“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.”
Many years had passed since Jacob left Canaan to go stay with his family in Haran. He left Canaan to flee from his angry brother, Esau, and to find a wife among the daughters of his uncle, Laban. Twenty years later, Jacob returned to Canaan. He settled in a couple of places, but our text tells us that “God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God.” God specifically wanted Jacob in Bethel.
Bethel, which means “house of God,” was the place God met with Jacob as he departed for Haran. At that previous encounter, Jacob had a vision of a ladder reaching to Heaven, and angels were descending and ascending on it. God spoke to Jacob and confirmed the promise of Abraham to him. When Jacob awoke, he promised that if God would be with him and protect him while he was away, one day Jacob would return to Bethel and tithe to God of all that He blessed him with.
In our text, God tells Jacob to get back to Bethel and to stay there. There are two lessons we should consider from this passage of Scripture. It reminds us that God expects us to keep our commitments. The Lord wanted Jacob to go to Bethel and fulfill the vow he had made more than twenty years earlier. Sometimes we may forget commitments we make to God, but He does not forget. He wants us to remember and pay those vows. Perhaps there are commitments you have made to God and have not kept them.
Something else that is very important to each of us is taught in this story. Jacob was to go to Bethel and “dwell there.” As we said, Bethel means “house of God.” God also wants us to go to the house of God and dwell there. The New Testament states clearly that the Lord’s churches are the house of God. It is there that God meets with His children in a special way. Too many people do not understand the importance of the assembly of the Lord’s churches. They treat church attendance and church membership too casually. Also, people leave churches for minor reasons. They fail to understand that if God added them to that church, they should be committed to stay there until God directs them elsewhere. God said, “go up to Bethel, and dwell there.”