There's Value in Going Backward

"I'm back to square one."

"Do not pass go, do not collect $200."

In life, most of us don't want to go back to the beginning. In Monopoly we want to go back to "Go," where we started, because it does have certain advantages.

I read an interesting story this morning in my devotions that reminded me of the value of going back to the beginning of our spiritual journey.

Jacob was called by God to return to the land from which he had fled after deceiving his father and cheating his brother. He'd learned a lot of lessons along the way and there were some he still had to learn. On the eve of his entrance into that familiar, but painful, territory, Jacob had an encounter with God, one that changed his perspective again.

When Jacob entered the land he met with his estranged brother—an awkward but moving event. Jacob kept his distance from Esau by settling in the city of Shechem. Eventually the actions of his sons created some serious problems with the neighbours and God instructed Jacob to return to Bethel.

Bethel.

This was where Jacob had rested on his first flight from his home. This was where God had met with him in a dream and made promises that were in the process of being realized; where he had made promises to God (Genesis 28:10-22).

In preparation for the journey Jacob did something that is significant. "So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, '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.

Jacob went back to his spiritual beginning. He went back prepared, leaving behind the chains that he had acquired along the way, cleansing himself in preparation for the renewal of the vow he had made so many years before at Bethel, the place where he had first met God.

There is value in going back to our spiritual beginnings with God, to remembering where we came from, and what God has done in our lives. There is value in examining what we might have gathered along our journey, things that now slow us down spiritually. There is value in putting those things aside, in "cleaning house" and in renewing the vows we once made.

We know from Scripture that we can't lose our salvation once we have accepted Christ. That's not what I think we are being reminded of here. It's just that what was a clear spring on that day when we came to faith often gets muddied up as we journey through life. The sharp edge of the encounter with God that made such a difference to our here-and-now and our hereafter, becomes dulled. We forget that we bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and that along the way we have gotten to our feet and walked, perhaps not away from him, but at a distance. Going back to remember who he is to us—Saviour and Lord—and to renew our promises, is liberating.

Going back to our Bethel for a visit means another encounter with God. And that's a good thing.

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