What a mess! Bloodshed everywhere. Stolen goods. Women and children scarred by violence. What has happened to Jacob and his family? Where is God in all this?
Then God said to Jacob,
“Arise, go up to Bethel and live there,
and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you
when you fled from your brother Esau.”
God pursued Jacob. Jacob stood up to the sin in his son’s lives and had finally said that enough was enough. Then God spoke to him and told him to come back to him, to repent, to start over.
2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him,
“Put away the foreign gods which are among you,
and purify yourselves and change your garments;
3 and 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 wherever I have gone.”
Jacob took the next step in repentance – obedience to what he knew was right. He could not bring people back from the dead, but he could take the loot away from his sons. He could finally obey God and return to the land of his father, not compromising. He could call his sons away from bloodshed and to a place where they could see him worship God – see Jacob was choosing a better way.
The result of this one step of obedience: God appears to Jacob and blesses him. He renames him, giving him a new start. He restates his promise, not only to Jacob, but Jacob’s descendants, yes – the very ones who just slaughtered a city!
The journey ahead, walking with God, is not easy. Death continues with them, even in the midst of life. Beloved Rachel dies in childbirth. Sin continues with them, as one of Jacob’s sons, Reuben, has sex with a wife/concubine or Jacob’s and everyone hears of it. And then Issac, the father of Esau and Jacob/Israel dies. Another loss.
And for the last time, Esau and Jacob come together, to bury their father.