Theme: Sanctification (Part 9)
(Key Verses: Gen 35:1-20)
The theme of sanctification runs throughout the scriptures, but is especially focussed in the life of Jacob for our learning (1Co 10:11; Rom 15:4). On the instruction of God, Jacob returned to Canaan after twenty years in Haran. If he thought his trials were a thing of the past, he was soon awakened to the truth that in Canaan the levels of tribulation will increase. Shalem (a city of Shechem) was the first place Jacob and his family stayed, which ironically means peace and safety, but their stay here brought great grief and misery to the family as their daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor, who was a Hivite and a prince of the country (Gen 34:1-3). This happened while Dinah was visiting the daughters of Shechem. In their hate-filled revenge two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, killed all the men of Shechem after the sons of Jacob made a deceitful deal with them to have all these men circumcised to allow intermarriage between the two groups (Gen 34:13-17). Jacob only discovered afterward what these two sons had in mind when this deal was struck, and he deplored this evil act of his sons. Jacob, however, remained focussed on the promises of God even through the severe trials and many distractions (Lev 20:26; Joh 10:36-39; Joh 17:19). The theme of sanctification in the scripture deals with this process of the perfecting of the elect of God to be a “vessel unto honour…and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Ti 2:21):
Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
1Pe 1:15 But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
1Pe 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
In Genesis 35 a few aspects in the lives of Jacob and his family are mentioned, which helps us to see why the enduring process of sanctification is such an important theme in scripture.
The priorities of the house of God are the focus for the elect
Through sanctification the elect are being separated from the self-centered spirit of the world in them with all its pride and lusts, to focus on the spiritual house of God and to be perfected and holy in their function to Him and others (1Jn 2:16; Exo 35:21; Jer 1:5; Act 13:2; 1Co 12:1-31; Eph 4:1-24; 1Co 6:2-3; Rev 20):
Gen 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel [Hebrew: “bêyth-‘êl” = house of God], and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
This is the second time Bethel appears in Jacob’s life. When he was fleeing from Esau to Haran, he had a dream one night, and in this dream he saw a ladder reaching heaven on which the angels ascended and descended, pointing to Jesus as the only way to God on which His messengers, His true elect, also find their spiritual function and purpose (Ecc 12:13-14; Mat 7:13; Joh 14:6; Eph 2:8-10; Php 3:9-10; 2Ti 2:21). Here Jacob took the stone he used as a pillow the previous night and set it up as a pillar the following morning and poured oil on it, representing his acceptance of God’s promises to him of the inheritance of the land and producing an offspring which God’s protection will never seize:
Gen 28:18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
Gen 28:19 And he called the name of that place Bethel [Hebrew: “bêyth-‘êl” = house of God]: but the name of that city was called Luz [means “almond tree”] at the first.
Gen 28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
Gen 28:21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
Gen 28:22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
The word “Bethel” is the first reference in the scripture of a manmade type of dwelling for God. No physical creation or manmade structure on earth can actually contain God, but this is how God, through the physical, wants us to understand something much deeper and more intimate about his intentions with His elect firstly, and with the rest of humanity (Rom 1:20). These are Solomon’s words written down to show us the intimate relationship between heaven and where God resides in His elect, as God has no desire to dwell in physical buildings (Deu 10:14; Psa 139:7-10; 1Co 3:16):
1Ki 8:27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
God’s focus is on spiritual intimacy with His elect in order that they indeed might be able to function to fulfill His purposes with all mankind. Mankind was first given a dwelling of flesh, which is marred or corrupted in the hand of the Potter (also called a “vessel unto dishonour”), before He makes us into a “vessel unto honour” which is our new resurrected dwelling in spirit:
Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Rom 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
1Co 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
Many earthly details of the physical “house of God” are given in the Old Testament which also helps us to see this spiritual process of sanctification in the hearts and lives of God’s elect in this age. We see a God that is meticulously at work if we look at the specifics and details in the materials used in these buildings and also the specialized functions of those who were attached to these structures, amongst others (Exo 35:21; 1Co 10:11; Eph 2:10). The overall emphasis with the purpose and functions in these structures was on holiness and proper functionality. Not even slight deviations from His instructions were tolerated by God (Exo 15:26):
1Ki 6:11 And the word of the LORD came to Solomon, saying,
1Ki 6:12 Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father:
1Ki 6:13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.
