Covering Up Sin

God told Jacob, “Return to Bethel, where I appeared to you when you were running from your brother Esau. Make your home there and build an altar for me.”

Jacob said to his family and to everyone else who was traveling with him:

Get rid of your foreign gods! Then make yourselves acceptable to worship God and put on clean clothes. Afterwards, we’ll go to Bethel. I will build an altar there for God, who answered my prayers when I was in trouble and who has always been at my side.

So everyone gave Jacob their idols and their earrings, and he buried them under the oak tree near Shechem.

While Jacob and his family were traveling through Canaan, God terrified the people in the towns so much that no one dared bother them. (Genesis 35:1-5)

Love really does cover over a multitude of sins. God takes care of his people even if they don’t believe the right things or do the right things. Jacob and his family had left Jacob’s uncle Laban and returned to the land of Canaan. Jacob had wrestled with God and had met his brother Esau. He had settled down near Shechem, where he had purchased some land.

Jacob had prospered. And yet, after all that time with his uncle Laban, after all his prosperity near Shechem, Jacob and his family remained less than fully devoted to God. His family—his wives and children and his servants—were worshipping gods other than Yahweh—and Jacob had allowed them to do so for years. But when God told Jacob to visit Bethel and build an altar to him, Jacob got an idea. He finally decided that his family needed to get rid of their idols as part of a purification process for going to worship the God of his fathers—the God that he had met so many years before at Bethel when he was fleeing from Esau. Jacob had always been grateful for how God had taken care of him through all the hard times in his life to that point. But apparently, until that moment, it had never occurred to him to worship God exclusively.
God had been merciful to Jacob and took care of him, despite how little he understood about God and how poorly he behaved or how inadequately he had worshipped him. Despite Jacob’s failings, God still had a relationship with him. God loves us and takes care of us no matter how far short of being right—even about the basics—we may be.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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