The AMI QT Devotionals for January 8-14 are provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Returning to Spiritual Beginnings”
So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.
Whether it is looking at before and after photos of weight loss or listening to amazing testimonies of growth in people’s faith, we all love to record the positive changes in our lives. By reading Genesis 34-35 back to back, we see a great contrast in Jacob’s behavior. After his daughter was raped, Jacob responded silently: he didn’t go to rescue his daughter or confront Shechem—most likely because of fear. His lack of action opened the way for his sons to take the situation into their own hands through murder. But in the midst of this crisis and having an increasing terror of the Shechemites, Jacob clearly hears the Lord’s voice to go to Bethel and build an altar, “because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother,” So he actively leads his family to prepare for worship by telling them to purify themselves (Gen. 35:2). This time, Jacob responded with action instead of passivity.
Bethel is a significant place, for this is where God first appeared to Jacob (Gen. 28) and God was so tangible and real to Jacob at that encounter. He had been running away from Esau in fear, but God’s appearance led him to praise God. By going back to Bethel—this time with his family— Jacob declared again his faith towards God, which he first declared at the same spot in Gen. 28:21: “If God will be with me…then the Lord will be my God.” Going to Bethel was not only an escape from Shechem, but it was a time of renewal and drawing near to God; thus, he named the place El-Bethel, meaning “God of Bethel.” In mishandling his daughter’s rape situation, Jacob really “blew it” with his passivity and timidity, but he didn’t fall into despair but instead called his family to get ready for a new place with God. Though Jacob is a man of many weaknesses—which we can all relate to—he increasingly strives for God. Jacob’s spiritual journey really echoes God’s abundant grace.
This morning, ask the Lord to reveal areas in your life that need to be renewed and to guide you in His grace.
Prayer: Dear God, teach me to receive Your grace today and also learn how to respond properly to Your grace with acts of obedience. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Romans 10
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV): Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Questions to Consider
- According to Peter, how should believers pursue spiritual growth?
- What is Peter’s encouragement to believers?
- What is common about malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander?
- Believers are called to depart from their former ways of life, and pursue spiritual growth by being like newborn babies who desire the pure spiritual milk. He is not saying to take on more spiritual disciplines of reading God’s word for the sake of discipline. But as we read and listen to God’s Word, crave for spiritual nourishment from the Lord.
- We all taste the kindness of the Lord upon conversion, but tasting more of God is an ongoing nutrition we need throughout our Christian walk so that we can grow.
- These are sinful attitudes and behaviors that happen among people. Part of growing up in our salvation is not only loving God, but also loving people better than we did before.
Jacob renamed the place from Bethel (House of God) to El-Bethel (God of the House of God). In his vision during his first time at Bethel, he saw a stairway to heaven, leading him to call the place House of God. In changing the name, it was no longer about the place itself, but about God Himself. As we walk through the life of Jacob, one thing we could reflect on is how we approach our faith activities. In your life, is going to church, prayer meetings, Bible studies and small groups about fulfilling an activity or meeting with God?