We see this single-mindedness also now in the life of Jacob and especially after this ordeal with the city of Shechem. Jacob is now taking stricter leadership in terms of holiness within his own family before they travelled to Bethel:
Gen 35:2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
Gen 35:3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
Jacob is cleaning his house of all idols – those who are visible and those who are hidden. Before we can enter the house of God there is a cleansing process which needs to be completed through the symbolic seven vials in our lives:
Rev 15:8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
Those who preach a secret rapture out of these plagues are busy with a contaminated and twisted gospel. As these old covenant sanctuaries with all their manifold offerings were given to the nation of Israel in their years of wanderings and being taken captive to experience all the heartache and pain, so they all reveal our own story and process of sanctification. Those who keep the way of God must enter through the flaming trials and plagues to enter to God’s paradise (Gen 3:24; Act 14:22; 1Co 3:12-15; Heb 10:14; 1Pe 4:12-17; Rev 1:1-3). Like Jacob is now doing to his household, so Christ cleanses His elected spiritual household through His flaming sword – His Word (Mat 21:12-17):
Mat 3:12 Whose [Christ’s] fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Everyone in Jacob’s household listened to him and brought their strange gods to him to dispose of under an oak tree in Shechem. The name “Shechem” means “shoulder” which is the part of the body that relates to “the place of burdens”. Shechem was indeed a place of burdens for Jacob, and here under this tree in Shechem he covered or buried these “strange gods” of his family in order to move forward in love and forgiveness:
Gen 35:4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
It was here where all the outward and physical images of their native region in Haran, Mesopotamia (spiritually referring to Babylon), were taken away from the family of Jacob, including the family gods which Rachel had stolen from her father, Laban (Gen 31:19; Gen 31:32-35). The family of Jacob left all their “former conversations”, even as the true house of God in this age is putting off their old corrupt man of flesh and its deceit:
Eph 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Eph 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
Eph 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
This brings the fear of God on those around us as they witness this powerful change from our “former conversation”. This fear of God is our protection from the fear of men, and this is what we also witness in the life of Jacob and those who were with him:
Gen 35:5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
Gen 35:6 So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.
Gen 35:7 And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
Another oak tree is then mentioned, but this time this tree is in Bethel, the house of God:
Gen 35:8 But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.
The scriptures do not mention the death of Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, but only her gravesite is stated (Gen 49:31). But the death of her nurse, Deborah, who was now buried here at Bethel are specifically mentioned (Gen 24:59). Jacob’s links and memories with his old life and the world outside Canaan, even his part in Rebekah’s deceit, are also being detached in this way. We, as the elect of God, do not dwell on past failures and deceit we ourselves participated in or had to endure on our road to spiritual maturity (Eph 2:2-3):
Isa 43:18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Isa 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Php 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
The name of this tree in Bethel was Allonbachuth, which comes from two Hebrew words “allôn” which means “oak” and “bâkûth” which means “weeping”. This “oak of weeping” all sets the scene for the bitter trials the house of Jacob is yet to face. It is when we are given to see that we are the house of God and the heaven He dwells in that we are taken through much more intense judgment, knowing there is a joy-filled purpose to God’s judgment. We learn so much more of God and His righteousness through the death of our old man (Isa 26:9; 1Pe 4:17; Heb 9:27):
Jas 1:2 (BBE) Let it be all joy to you, my brothers, when you undergo tests of every sort;
Jas 1:3 (BBE) Because you have the knowledge that the testing of your faith gives you the power of going on in hope;
Jas 1:4 (BEE) But let this power have its full effect, so that you may be made complete, needing nothing.
Here in Bethel God confirmed His promises to Jacob:
Gen 35:9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
Gen 35:10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.
Gen 35:11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
Gen 35:12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
Gen 35:13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.
The drink offering
A second aspect mentioned here in Genesis 35, which helps us to appreciate the process of sanctification in our lives, is what Jacob did after God confirmed His commitment to Jacob or Israel here in Bethel:
Gen 35:14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.
