After Dinah’s rape and the slaughter of the Shechemites, Jacob (Israel) is afraid for his life. But God appears to him and says “go back to Bethel. Stay there and worship me.” Jacob now convicted of his backsliding calls his family to destroy their idols and moves back to Bethel and builds an altar and worships God. God renews his promises to bless Jacob and his descendants.

Then the text says something very profound. In Genesis 35:16 we read, “they left Bethel.” I can’t help but ask Why?  Bethel means “God’s house” or “the House of God.” Bethel is where man and God can meet.  Bethel is where God wanted them. When Jacob was at Bethel he worshipped God. Worship is what God wanted.

Nothing but trouble follows Jacob’s family after they leave. Rachel dies in childbirth, Reuben tries to usurp the leadership of the family by sleeping with one of Jacob’s wives. The other brothers sell Jacob’s beloved Joseph, Judah sleeps with Tamar…etc.

Nothing good comes when we leave the place where we worship God. God always wants us to be at a place where we worship him. The lesson for you and I: Stay close to God!”