Idol Dump

, , ,

God calls us to purity and worship.

Genesis(102) (Part of the Origins(100) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on January 22, 2023 (Sunday Morning(346))

All-Powerful (Omnipotent)(17), Grace(9), Humility(7), Idols(2)


Idol Dump

(Genesis 35:1-15)



“Responding to a previous calamity, Colorado governor Jared Polis decided upon a practical, utilitarian solution. When a rockslide caused a giant boulder the size of a house to tumble down and gouge a huge chunk from highway 145 near the southwestern town of Dolores, Polis decided to simply leave it there. State officials say that taxpayers will be better served by allowing the boulder to remain as a memorial of the freak accident and rebuilding the highway next to it.


The total cost of rebuilding the section of highway, which includes a new section of guardrail next to the boulder, is estimated at $1.3 million, according to budget estimates. Taxpayers are expected to save around $200,000, which is what it would’ve cost had they decided to blast the 8.5-million-pound boulder into smaller rock fragments. The boulder has been dubbed ‘Memorial Rock,’ because the rockslide happened on Memorial Day weekend.”


Potential Preaching Angle: Whether from unforeseen calamity or serendipitous blessing, it is important to use momentous occasions as memory markers. These help us remember what we've gone through and how God was faithful throughout.


Associated Press, “Colorado Will Leave House-Sized Boulder Along Highway” (6-5-19).





  • ME

    • God’s almighty power

        • When we moved from Missouri to California there were two items that we had to leave in the capable hands of friends

        • I left my Saturn vehicle in the hands of another missionary that attended our church

          • He promised to repair it and sell it for me

          • It was stalling at red lights for no apparent reason

          • He repaired it fairly quickly and was able to sell it quickly

          • He sent me the total amount of money from the sale

          • He didn’t take out any money for parts or labor

          • I experienced the grace of God and His mighty power through that brother

        • We also had to leave the sale of our home in the hands of an incredible husband and wife team

          • We thought we had a buyer, but it fell through on the day we were supposed to close

          • This couple did an awesome job of finding another buyer and then helping us to complete all of the paperwork halfway across the country

          • We saw the power of God through that whole process


  • WE

    • God’s power and grace

        • Every one of us can probably think of a time when we have experienced God’s grace and/or power in our lives

        • Take a moment to reflect on one of the times


A couple of weeks ago we learned about the rape of Dinah and the murders that Simeon and Levi committed as retaliation for her rape. ​​ Genesis 34 was a dark chapter. ​​ However, Genesis 35:1-15 highlights a time of purification and worship following the sins of chapter 34. ​​ Just as God was calling the household of Jacob to purity and worship, He calls us to purity and worship. ​​ That is the big idea this morning.


BIG IDEA – God calls us to purity and worship.


Let’s pray

  • GOD (Genesis 35:1-15)

    • Purity (vv. 1-5)

        • God’s call (v. 1)

          • As was mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we do not see God in Genesis 34 at all

            • He does not speak

            • He is not consulted by Jacob or his sons

            • But God does not remain silent

          • God spoke to Jacob after the tragedy of having his daughter raped and his two sons going on a murderous streak

            • I am certain that both of those incidences broke the heart of God

            • He was watching sin run rampant in the lives of His chosen people

            • He certainly could have abandoned Jacob as His covenant carrier and started over with another group/family, but He didn’t

            • “In light of his situation, what God says to Jacob amazes me. ​​ He doesn’t say, ‘Sit down. ​​ You’re benched,’ or ‘Back off. ​​ You’re done,’ or ‘That’s it. ​​ You’re through.’ ​​ He says, ‘Arise. ​​ Go up’—because our God is a God of unbelievable grace.” ​​ [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis-Job, 160]

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s grace is incredible!

              • In our failures, . . .

                • God is still concerned about us

                • God still wants to use us

                • God still calls to us

              • Grace is getting something that we don’t deserve

                • We don’t deserve forgiveness and salvation, but God offers it to us anyhow

                • Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.

              • Where are you at today?

                • Are you currently feeling like a failure?

                • Are you struggling with sin?

                • Do you feel like God would say to you, “You’re benched, you’re done, or you’re through”?

                • That’s not what He did with Jacob and that’s not what He will do with you

                • The Apostle Paul struggled with a thorn in his flesh that constantly tormented him

                  • He pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away

                  • This is what the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ​​ (2 Cor. 12:9)

                • The writer of Hebrews reminds us of who Jesus is and what we have as a result of what He did

                  • Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. ​​ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. ​​ Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ​​ (Hebrews 4:14-16)

                  • What an incredible promise that should bring us encouragement today

                • The struggle with sin

                  • God’s chosen man, Jacob, struggled with sin

                  • The Apostle Paul struggled with a thorn in his flesh

                  • Many other individuals in the Bible struggled with sin

                  • Many people, that we look up today, struggle with sin

                  • Praise the Lord for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us

                • Jesus Christ was tempted just like you and me, but did not give in to those temptations—He was perfect, without sin

                • He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Humble myself before the Lord, repent of my sins, and seek His grace.