Gen 35:15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.
The drink offering relates to our attitude while going through judgment and trials. When we know that we are judged by God, we also know that every son that God receives is chastened of the Lord. We will not murmur as before when we in our immaturity were ignorant of the purpose of God’s wonderful works, even the evil He brings on us (Psa 107; 1Co 10:1-10). We will also respect the trials of our brethren who go through the very same fiery trials (2Co 11:1-33):
1Co 11:32 But when we are judged [Hebrew: “krinō”], we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned [Hebrew: “katakrinō” = a later judgement] with the world.
Heb 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Heb 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
1Pe 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.
The drink offering Jacob poured on the pillar of stone symbolizes this attitude of the acceptance of God’s love and grace even through His chastisement (Tit 2:11-12). This is the first mention of a drink offering in the scriptures, and here we are also given to know why this drink offering is important if we can appreciate the process of sanctification in our own lives. The drink offering has to do with the giving up of a life, like water or blood being spilled on the ground (2Sa 14:14; Joh 19:34). The offerings under the law of Moses also give us more important aspects relating to this offering when we are indeed in “the land of [our] habitations”:
Num 15:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 15:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I give unto you,
Num 15:7 And for a drink offering thou shalt offer the third part of an hin [a unit of measuring liquids] of wine, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
This drink offering in the law of offerings was usually a “third part of an hin of wine”. The number three (“third part”) is spiritually pointing to this continual process of dying daily “for a sweet savour unto the Lord”:
1Co 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
Joh 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Wine is also a product of ripe, crushed grapes, and this gives the picture of this crushing process in our lives (Neh 15:13; Lam 2:12). Spiritually wine is a symbol of blood, which is connected to life as is also seen in these words of Jacob on his deathbed to Judah and his household, typifying the life of God’s elected rulers (Lev 17:11; Isa 63:1-3; Hos 9:2-4):
Gen 49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.
Jesus’ life was given as a drink offering as we all take part in that offering first by our rejection and denial of Him and His true doctrine at our ordained time, before we can see how we ourselves are to be the drink offering in our association with Him and His doctrine (Mat 26:27):
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Mat 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Mat 10:40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
The pouring of oil
Jacob also poured oil on the pillar of stone at Bethel as he did before on his way to Haran (Gen 28:18):
Gen 35:14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.
Oil is a symbol of the spirit of God, and the pure oil of God is only connected to the true house of God and the true light therein which burns always because of this oil. This oil of His Word is necessary if we are to overcome the trials that God has in His storeroom for His elect. To keep our lamps trimmed is the way of the wise in the kingdom of heaven (Exo 25:6; Lev 6:13; Mat 5:14-16; Mat 25:1-7; Rev 21:23; Rev 22:5):
Exo 27:20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.
Psa 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Our travailing and hard labour
When Jacob and his family left Bethel to travel to Ephrath, Rachel was at that point in time pregnant with Jacob’s twelfth son. But this birth was to bring death to Rachel, Jacob’s dearly beloved wife:
Gen 35:16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.
Gen 35:17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.
Gen 35:18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.
Gen 35:19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.
Gen 35:20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.
Here again a pillar is featured, and the term “unto this day” in scripture wants to give us a token of this truth that sanctification is an ongoing process, even as these words from God’s mouth are fulfilled in every generation, even today in our lives:
Mat 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
The pillar of Rachel’s grave is the sure remembrance that we will indeed lose everything we became attached to in this life, and that is the only way the new man in Christ is being brought forth, symbolized by Benjamin, a type of God’s elect. For Rachel it was the son of her sorrow, which is what “Benoni” means. Our sanctification comes through the painful redemption from our old body with its carnal mind who is experienced as very strong and stubborn, yet God’s elect is given the strength of Christ in them to overcome everything (Jer 31:11-15; Rev 13:4; Php 4:13). For Jacob this son was the son on the right hand which is what the name “Benjamin” means as he represents the elect of God, Christ and His Christ, which is born through much tribulation only (Mat 2:1-18):
Act 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.