The faithful Pilgrim

And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael. Genesis 33 vs 20

Jacob raised his first altar at Shechem and called on God, even his God but He never answered him (El-elohe-israel – God, the God of Israel).

Let us see the background:
Shechem was in the land of Canaan. It was the first encampment of Abraham when he arrived in Canaan from Haran and God appeared to Him and gave him His promise, then he raised an altar there.

When Jacob and Esau parted on the way to the promised land, the former moved to Succoth, built a house, and made booths for his cattle. Succoth was Jacob’s last encampment at the east of Jordan before crossing the Jordan River to the promised land, Canaan (Shechem). He was the first Hebrew and pilgrim to build a house, not a tent, and the name of the place is called Succoth. When he secured a permanent place for himself and his cattle then he decided to go to the land of his fathers as the Lord instructed him. He might have built a house for himself to secure an inheritance for himself at the east side of Canaan peradventure Esau is still eyeing the inheritance (Promised land). So Jacob was not ready to be a “passing pilgrim in the land”.

He went to Shalem, a city of Shechem in the land of Cannan not too far from Succoth. He placed his tent outside the city and purchased a parcel of the field from the family of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money.

So when Jacob raised an altar and called on God, the Lord did not appear to him because the promised land that God wanted him to possess and dwell in is not a priority to him. He already secured a permanent residence for himself outside the promised land.

So we saw that God called him Jacob (supplanter) when He appeared to him in Bethel and later changed his name to Israel. This was the second time.

“And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram and blessed him. 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 35:9

Jacob Well near Shechem | National Galleries of Scotland

When the devil sensed that the seed with the blessing, that is Jacob the fugitive, was back from the captivity he kept him – the house of Laban, he knew there was a problem. He was afraid the promised land will be taken for the Lord again. He was afraid that Jacob has come to revive the works of his faithful fathers- Abraham and Isaac. The moment the devil saw Jacob raise an altar in Shechem to the Lord like his grandfather, the devil knew he has to act fast, so the struck his home, and he targeted Dinah, Simeon and Levi to cause a problem for him so that in this first encampment, Jacob will not proceed further but rather be destroyed. The next thing that the scripture alerted us immediately he raised as the altar was that Dinah went out… Dear Minister of God, we know and understand that the Lord Jesus has called you but if you are not sincere with God and you are not rightly located where He wants you to be for the sanctification of your life and family, that altar/ministry you are starting will consume you and your family.

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I [being] few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.” – Gen 34:30

The devil feared that now that this man has surfaced again, after escaping Laban’s captivity and swords and Esau’s swords of destruction and even raising an altar to the Lord, he needed to act fast before he revives the land for Jehovah.

Raising an altar in Shalem is like bringing the gospel to the doorstep of the unsaved. We hear no more of the first altar that his grandfather, Abraham, raised at Shechem. Now this was Jacob who has gotten his bearing and wanted to revive the works of his grandfather and reestablish the covenant of God for their generation.

The Omission
Jacob’s great omission was that he has not fulfilled the vow he made twenty years ago at Bethel, which was to follow God with a total and sincere heart, build a house for God (secured his family in Christ first) and the gift he promised God.

God expected Jacob to come and fulfill his vow in Bethel before raising an altar for him (starting a ministry) at Shechem and he needed to build a house for God (Gen 28:22), and this house begins with the sanctification of his family.

He was supposed to make peace with God and not encamp elsewhere with his family. Starting that ministry is not more important than fulfilling our vow to God, following God with a total and sincere heart and leading our family to do the same.

As fathers, when we are not situated where God wants us to dwell we will predispose our family to danger. God was clear about where Jacob ought to return to but he kept playing the ‘Jacob (supplanter)’. He was to return to the land of his fathers, and to his kindred and God will be with him. Perhaps if he had gone to Bethel, he won’t have exposed his family to the horror in Shechem.

God was waiting for him and his household, ready to sanctify them, introduce Himself to them and blessed them at Bethel. God wanted Jacob to dwell at Bethel for that was the ground that He promised to start with him and spread to the rest of Canaan till all the families of the earth are blessed through his descendant.

The effect of this negligence.
1. Dinah was defiled.
2. Simeon and Levi, out of vengeance, killed all the males in Shechem; blood was on their hands and carted away with the females, animals and goods.
3. He temporarily lost the parcel of ground he bought with his money.
4. Jacob’s well was lost and he had to go to war to regain it because of its significance for Jesus in the coming years (Remember Jacob’s Well and the Woman of Samaria story).
5. He was at risk of being killed by the people of Canaan.

The hymn We’ll Live In Tents is very apt in describing what should be our disposition as Christians.

God bids His people on the earth,
Before he comes and calls them hence
To live unknit to home and hearth,
Like far-bound travelers in tents.

O brother, whatsoever chain
Binds us to fleshly lust and strife,
Here let us rend it in God’s name,
And live, henceforth, the pilgrim life.

Let us pray:
Dear Lord, help me to live as a pilgrim and stranger on the earth till I possess all the land for Jesus. Lord, please help me to possess for Jesus the nations you have promised and revive the labours of the Fathers of faith. Amen.

Sunday Oladiran is a teacher of God's Word, committed to the revival and reformation of the body of Christ. He lives in Ibadan, Nigeria, together with his wife, Bukola. They have two children.

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