Jan 24 (Daily reading: Genesis 35-37) “Let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God” (35:3). We travel with Jacob’s back to the place of his first dream, which had occurred more than 20 years earlier. Following God’s instructions, he returned to his first encounter with God. He had fled home in fear and anxiety, and God had appeared to him and said, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (28:15). Since that time, Jacob had spent many tumultuous years in his dealings with Laban, and in navigating the troubled waters of his family life. He had returned to his home and reconciled with his twin Esau, despite his fears of him. But his return to Canaan did not mean that he began a life of smooth sailing! His daughter was raped, and as a result, two of his sons killed all the men in the city where the rapist lived. This put Jacob in a perilous relationship with other inhabitants of Canaan.
Perhaps our problems are not as disastrous as those of Jacob, but we can benefit by understanding what God asked Jacob to do. He told Jacob to return to a place of worship, to Bethel, the house of God, where God had visited him and assured him of his presence and blessing. Jacob said, “God…answered me on the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (35:3). We can return (often!) to memories of God’s blessing, to God’s calling, to God’s protecting, and we can find comfort and strength for the days ahead!