Genesis Day 55: God finishes what He starts…in each of us
Sometimes we feel alone.
We have hopes, dreams, goals…and they are just not falling into place. We make progress, but then, despite our best efforts, we seem stalled. Maybe someone has come along and seemingly blown up what we have been working towards. Or maybe we just seem to be stuck in neutral.
Our long-sought and promised life—The Promised Land—seems far off. We feel alone.
It might be more than loneliness. It might feel like defeat.
We’ve all been there. Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you want to throw in the proverbial towel.
We are coming to a place in Genesis where Jacob’s presence in the story will be diminished. It is not that he has reached the end of his life, but he will soon not be the major player in God’s story.
Maybe you are thinking, “Are you kidding? It ends with him running away!?”
Hold on a moment. While it may seem like two of his sons have blown up his dream, God is not done.
God finishes what He starts—God brings Jacob back to Bethel.
Bethel, which literally means “House of God.” Or, as we might say, the place where we worship.
The retribution that Jacob’s sons took on the people of Shechem requires that Jacob leave. God’s direction to Jacob rekindles in Jacob a complete returning to the Lord.
He gathers all their foreign gods and removes them from his clan. Notice, they had foreign gods. Jacob’s God had yet to fully penetrate the hearts of his tribe. This return to Bethel is so that God can finish what He began—the setting apart of a people wholly committed to Himself.
This is the God we worship. A God who is faithful, even when we are not. Even when we pollute our lives with all our modern-day idols of money, power, sex… God remains faithful. He is determined to complete that which He has begun in us.
Two other names get my attention: Deborah and Ruben.
The text (35:8) refers to Deborah’s death. Deborah was Rebekah’s nurse. Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, was deeply involved in Jacob’s deception of his father, Isaac. We have not heard anything of Rebekah since that fateful event which sent Jacob packing.
I wonder about her. This seemingly oblique reference to her reminds me of her, and the curse she called upon herself when the deception all began (27:13). We will read of her again in reference to her burial in chapter 49.
Second, we read of Ruben lying with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah. Two of his other sons (Simeon and Levi) brought disgrace to their father when they killed the people of Shechem. Now, it is Ruben. These are the first three sons of Jacob. As we progress through Genesis, you will notice son number four, Judah, taking a leading role. In Genesis 49:3-12, we see this reach its climax on the deathbed blessings that Jacob pronounces. In fact, Jesus will come from the tribe of Judah.
Which brings us to Isaac’s death. Esau and Jacob are there. And in that scene, what God promised Isaac is one step closer to fulfillment—for Jacob and his 12 sons are in the Promised Land. God has finished in Isaac what he started 180 years earlier.
I write all of this to underscore my main point: God finishes what He starts…in each of us.
Just as He said to Jacob, He says to us, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
He makes this totally possible through His Son Jesus.
Reading the Bible, understanding the Bible, often leads to us looking critically at the text. Which is not a bad thing. When I do, I tend to see all the things the humans are doing wrong.
Which is not a bad thing. If I can see what others are doing wrong, can I bring up the uncomfortable question—what is going on in my life that looks awfully similar to what is going on this theirs? Is it time for me to return to Bethel, to the House of God?
Always good to ask these questions.
But perhaps that point of view is missing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is inviting us to see what God does in the midst of a life like Jacob’s—and like mine.
Jacob’s story tells us many things—one of them is that God finishes what He starts.
He did it in Jacob’s life, he will do it in yours and mine.