Reformation in the Family
Reformation in the family? What do I mean by Reformation in the family? Using the life of Jacob I will show you what the Lord highlighted in my life which was followed by action on my part. It is my prayer that this will speak to someone who is going or has just gone through similar situations.
Jacob had served twenty years in Paddan-aram (Genesis 31:38) when the Lord commanded him to return to the promised land. It is with uncertainty as to the kind of reception he will receive from his brother, Esau, that he prepares to cross over back into the promised land. As he prepares to send gifts on to pacify his brother and to make arrangements to protect his family, Jacob spends the night alone with the overwhelming desire to pray. This is where we read of His wrestle with God.
Come morning Jacob limps into the promised land and is reconciled with his brother. We read in Genesis 28:20-22 of the vow Jacob made to God;
Then Jacob made a vow, saying “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
And then in Genesis 31:3:
Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
A Disastrous Move
Not only was Jacob told to return to the promised land but also to his relatives. But Jacob chose to live near Shechem. And as we read through chapter 34 we see the disastrous consequences of this decision. Jacob failed to fulfill his vow.
Why did Jacob settle in Shechem? Not only was it a practical location in terms of rich pasture for his animals but it could also be regarded as a sentimental place as it was the place the Lord had first appeared to Abraham, his grandfather, on entering the promised land (Genesis 12:6-7). We know Even with a clear direction from the Lord Himself of where he was to go, Jacob bought a piece of land in Shechem on which he pitched his tent.
Whether or not one of the reasons was sentiment, we can be certain that in our walk with the Lord it is very dangerous to be led by sentiment. I can unfortunately relate to this.
Back in 1999 I moved over 200 miles from home to start a new life when I was 20. I left behind all I had ever known, both family, friends and a fantastic job, house, everything. I thought the place I moved to was going to be a temporary place to live until I decided what I was going to do next. I wasn’t in this place for more than a month when I met my now husband and months later gave my life to the Lord and remained in this city to the present day. Now during all these years I longed to go back to where I had "come from" purely for sentimental reasons. The grass began to look greener (though it never was) and every time I revisited my old home I felt that God was not with me. Now of course He was but I didn’t feel I was where I was supposed to be. But sentiment and my own sinful desires kept pulling me back. It became my "Shechem" so to speak. I knew God wanted me in "Bethel" but last year, after going through very difficult circumstances I wanted to "buy a piece of land and pitch my tent" in Shechem. Needless to say all sorts trouble occurred while I was there.
Then, thankfully, after going off in my own sinful ways and despairing of the situation God mercifully intervened, brought me to my senses, showed me my sin and called me to repent, give up my idols and "Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there". My family and I are now having a fresh start right here in "Bethel". Before moving to our new house (this move has coincided with our fresh start!) God showed me what my idol was through the story of Jacob and what I had to do. I went through the house and bagged up anything that linked me to Shechem, all items that had sentimental value that linked me to my old life. I then that evening, with my husband, burnt everything surrendering all to God. While all the remnants of the old life burnt on that fire I became overwhelmed with a feeling that something was lifted from me. A burden that I didn’t even feel before until I willingly gave it up. I kissed my husband and told him that this was not only a symbol that I was committing my all and surrendering to God but also that I am giving myself wholly to my husband as his wife and that this is our fresh start.
Now I know I don’t really come from a place called Shechem or that I live in THE town Bethel, and I am not Jacob, but God used this point in the patriarch's life to speak to me and show me the "idols" in my life. It is the beginning of a "Reformation in my family": a new chapter in my story. I not only burnt those links to the old life but I also removed myself from all worldly and unhelpful associations: any external influences that so easily contaminate and drag us down.
If God has highlighted any idols in your life do as Jacob did and respond immediately and "bury them", repent and seek the one true living God. If we look to Jesus and what He has done for us and we cannot help but be humbled and repentant. Idols can be anything that we value more than Him and place before Him and therefore distract us and cause us to stumble. This could be your call to make a fresh start!
I highly recommend the following book: Theophany: Close Encounters with the Son of God.