After the humbling events of Genesis 34, God reminds Jacob of his promise (Gen 28:21-2221and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.22This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”) and tells him to go to Bethel. God intends to bless Jacob. He wants to do this in Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. There is the house of God, there He dwells, and wants to have His own with him. Today the church is the house of God (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.).
When Jacob thinks of meeting God in His house, he realizes that he has to bring his own house into conformity with God’s house. In his family there must be cleansing, the idols must be removed, and the garments – which speaks of behavior, which the people perceive of us – must be adapted to what is appropriate for God’s holiness.
It may be that Jacob, through everything his family has entered that is not in harmony with God’s thoughts, has lost sight of what he promised God. Wrong things in the life of a believer make him blind to what is due to God. “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecc 5:55It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.). However, God can recall it.
God’s house means that God wants to live with people and that people want to live with Him. He wants to bless them. The man who lives with Him may serve Him. But where He dwells, He determines the house rules. In His house reigns His authority and everything must be to His glory (Psa 29:9b9The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
). The recognition thereof gives blessing.
God has not told Jacob to cleanse his own house, but Jacob feels it well. He orders his house to do so, he takes his responsibility. Only then there can be a going up. Apparently a lot more has entered Jacob’s family than just the idols of Rachel (Gen 31:30-3430Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; [but] why did you steal my gods?”31Then Jacob replied to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.32The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take [it] for yourself.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find [them]. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent.34Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find [them].). All the idols and also the earrings – in this case this speaks of listening to things we like to hear – are brought to Jacob and he buries them. This is the first burial of this chapter. Three more will follow (verses 8,19,298Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.19So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).29Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.).
Here we can see the oak as a picture of the cross. That is where we should bury our idols. For us this means that we confess before God what in our lives has been given a place next to or instead of Him and see that the Lord Jesus has borne the judgment for it. Then it is gone (1Jn 1:99If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.). The result for Jacob is that God protects him (verse 55As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.; 2Chr 17:9-109They taught in Judah, [having] the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.10Now the dread of the LORD was on all the kingdoms of the lands which [were] around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.; Jos 2:99and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.).