Come Back to Bethel

by Dr. Ken Matto

(Gen 28:11-12 KJV) And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. {12} And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
(Gen 28:19 KJV) And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
(Gen 35:1 KJV) And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
If there is one thing which characterizes our contemporary society, it is the rush on everything. People speeding on the highways while blabbing on their cell phones is a common sight in New Jersey and I am sure that it is the same where you live. Hurrying around can place a great drain on our physical body and when we are physically drained we become spiritually tired and that causes us to neglect our spiritual life.
In these contemporary times there are also many different theologies being taught. Turn on one canned Christian radio station and every half hour you will hear a different teaching based on someone’s predilection. When we hear many different teachings, they can all begin to run together and eventually, if you are not careful, begin to adopt them as biblical principles and if they are incorrect it will give you a wrong teaching which you may build a life’s philosophy on. This can and will lead to spiritual disaster.
Jacob was such a man who was involved with much deceit and as a result he was on the run from his brother Esau and feared to meet up with him. One day he did and the outcome was not as he expected. His brother Esau was kind to him. Yet Jacob was in terrible spiritual distress and God gave him a command to go back to Bethel. Bethel was the place where Jacob dreamed and saw the ladder to heaven and also where he determined to tithe 10% of his income to God. God wanted Jacob to go back to Bethel to rest.
Resting is a foreign concept in today’s society but it is not foreign to the Bible. God knows that we are just flesh and bone and sometimes we need to rest, whether we want to admit it or not. Jesus rested with His disciples because even the Lord became tired. Ministry by itself is a very spiritually draining entity. If you work a full time job and have to do ministry on weekends and evenings it becomes more of a physical drain and add on to that the thousand other little things which must be done just to live such as shopping, housework, taking care of the children, etc. All of these things cause a physical depletion of our strength. I really feel sorry for the individual who formulates a belief system making God out to be a terrible taskmaster forbidding His children to rest.
If God did not want His children to rest, he would not have given us the plain ole’ Scriptures which teach us about resting.
(Mark 6:31 KJV) And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
(Exo 23:12 KJV) Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
(Exo 34:21 KJV) Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
(Prov 3:24 KJV) When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
Isn’t it interesting that even in the time of harvest God tells the Israelites they are going to rest. This is because God protects the crops and when a person does things God’s way they do not suffer loss. This is how we must view our Christian walk that the work will be there after I take a rest. It is actually a prideful belief to be of the opinion that God’s work will suffer unless you are involved 20 hours a day. If God commands the Israelites to rest during harvest and the Lord takes His disciples apart to give them rest, who are we to think that God’s kingdom will collapse if we are away for a little season of resting.
At this point I would like to offer some reasons why we need to rest:
1) To be refreshed
(Exo 15:27 KJV) And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
What is a greater sight when you are in the desert than a place of refreshing water and trees to guard you from the sun? Elim was such a place. The palm trees are used in Scripture to describe the believer. (Psa 92:12 KJV) The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. When the believer is well-watered with the gospel in a place where they are resting, the spiritual strength increases. Forget the world, the church situation alone should cause every true believer to seek refuge and be re-strengthened in the Lord. A car cannot be refueled at 60 mph, it must stop at the pump. The believer is like that car and cannot be filled while they are in high gear. (Isa 30:15 KJV) For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
2) To regain your spiritual perspective
Many times as we are bombarded with different gospels and philosophies, we will be surprised what we may begin to believe. It is this time that a nice sabbatical will do a Christian good to evaluate and compare their spiritual position to the Bible.
3) You were called to give all, not do all
Too many times Christians follow the false notion that they must do everything which comes across their path. Remember how bad off Moses was when he was trying to adjudicate all the legal complaints the people had against each other? It wasn’t until Jethro made him realize that he would burn himself out if he kept going the way he was. So Jethro made him delegate the work to others so he would be free to do other things. I have personally learned over the years of being in churches that whenever something had to be done and I over-extended my self, I was just supporting laziness in the church. Why should 5% of the people do all the work and the rest just come to church and do nothing. I once asked a preacher friend of mine about what good is it to preach week after week and the people still do nothing. In the last church I was thrown out of I was told that there were 4 pillars in the church and these pillars were do nothings: One was a communist who wore a big crucifix, one can’t wait for the service to be over so she could run to McDonalds to worship her hamburger god, another was a flaming Pentecostal, and the other was an old man who knew as much about the Bible as your average unbeliever on the street. I always thought pillars in the church were those who built up the church and the believers, not those who were self-absorbed. Never feel guilty if you cannot do something. Let others around you in the church take some responsibility. Learn to work within the spiritual parameters of the gifts God has given you. We get into trouble when we try to work in an area in which we are not gifted.
The Christian life can be a rewarding life if we do not burn out. Serving the Lord in the strength He has given us will always bring the blessing of God. Do not try to be the fix all and do all of your church as it will cause you to burn out which brings on a lot of stress and when we become like that, we then view the Christian life as a chore and not a life. We then lose the fervor and joy in our Christian walk and if we lose these things then we may slink into the life like those who are at ease in Zion.  (11/12/00)