Go Back to “Bethel”

God met with Jacob at Bethel when he was still a needy person. And now that Jacob is already full to the brim, God commanded him to go back to Bethel.

Bethel is the place where Jacob first encountered the Lord. It was the place where he was given a dream and a promise. The place was originally called Luz, but Jacob renamed it Bethel because for him, it is where God resides – “house of God”. It was a special place, a refuge, a safe haven.

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Jacob landed on Bethel as he was fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau whom he deceived. He was so broken then, fearful, helpless and without anything to go on living. But it was during that most trying time, when everything has been stripped away from him, that God made him a promise – “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

And in response, Jacob promised:

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

A few years passed and God has been faithful to His part of the promise. Jacob’s wealth has increased tremendously and he became a father to a huge household. Moreover, he has once again earned the trust and the forgiveness of his brother Esau. And true enough, God has brought him back to Bethel, with all of God’s promises fulfilled!

God met with Jacob at Bethel when he was still a needy person. And now that Jacob is already full to the brim, God commanded him to go back to Bethel. It is as if God wants him to look back on how things went in his life. God wants him to go back to his first altar, to where his faith begun.

Surprisingly for Jacob, he demanded his household to purify themselves and to give him their pagan idols to be buried in the ground. And as Jacob went to worship the Lord in Bethel, God once again confirmed His promises – and for the second time Jacob was blessed with the name Israel – a name change signifying that he is no longer identified with his past sins and mistakes.

If you are a Christian, like Jacob, we all have our “Bethel” where we first encountered the Lord. Our Bethel can be a place or even a person. While we all know that God is everywhere, Bethel is a special because you know you commune closer with God there.

Are you in a moment of loss and despair? Why not go back to your Bethel and take refuge there? If life’s anxieties has brought you to your knees, rest your case to God and find relief in Him. Or perhaps everything in your life is going well right now. Still, God will be pleased to meet you at Bethel. It doesn’t matter whatever season you are in, Bethel is where the God of the universe meets with the vulnerable you.

As you return to Bethel, think of the things you might need to bury: your pains? Your regrets? Maybe your achievements? Anything that takes off your focus from God can be a pagan idol that might need to be buried on the ground.

Go back to Bethel. God is waiting for you there. He will gladly refresh you with His promises to never leave you, and will remind you that you are no longer the same fearful, broken and helpless person you used to be. You are no longer “Jacob”, but “Israel”.


When Good God Gets Angry

When the good God gets angry, will you repent and take His offer?

When Good God Gets AngryWe are familiar with Paul’s words to the Romans “If God is for us, who can be against us?” This is a comforting message to claim when the world turns its back on us. When we feel persecuted and we face people’s angst on us, we know that we got God on our side. If He is on our side, does it matter who is against us?

But what if God has this to say: “I am against you”? Does it matter who is on our side? We can have all the superpowers and the most influential in this world but if God is against us, we know we are in deep trouble.

This is the overwhelming message of God to Nineveh through the Prophet Nahum. Nahum, whose name means “comforted”, or “consolation”, brings a message of destruction for the ruthless city of Nineveh, who was once offered mercy when they repented through Jonah’s reluctant warning a century ago. It is as if they “repented of their repentance”. They turned their backs to the Lord who offered them mercy.

Now they are back from their old, evil ways. Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, brings terror to their neighboring countries, overpowering their enemies. They were so cruel that they would leave cities utterly destroyed. And now that this ruthless nation turns its attention to God’s own people, He finally intervened.

The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.
But with an overflowing flood
He will make an utter end of its place,
And darkness will pursue His enemies.

What do you conspire against the Lord?
He will make an utter end of it.
Affliction will not rise up a second time.

Nahum 1:7-9 (NKJV)

How do we reconcile God’s wrath with God’s love? Is one primary and the other one secondary? Are they flip sides of the same coin? Or is there no way to bring consistency out of these two natures of God?.

Yet while He is committed to bring about justice, He is a good God – a God full of patience.

When the Bible speaks of vengeance, it is not because about Him getting even because He’s into retaliation. It is not because He wants to get even with all the offenses we have done against Him. What He’s after is for justice to be served. He is a just God in the first place, and should He opt to not to bring justice, He is not worthy to be revered. Being just is one of His unchanging nature. His righteousness and commitment to what is good and just is evidenced by His anger against evil.

Yet while He is committed to bring about justice, He is a good God – a God full of patience.

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.

The Lord has His way
In the whirlwind and in the storm,
And the clouds are the dust of His feet.

Nahum 1:3 (NKJV)

God isn’t delighted when the people He created will also be the subject of His wrath. He doesn’t delight in the suffering of the wicked so He gives His people an opportunity to repent. He gives His people an opportunity to see how wrong we have gone, how unruly we have become. He is totally committed to bringing about justice because of His holy anger, yet He is also totally committed to His people. That is why He is slow to anger. He can both be good and angry.

In His total commitment to execute justice, there should be a recipient of such judgment. Someone has to pay the price. And unfortunately, we are all worthy candidates. But again in His total commitment to His people, He is the One who provided an offering to receive judgment. He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, justice is served. Through Jesus Christ, we can be set free from God’s wrath, only if we believe and take for ourselves what He did on the cross for us.

When the good God gets angry, will you repent and take His offer? Or will be like Nineveh and ignore the warning?