It Is Always a Good Idea to Go to Bethel

Genesis 35:1-3 says, And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God,…

When God gives an instruction, there is always an action involved. Many times, we wait for God to do what He has instructed us to do. God told Jacob to go to Bethel. This was not an unusual request because Jacob had met before with God there. This time, Jacob found himself in circumstances that prompted God to send him where he could get help.

Jacob’s daughter had been defiled. The father of the man who had defiled her then tried to make amends and form an alliance with Jacob; but Jacob’s sons were angry and wanted revenge. Through plotting and deceiving, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob’s sons, killed every man in that family. Then, they spoiled the land, seizing all the animals and wealth and taking the women captive. Jacob was ashamed and afraid. Genesis 34:30 says, And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Because his two sons killed a great number of people and spoiled the land, Jacob was fearful that the people of that land who vastly outnumbered them would rise up and destroy them. Based on the past trajectory of his life, Jacob found himself in trouble and did not fully understand all that God would do. God’s response was not what Jacob expected. God simply told Jacob to go to Bethel. Bethel means “the house of God.” God wanted Jacob to build an altar and spend time with Him there.

This story is a good reminder for us as God’s people. When we find ourselves in trouble or in a frightening situation, it is always a good idea to go to Bethel. The church––where God does business with us––is a great place to be. God’s people who find themselves afraid or in trouble should go to Bethel. When we do not know what to do or how we will make it through, we should go to Bethel. It is where we find God.

God was reminding Jacob. Yes, the inhabitants outnumbered them. No doubt, they would be more than a little upset at what Simeon and Levi had done. God wanted Jacob to visit with Him, and He would take care of everything else.

When we find ourselves in trouble or in fear, we should not run from but to Bethel. We should not run from the altar but back to the altar. Certainly, we should not tear down the altar but build up the altar. We must run to Bethel.

Jacob was a man without a country and at the mercy of those around him. After evaluating the situation, he said, …I shall be destroyed, I and my house. When we find ourselves in trouble, we sometimes ask God why would He allow us to be in that situation. God just wants us to get to Bethel. Jacob did not ask God to remove the threats and the enemies so he could have an easier time getting to Bethel. God had told him to go to Bethel, and when he got to Bethel, he discovered that everything was going to be okay. God intervened in Jacob’s life when He sent him to Bethel. Just as it was a good idea for Jacob, it is a great idea for God’s people to get to Bethel. In the future when we find ourselves in trouble or with fear, we must go to Bethel.

Verse 1 says, 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. God had a purpose in sending Jacob to Bethel. Once before, Jacob fled for his life, and God met with him in Bethel. After the altar was built, God promised to bless him and provide for him. Now God wanted him to return to Bethel.

Christians today need to go to Bethel and to the altar once again. Sadly, many stay away from Bethel and the house of God and resist the altar to avoid having to take inventory of their lives and to do business with God. In the south there is a church on nearly every street corner, but few of the altars found in them are where man and God do business as opposed to being entertained by second-rate musicians. I am talking about altars where the Word of God is true; where the Spirit of God convicts; where on that altar, man lays his failures, fears, and shortcomings; and where man places himself on that altar to make himself available to the only God Who can deal with his fear and trouble. Christians today need to do business with God. We can sit around in fear and trouble, but God has a solution. The solution is the same for us as it was for Jacob: we must get back to Bethel and rebuild the altar where we have done business before with God. It would be good for God’s people to revisit the altar and remember what God did for us before at the altar.

What memories entered Jacob’s mind when God told him to arise, go to Bethel, dwell there, and make an altar? God reminded him what He did for him when he was at Bethel before. We must remember what God has done for us in previous visits to an altar. We must remember when we bowed our knees and our hearts at an altar––whether it was in church or on a front porch––and recall when put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. We need to revisit the altar when the Spirit of God was so real and the conviction of the Spirit was working in us, so much so that in response, we surrendered our lives and futures to God there. We need to revisit the altar where we laid down our burden and our bitterness and allowed God to work in our hearts. It would be a good idea if Christians would revisit the altar where God put their homes back together and bestowed His blessings and protection on their families. We must revisit the altar. We have to get back to Bethel.

What would it do in our nation if the Christians went back to Bethel? Our nation’s trajectory could be changed overnight if God’s people would go to Bethel––to the altar. The recipe is still in the Bible, and it has nothing to do with a political party or a political figure. Many Christians have placed their hope in a President so that they did not have to get on their knees and deal with their own sins. No human politician has the ability to do what God said He would do when it comes to Bethel. Christians need to go to Bethel.

Verse 3 says, 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. Verse 5 says, 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. Jacob went to Bethel. He acted in faith, trusting in God’s care and ability. Because of this, Jacob and his family were spared and protected from their enemies. When was the last time we felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit? What did God do in our lives when we did not resist Him? He picked us up and gave us hope. We must go to Bethel––the altar in the house of God. We have tried everything else. Maybe we should try God’s plan. Many are desperately looking for solutions for their problems, but God already has the answer. It can be found at the altar. It’s always a good idea to go to Bethel.


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by pastor greg neal

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