top of page

45. Go Up to Bethel

PDF File Download [icon_link style=”download” color=”blue” href=”″][/icon_link]

And Dinah, the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her (Genesis 34:1~2)

We May Know the Road’s Exact Width

I have a younger cousin who lives in Hiroshima, Japan. He used to be a race car driver. Now that he is older and retired, he now works as a civil engineer. He makes bridges, tunnels, and roads in his city. I once visited his house and he told me, “Cousin, I built this bridge. I build this road. I built this tunnel.” Roads in Hiroshima are very rugged with many rocks. He said that he had built most of the roads in the area. We talked about many things in the car, and I asked him, “Hey, it seems that it was terribly difficult to dig these tunnels. Wasn’t it hard?” He answered that it was not hard at all. I then asked what was hard and he told me that in Japan receiving the completion approval for the road was the most difficult. He told me that even a one centimeter error in the width of the road is unacceptable.

The roads in Japan are very straight and clean, and I thought, “This is so because of the inspectors.” If a person who builds roads thinks, “This is probably good enough,” he will be in big trouble. Unless he follows the standards, he has to fix all that he has already built. My cousin told me about how extremely difficult that was. The world we see with our eyes can easily be understood this way. We can easily tell whether a road is one centimeter too wide or too narrow by simply inspecting it. However, it is difficult to pinpoint such things in the world of the heart. As a result, many people in spiritual life think, “If I do this much it means I have good faith in God. I am better than Deacon Kim. I diligently gave tithes and attended early morning services amidst difficulties. If I am doing this much it means my spiritual life is going well.”

Why Is He Having Me Suffer Such Hardship?

All of a sudden, a terrible problem arises in Jacob’s life in Genesis chapter 34. His daughter was raped and taken captive by the son of the chief of that area while she was out enjoying herself. They had too many men for Jacob to fight them and he was at a loss of what to do. When we read of this in the Bible we think, “Jacob believes in God. Why is God allowing Jacob to suffer this kind of hardship?” Jacob’s loving daughter being raped by the son of the chief of the Shechem tribe tore Jacob’s heart apart and made him bitter.

But when we read the Bible, we can feel that Jacob’s thoughts were different from God’s. For 20 years Jacob herded his uncle, Laban’s, flock in Padan-adam and was very tired and exhausted. He then left Padan-aram without his uncle’s knowledge to return to the land of Canaan, but Laban later found out and pursued Jacob. However, God appeared to Laban in a dream telling him to not speak good or evil to Jacob, and Laban went away without striking Jacob. Afterwards, Jacob’s older brother, Esau, brought 400 men with him when Jacob was near Canaan. Jacob was greatly afraid, but he was very happy when his brother treated him kindly. Jacob had to go to Canaan after Esau departed from him, but when he arrived at the land of Succoth, Jacob had the heart to remain there because the land was vast and good.

And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money. And he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Genesis 33:18-20)

Jacob arrived at Succoth and thought, “It would be nice to stay here. Can’t I just call God and erect an altar here?” However, God was not pleased with Jacob staying there. Thus, his daughter, Dinah, was violated. A war broke out over this, and when Jacob fell into difficulty, he heard the voice of God telling him, “Go up to Bethel.”

The will of God was for Jacob to go to Bethel, but Jacob just remained in Succoth. It was not that Jacob sinned, did terrible things, or lived riotously in Succoth, he just built an altar there and sought God saying, “El-Elohe-Israel. (God is the God of Israel)” But why did God allow Jacob’s daughter to be raped?

One thing we have to remember is that just because one is going astray from the will of God does not mean he is sinning only and doing wicked things. God did not want Jacob to remain in Succoth, but to go up to Bethel. But Jacob thought, “I can just call God here. I built an altar here and I am praying,” and simply remained in Succoth.

