“Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”-Genesis 35:2-3
I mentioned in my last post that the ancient mideastern mind believed that gods were territorial.
I actually experienced similar feelings when as a small child I moved to Japan with my family.
I was aware that I was living in a country with a culture and belief system completely different to my American upbringing.
I remember worrying about whether the God of Israel who I had worshipped in America would also have power in this new foreign land I found myself in.
We can see this territorial mindset in Jacob when he commands his party to get rid of the foreign gods in their midst.
Jacob basically tells the people, “look we’ve now reached an area where my God holds power and we’re going to pay homage to him by building an altar. Now bury the gods you have. I don’t want them upsetting the god I worship. Also your gods are useless because they don’t have any power in this territory.”
Notice two mistakes in Jacob’s thinking.
1) He believes in the existence of other gods (they are really demons).
2) He believes that YHVH’s power is restricted to a certain area.
No doubt, the raid on Shechem by Israel’s sons including the people they took introduced not only many newcomers into Israel’s clan but also brought in all the many god idols they worshipped.
In addition, I’m pretty sure that Rachel had a strong attachment to and as a result was still holding on to the cultic figurines she had stolen from Laban.
See, in those times, it was normal for a conquering invader to steal an enemy’s gods because it was believed that this would greatly weaken the enemy.
Also, notice in verse 4 it says that they also discarded the “rings in their ears“.
This has nothing to do with God being against earrings.
The truth is, and archeology has abundantly testified to this, ear jewelry were often fashioned into figurines of gods and goddesses.
Now why were these idols buried instead of destroyed?
This was due to an ancient taboo that prohibited destroying holy objects of any kind.
Now one error that many Bible translators make is to say that these idols were buried under an oak tree.
They were buried under a Terebinth tree, which is part of the pistachio family.
When carefully studying Genesis chapter 35, one point that was strongly impressed upon me is the idea that God does indeed does play along with our incorrect perceptions of who He is until the timing is right, and then He corrects our thinking.
And Jacob is a perfect example of this.
Jacob didn’t understand that God is the God of everything and holds authority everywhere.
He also didn’t understand that there are no such things as other gods.
Now the biggest takeaway is this:
Even amongst believers today, God is playing along with us on many matters that we are convinced are true but over the course of time may prove to be dead wrong.
And I believe the Christian church is a perfect example of this.
He allowed the Church to go unchallenged for centuries in their belief that they had replaced Israel as the chosen people.
However, God is a master at making lemonade out of a lemon.
God used this false belief in the church to spread the gospel to the gentiles of the world.
But now the times of the Gentiles are coming to a close.
And God has begun to correct us in other areas as well.
Over the past 50 years this has begun by Him making it very, very clear that He NEVER replaced Israel and He is far from finished with His people.
I believe the Messianic movement is a spiritual manifestation brought about by the yearning of many believers to knock down the wall of separation between Christians and Jews (actually Yeshua has already knocked down this wall of partition).
I also believe this quite recent love and admiration for Israel emerging from certain sections of the gentile church is also evidence of God progressively revealing Himself and His will to his people.
So just has Jacob harbored false notions about the nature of God, so too does the modern church but I believe not for long.
The totally unscriptural beliefs that the modern church holds about the Sabbath, the law, and whether God really cares about what we eat or not, etcetera will I believe in the near future be overturned.
In His perfect timing, God will correct, teach, and continue to form us into His image so that indeed ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED!