For the week of December 13, 2008 / 16 Kislev 5769
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 32:4 - 36:43
Prophets: Hosea 11:7 - 12:12 (English: Hosea 11:7 - 12:11)
Bringing Evil to Light
So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments." (Bereshit / Genesis 35:2; ESV)
Jacob had gone through a lot. After colluding with his mother to deceive his father in order to steal his father's blessing from his older twin brother, he ran for his life. It would be many years before he would return to the land of his birth and have the encounter with God that changed his life for good. It was in that encounter that God first changed his name to Israel. Sometime later, when God summoned him to the town of Bethel, he conferred this name upon him again. Bethel was the town where God first appeared to Jacob when he was running away from his brother.
In preparation for this meeting with God, Jacob directed his family to rid themselves of foreign gods, purify themselves, and change their garments. Obviously this means that his household had been in possession of idols. This may shake up your impression of Jacob's family. We like to think of the key Bible characters as wonderful examples, but that's often not the case. Jacob himself was not a true follower of the God of his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, until his injurious encounter with God not too long before this incident.
It appears that it was God's summoning of Jacob that prompted him to direct his family to radically deal with the evil in their lives. Why they still had such things we are not told. We are only told that Jacob instructed them to get rid of them and they did.
Have you ever heard God summon you to worship him? Maybe not in the same way that God spoke to Jacob. But perhaps you have felt a tug on your heart to draw close to God, to give him your attention in a much deeper and focused way. It is often in those times that we become more fully aware of the evil in our lives.
I wonder how many people have struggled with the awareness of evil in their lives just as they also found themselves drawing closer to God. We may treat that awareness as a distraction instead of realizing that it is the nearness of God that is bringing to light the evil in our lives. When God draws us closer to himself, his light often shines upon our lives in increasing intensity, revealing areas of darkness that we may not have been aware of. This is a good thing. We should not be quick to worship God until we effectively deal with the evil God is bringing to light.
Additionally, we should not be surprised in these times that God may also prompt us to deal with lingering evil in our households. Many of us tend to think of spirituality as a private matter, but Jacob's role in his household was not just a cultural thing; it was his God-given role. He was responsible to direct his family in God's ways. The idols in his household were not dealt with until Jacob dealt with them. He didn't wait for his wife, children, and servants to figure out godliness on their own. He knew what was right and directed them accordingly.
Fathers especially need to take this responsibility very seriously. In order to lead our families in God's ways, we need to direct our household accordingly. It is not good enough to simply lead our families in worship, we must also lead them in godliness. We should start by taking the lead and deal with the evil in our own lives; then we need to direct our loved ones in doing the same.
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