Upon Reflecting on My Life

In my spiritual life, I once had time to look back and reflect upon my past. When I looked back, I saw that there were many failures in things for which I had thought, “If I do this, this will go well.” When I was planning such things, they seemed that they would go well because I cannot see the future. However, when I actually clashed against these things, I often ended up in failure. On the other hand, I saw that the things that I thought to be difficult and impossible were accomplished beautifully when I relied and looked only to God. Afterwards, even though I thought my ways to be good, I felt, “Before, I thought this would work out, but it didn’t . . . ,” and I lost the heart to trust myself. Evil and dirty hearts always sprung up in me, and because my heart is dishonest, deceitful, and lustful, I one day came to discover that I should not follow the thoughts that arise from within. Before this, I was not actually believing in God, but believing in myself. I followed my thoughts in everything I did. I only followed the words of God that I liked in my heart and did not follow the words I disliked. In reality, I was not believing in God, but believing in myself.

However, looking back upon my life, the heart to trust myself came crumbling down. “I should not trust myself! I cannot follow my thoughts!” After I came to fully realize that I should not follow my thoughts, I could no longer trust myself. No matter how good a thought seemed to me, I could say, “If I continue this way I will fail! This will ruin me!” and draw a clear line in my heart and keep to it.

I had many difficulties in my life. I quietly looked back upon those difficulties. If a sheep were on the right path, why would its shepherd keep tapping it with a stick to keep it from going astray? The shepherd does so because the sheep is trying to go astray. He hits it with the stick to make it stay with the flock. I thought, “Why would God give me those hardships even though He loves me? Why would He give me those problems?” Right then I came to realize how I lived with a heart different form God’s, a heart that said, “This is enough for God to be pleased.” I thought, “I pray hard, witness, and read the Bible, shouldn’t that be enough?” But God did not think so. Therefore, God gave me many difficulties.

Upon knowing this, I came to distrust my thoughts and myself and came to have the faith to believe in God. When I threw my thoughts away and believed the Word of God, amazingly, God began to open my eyes towards the Word of God. The Bible said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” but I did not believe those words. I thought the words, “Those who will be exalted will be abased and the abased shall be exalted,” were fine words, but I did not believe them in my heart. I liked receiving; I liked being exalted. However, upon knowing that my thoughts were wrong and as I denied myself, the faith to believe in God began to arise inside me. From then on, God began to work within me. Afterwards, my life became extremely blessed.

Evil Have the Days of the Years of My Life Been

When Jacob stood before Pharaoh the king of Egypt, Pharaoh asked, “Hold old art thou?”

Right then Jacob answered like this:

“I am one hundred thirty. I have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, but evil have the days of the years of my life been.”

Jacob was craftier than anyone else. He stole the birthright and the blessing from his older brother, Esau. Nevertheless, even when we carefully look into this, God already told Rebekah, while Jacob and Esau were in her womb, that, “Two nations shall come from thee. One nation will be stronger than the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.” God had blessed Jacob, but Jacob tried to gain the blessings of God through his own methods. Therefore, he ran away to Padan-aram when his brother tried to kill him. Jacob loved Rachel while he was at Padan-aram. He served for seven years for Rachel at his uncle’s house, but he ended up marrying Leah. God continually interfered with whatever Jacob was doing to have him throw away human methods.

People do not like to follow when it seems that goals will not be accomplished even if it is the will of God. We all have that kind of a heart. That is not spiritual life. When my cousin was building roads, even though he wanted to build according to his own will, he had to construct completely according to the blue prints. It does not matter how well the roads or bridges are built. If they are different from the blue prints, they will not be approved. Why wouldn’t my cousin think, “I should build the bridge here like this,”? But since he knows exactly that no matter how well the roads are made and how well the bridges are built, they are useless if they are not approved. Therefore, he throws his thoughts away and builds roads, constructs bridges, and digs tunnels according to the blue prints.

Spiritual life is exactly the same. If you do not have a certain thought, then you will simply receive the Word exactly as it is. Then spiritual life is very easy. However, Satan continually gives you the heart that you should not believe the Word as it is and makes you feel as if your thoughts are right. You must believe the Word of God in spiritual life, but your thoughts constantly arise to make you feel as though things will not work out and you will be ruined if you do according to the Word of God. It seems as though your thoughts are more right and better than the Word of God. Therefore, many people continuously pursue after their ways and their thoughts. If they continue forward this way, they ultimately arrive at difficulty and failure because those ways differ from the will of God.

