Deep Thought April 2023

The God of Bethel

Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in reCharge

The God of Bethel

While Maddy Svoboda was away on leave over Christmas, God used the time to help him recall some moments of big impact in his life.

In the Scriptures, there are familiar beats and rhythms that get hit on a regular basis. Examples include: “The Lord is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, and “Do not fear”.

Another one of the regular rhythms and sentences that comes up throughout the narrative of the Hebrew Scriptures is this refrain, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. It comes up in some significant places.

Over my recent time of long service leave, I was reading through Genesis and came to another phrase in Chapter 31 that, for the first time in my life, stood out to me: “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.” (Genesis 31:13 NIV)

I was familiar with the refrain of “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, but not so much “the God of Bethel”.

What was happening here?

Yahweh is speaking these words to Jacob, a man who had an incredible experience of him in a place he would name Bethel.

In this place, he had a dream that there was a ladder or stairway going up to the heavens. There were angels going up and down the ladder. God reaffirms the promises made to his grandfather and father and they are made to him.

When Jacob wakes, he cries out: “Surely the Lord was in this place, and I was not aware of it’ (Genesis 28:16 NIV). He anointed the rock he slept on as a pillar, and called the place Bethel or ‘house of God’.

Moving right along

Fast forward to Genesis 31, and we see God identifying himself as The God of Bethel. All of this is deeply personal to Jacob. Yahweh meets him where he is at, in order to call him to the next step of obedience.

This is the beauty of the incarnation of Jesus: he meets us where we are at by becoming one of us and dwelling among us (see John 1:14).

For me, he encountered me on the banks of the South Esk River in Hadspen after a horrendous 18th birthday party. Again, he encountered me at a Christian group camp shortly after where I was overwhelmed by the love of God.

Questions for you

As you reflect and pray, have a think about the following questions. You could even use your journal to write down your immediate responses.

Perhaps God will meet you with the next step of obedience, as God did with Jacob.

  • How did God meet you where you were at?
  • What does this mean for your involvement in the mission of God?
  • What does this mean for those in your life, who Jesus loves and you are in relationship with?
  • How might God be wanting to meet them where they are at?
Maddy Svoboda

Maddy Svoboda is the pastor at Summerhill Baptist, and represents the Greater Launceston churches on the Tasmanian Baptists Mission Leadership Team.

More Deep Thought

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The Sound of Silence by Denise Stephenson
A Change in Thinking for Changing Times by Laurie Rowston
Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
Just Mercy by Michael Henderson


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