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September 13, 2020 | Doug Sauder
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“Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth. After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.’ So he named him Israel. And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.’ Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him. Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.”—Genesis 35:8-15 (NIV)
If the names Simba and Mufasa are familiar to you, then you have probably seen the movie The Lion King. The passage today actually reminded me of one of my favorite scenes of this classic Disney movie. When Simba’s father, Mufasa, passes away, he leaves Simba feeling lost and purposeless. Simba grows up allowing his insecurities about his identity to influence all his actions. Eventually, his father appears to him in some storm clouds and shares a simple yet profound message, saying, “Simba, you must remember who you are.”
In today’s passage, we see God do the same thing for Jacob. In order to fully grasp God’s purpose behind this, we must understand the context. Jacob had just settled with his family on some land near the Canaanites when a horrendous incident involving some of his children occurred. Jacob knew the Lord was not pleased with their family. As a result, God commands him to go back to Bethel, where he first gave him the new name Israel and cleanse his family of all idols and pagan customs which they had adapted. Jacob obeyed immediately and upon arriving at Bethel he set up an altar unto the Lord.
There’s something very important to be noted in God’s commands to Jacob and Jacob’s resulting obedience. God’s call for Jacob to return to him also involved repentance. Through this we can see that the message of repentance and grace has been the message from the beginning! In 2 Chronicles 7, Solomon appeals to the Lord through prayer and sacrifice and His response in verse 14 reiterates this same message that if His people would “humble themselves and pray and seek [His] face and turn from their wicked ways, then [He] will hear from heaven, and [He] will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Our Father is faithful and just to forgive us when we turn from our sin and run to Him! He has given us free will, despite His knowledge that it may result in our betrayal of Him, because He wants us to run to Him out of our own desire. Much like the father embraced his son as he came back home in the parable of the prodigal son, our Father embraces us when we return to Him as well!
We must take the first step, though, with the faith to know that He will meet us once we do and remind us of the identity He has graciously given us as “God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12). We, like Simba, need to remember who we are!
DIG: Why does our identity so heavily impact the decisions we make?
DISCOVER: Have you forgotten any aspects of your identity in Christ? If so, what?
DO: According to your previous answer, look up some Scripture relating to the aspects of your God-given identity that you may have forgotten. Run back to the Father today and ask Him to help remind you of your identity!