a fresh way, purifying ourselves and laying claim to His promises and the passion we once felt at the start of our life with God. A return to Bethel is always a worthwhile trip.