Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 21

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for April 21, written by Ben Stubblefield, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 21

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By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


Genesis 35:1–15

Get Up! (1–4)

After Jacob’s release from Laban, we would think he should travel directly back to Bethel, where he heard God’s promise (28:15). Instead, he crosses into Canaan and settles just 20 miles from Bethel in Shechem (33:18) and spends about a decade there.

The effects of this obvious half-obedience are disastrous — the disaster with Dinah, the massacre of the Shechemites and the desecration of circumcision. Jacob’s family has become “odious” among the surrounding tribes, and he worries now about their survival (34:30).

It is at this moment that God tells him to get up and do what he was supposed to do in the first place — sojourn to Bethel.

It is a pilgrimage of sorts — one in which Jacob instructs his people to put aside any vestiges of sin, idolatry and contamination. Jacob takes the lead and disposes of the unholy articles under an unknown tree in Shechem.

Sin is like kudzu, which we’ve got plenty of throughout Alabama. Start with a small patch, leave it unattended and in a little while, it will totally take over.

Jacob had fallen short of Bethel by 20 miles and that sin brought consequences. Pretty soon there was a mess on his hands — one that only a radical recommitment of his life to the Lord could resolve.

Our lives need daily renewal and reconsecration. And if we’re not in a faithful habit of tending to the little sin weeds in our lives, they will take over like kudzu. Perhaps your life has been overtaken by the consequences of a rebellious life. For you, like Jacob, it’s not too late for renewal.

Build (4–8)

Jacob’s large troupe caravanning through Bethel would have been an easy target for enemies interested in taking vengeance for the Shechemites. But they did not pursue Israel. In fact, “a terror from God” came upon the surrounding cities, such that Jacob’s family passed through to Bethel unharassed.

It’s a fascinating turn of events. While Jacob was in disobedience, his family had wealth but also all kinds of trouble. Now, obediently casting aside a large portion of their gains, they are experiencing a supernatural peace.

The parallel for us is identical. Jesus does not promise an easy way, but He does leave us His peace. Truly there is no greater confidence a believer can have than in knowing he is walking in righteousness before the Lord.

Renewed (9–15)

Jacob experiences a theophany during which God promises Jacob that He will use his family to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. In fact, the parallels between God’s promises to Abraham and Jacob are very nearly reiterations. There’s a name change, a promise of fruitfulness and multiplication, the use of the name “God Almighty” and the mention of nations and kings.

Jacob’s protection since his escape from Esau, his time with Laban and his sojourn to Shechem had to be a powerful affirmation that God keeps His covenant.

As the story of Jacob’s life in Genesis begins to fade into the story of Joseph, there must have been a rock-solid belief that the Lord would preserve and flourish His people.

I once heard someone say that past behavior is the best predictor of future conduct, and I think that’s right. People can change, but we often expect tomorrow what we’ve seen yesterday.

Praise God, then, that we have “El Shaddai” — God Almighty — who has been faithful throughout history. He’s proven Himself in the past, which means I can trust Him for my future.