Go Up to Bethel

God told Jacob to, “Go up to Bethel (the house of God).” Before, Jacob could not hear the voice of God and could not see Bethel. He simply thought, “Succoth is pretty good. It would be good to build an altar and give service to God here. God did not want this, however. What did the tribe of Shechem want when Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, was raped? They proposed, “Let us marry one another. Would it not be good if your sons could marry our daughters and if our daughters marry your sons?” Because Christ had to be born among the descendents of Israel, God did not want the children of Israel to become of mixed blood with other tribes. That was why He blocked it. When Jacob was cornered and had no more ways of his own, he finally heard the voice of God. “Go up to Bethel.” Jacob then went up to Bethel.

Our spiritual life is exactly the same as this. There are many who say that they believe in the Word of God, yet they trust in their own thoughts. It is not a problem when the Word of God is the same as your thoughts, but when the Word of God differs from your thoughts, you have extreme difficulties following the Word of God. And you suffer as you do so. Then you ultimately select your own methods and your own ways. Even so, you think that God will be pleased with you because you are seeking God like Jacob. This is what God blocks.

What Is Right, Good, and Beautiful? 

I attended a Presbyterian church before receiving salvation. At that time, I suffered much because of sin and I labored not to sin. I tried not to lie or hate others. I would become determined, resolved, and I prayed much as well.

“God, I committed this and this kind of sin. Do not allow me to sin at all today.”

I prayed sincerely. Nevertheless, I would sin again every day. I thought, “Why doesn’t God help me? I hate sinning, but why does He leave me to sin?” Right then, I did not know that I was wrong in front of God. Me trying not to sin and coming before Him through not sinning, by trying to pray, giving offering and bringing these to God, I came to know that all of these were wrong. After time passed and upon me having faith, I came to know how foolish all those things were.

Doing good deeds may seem good to some people, but in the eyes of God they are like filthy rags. One day I was reading the Bible and Isaiah chapter 64 said, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. I thought doing good and living truthfully were all righteous things, but in the eyes of God they were like filthy rags. In the eyes of God, our righteousness, our good, all of these things are like filthy rags. Then what is right, good, and beautiful in the eyes of God? The righteousness of Jesus Christ and only that is true righteousness.

God told us to come to Bethel. Jacob built an altar in Succoth and called the name of God, but God allowed Dinah to be raped so that Jacob could not remain in Succoth. When we ask, “God, can’t I just pray hard? Isn’t keeping the law enough? Isn’t serving God with all my heart enough?” God answers that they are not. It means we cannot stand before God with things that come from us.

God, in many places in the book of Romans, says that because we are all dirty and evil, we cannot come before God with the righteousness we have. However, because we continually try to come before God with our own righteousness, God has us sin to break down our righteousness. God breaks the heart, “If I do this, I will be good and righteous. I come before God.” Because your righteousness will not do, God has you come forth with the righteousness of Jesus, the goodness of Jesus, and the holiness of Jesus. That is Bethel, the house of God.

We Must Depart Succoth and Go to Bethel

God wanted to lead Jacob to Bethel, but Jacob wanted to remain in Succoth. God leads us the same way He loved Jacob. We think that our goodness, our helping orphans, our helping the poor, and our giving offering without others’ knowledge is precious. But God says that they are hypocritical. Why? It is because everything that man does comes from an evil heart. God accepts people who come forth with what Jesus accomplished on the cross, not our righteousness, our good, or what we have done. He wants us to accept the righteousness Jesus accomplished and then come to Him.

Succoth shows your good, your effort, and your well-doing, while Bethel represents what Jesus has accomplished. God wants us to quickly depart from our doing well and good and tells us to go to Bethel. Just as Jacob remained at Succoth, there are many people who try to come before God with their good, their righteousness, and with what they have done well. However, we must leave that place and go to Bethel. We should not labor to wash our sins, but look to Jesus washing our sins. We should not exalt our righteousness, but exalt the righteousness of Jesus. When you throw all of your good away and go forward with the righteousness of Jesus, God will be satisfied and pleased.



bottom of page