There’s a place I love on the Pembrokeshire coast called St Govan’s Bay. It really beautiful, with amazing rock formations, but it also seemed to have something of the presence of God for me. You could just imagine St Govan living there, communing with God and interceding for the people. But if that was the only time I experienced the presence of God, then my life would be pretty empty!
That’s how it was for Jacob. In Genesis 35:6 he at last found his way back to Bethel – his St Govan’s Bay, the place where God had seemed so real. He knew as a fact that God had been with him the whole way, because he had promised it, but judging by his lifestyle, I don’t think he lived with the reality of that fact.
Now he had returned to Bethel, he gave it a slightly different name – El Bethel – the God of Bethel. But Bethel means ‘house of God’ so now the place was ‘God of the House of God’. It wasn’t just the place where God had turned up, but that God inhabited the place. God was in the house.
And that is what we need. God in the house.
For our church, we were reminded last Sunday that we need to really get to grips with the holiness of God. All too often we think of God as our ‘mate’ – a good guy who is always on our side. We too easily lose sight the awsome majesty of our holy God, one who is ‘other’, one who is to be worshipped with the utmost respect. It is wonderful if we get a glimpse of the presence of God, visiting us with a manifestation of his glory, but even more than that, we need to be seeking his habitation, God dwelling with man. God living in the house.
Jacob obviously had a sense of all that, but I don’t get the impression he really understood it. Yet his people would be a blessing to all nations. I’m not sure any of us can really understand it, but that doesn’t stop us from seeking it with all our hearts and lives. When God is in the house, we will begin to see his impact on the nations.