By Mary Vee
Jacob watched his brother, Esau, and the 400 men with him disappear over the horizon. Rachel gazed into Jacob's eyes. "Are we going to follow him?"
"I'm having second thoughts about meeting up with Esau." Jacob paced a few steps. "Sure, he was nice and welcomed all of us with opened arms, but maybe he's planning an attack when we're closer to my parent's home."
Rachel looked further down the road. "You don't really believe that, do you? He seemed genuinely happy to see you. If he wanted to attack, wouldn't he have done so right here where you parents wouldn't find out?"
Jacob stroked his beard. "Perhaps. For now, we'll travel as far as Shechem. I'll buy land there for us to settle on. It's a nice city and it's part of the land God promised my family, AND it's far from Esau."
Jacob did as he said. He purchased land, set up his home and built an altar to God. While his family lived there, his sons and daughter caused trouble with the people which ended in a terrible war. People from nearby cities became angry. Beads of sweat dripped down Jacob's face. He shoved his hand into his fist. "Those kids are going to get us all killed."
That night God spoke to Jacob in a dream. "Jacob, you need to move on to Bethel. That is where you should live. At that place you can make an altar to the God who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother."
Jacob woke. He stepped out of his tent and gazed up. The stars still blinked in the dark sky. What's the matter with me? God told me to return to Bethel once when I ran away from home, another time when He told me to leave Uncle Laban's house, and now this time. Three times he had to tell me. When am I going to make wise decisions?
He looked to the east at the horizon and noticed a glimmer of color in the sky. May as well wake everyone. It'll take a while to pack.
Jacob woke a few family members and sent them to wake the others. "There will be a meeting by the fire in a few minutes. Everyone is to come, family, servants, everyone."
A large group of people gathered, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and chattering to each other. Jacob held out his hand to hush the voices. "Listen everyone. God spoke to me in a dream last night. He told me to go to Bethel."
Joseph ran to his father. "Isn't that near Grandpa's house?"
"Yes, it is."
"I can't wait. Can we leave now?"
Jacob smiled and turned back to the others. "Look, I know some of you have foreign gods. I've been wrong allowing you to keep them. You are to get rid of them and purify yourselves. Wash and put on fresh clothes. Once we've honored God in this way, we can leave for Bethel. I'll make an altar to God there and honor Him for helping us. Go, get ready to leave."
The people went to their tents. It didn't take long before a pile of foreign gods lay on the ground next to the fire. They even gave Jacob their golden earrings.
Jacob grabbed a shovel and dug a hole under a Terebinth tree nearby. He called two of his sons. "Simeon, Levi, dump everything from that pile into this hole."
After a couple of trips, his sons cleared the pile and stood back. Jacob scooped dirt to cover the hole and pressed the dirt firmly down. He swiped sweat from his face. He turned to his household. "Clean yourselves and pack. I want to leave by the time the sun is straight up in the sky."
A few hours later, Jacob led his family toward Bethel. All along the way, God protected them.
Do you think Jacob made the right choice to live in Shechem? How do we know God didn't want Jacob to live in Shechem? God told Jacob in a dream to leave and go to Bethel. What did Jacob do before he left, and why?
Is there something that is so important to you that you think about it when you should be thinking about God?