            • God extended His grace to Jacob and encouraged him to move on from the pain, hurt, and sin of Shechem

          • God’s message had three imperatives

            • “GO UP” to Bethel

              • Bethel is where Jacob had his first encounter with the Lord through a dream (Genesis 28:10-22)

              • He set up the stone he had placed under his head, anointed it with oil, and made a vow to the Lord

              • Jacob had a vow to fulfill at Bethel

              • Going up would be topographically correct even though Jacob was heading south

              • Shechem was right around 1,800 feet while Bethel was close to 3,000 feet [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 546]

            • “SETTLE” there

              • Jacob was never supposed to settle in Shechem

              • Remember the heartache of settling there (rape and murder)

            • “BUILD” an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you were fleeing from Esau (NOTE: ​​ this is the only time that God directs a patriarch to build an altar)

          • Jacob begins to prepare his household for the move

        • Jacob’s response (vv. 2-3)

          • The Lord didn’t command Jacob to do these three things, but I believe Jacob knew what needed to be done when the Lord commanded him to go up to Bethel

          • “. . . Jacob apparently recognizes that with this pilgrimage the time has come when the gray area becomes black and white.” ​​ [Goldingay, 546]

          • Jacob gives his household three imperatives

            • “GET RID” of the foreign gods

              • This was a spiritual renewal that was taking place

              • Walton believes this was the way that Jacob was honoring the first part of the vow he took at Bethel over 20 years before – the Lord will be his God [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 631]

              • The source of these foreign gods was probably two-fold

                • The teraphim that Rachel stole from her father’s house (Genesis 31:19)

                • Part of the items that were plundered from the Shechemites or as part of what the Shechemite women brought when they were taken as slaves

              • After they got rid of their foreign gods, then they needed to purify themselves

            • “PURIFY” yourselves

              • This was a purification of the heart

              • It involved both the physical washing of their bodies and the symbolic washing of their hearts [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 293]

              • This was probably necessary because they had looted the dead bodies of the Shechemite men [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 617]

            • “CHANGE” your clothes

              • This symbolized a sanctified heart to the Lord and a new purified way of life [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 203 and Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 472]

              • Part of the purification process would have been washing their clothes also

            • Jacob gives the purpose behind the purification process

          • Let’s go to Bethel

            • We will travel up to Bethel and I will build an altar to the God who did two things for me

              • Answered me in the day of my distress

                • This is a reference to Genesis 28 when Jacob was fleeing for his life from Esau

                • He stopped for the night at Bethel and had the dream of the stairway that went up to heaven

                • He heard the promises of God and then made a vow to God there

              • Has been with me wherever I have gone

                • We saw that throughout Genesis 29-34

                • Finding Laban’s family in Paddan Aram

                • Marrying Leah and Rachel

                • Having children

                • Gaining flocks

                • Protection from Laban’s deceit and wrath

                • Meeting with Esau

                • Probably even more than what is recorded in Scripture

            • The purpose for the purification was to prepare to worship the Lord

            • Jacob was not commanding his household to clean up so God would call them, he was commanding them to clean up because God had called them [Courson, 160]

          • What we see next is the response of Jacob’s household

        • Household response (vv. 4-5)

          • Idol dump

            • Everyone in his household (direct family, hired hands, slaves, etc.) gave Jacob their foreign gods and the rings in their ears

            • The earrings could have been part of the bounty taken from the Shechemites – they would have been amulets with an inscription stamped on them to a particular deity

            • The NIV translates the Hebrew word as buried

              • It is the same Hebrew word used for what Achan did when he hid or concealed the stolen items from Jericho (Joshua 7:21-22) [Mathews, 618]

              • It is more likely that Jacob hid or concealed the foreign gods and earrings under the oak at Shechem

              • It has the idea of dumping the idols as though they are trash—of no value

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we get rid of the idols in our lives.

              • Is there an idol dump that you need to do today?

                • Idols come in all shapes and sizes

                • Idols can be possessions we have

                • Idols can be relationships we are a part of

                • Idols can be positions we’re in

                • Idols can be attitudes of the heart

                • What are your idols? ​​ (Take a moment to identify the idols in your life)

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Get rid of my idols by giving them to the Lord, so He can conceal them and I can prepare to worship Him only.

                • God calls us to purity and worship.

                • You may need to sell some things that are idols in your life so you can spend time with the Lord and put Him first

                • You may need to resign from certain positions that keep you from worshiping the Lord

                • You may need to readjust a relationship that is unhealthy, so you can put the Lord first

                • When you ask the Lord to reveal the idols in your life, He’ll do it

                • Then be obedient in getting rid of them

              • Jon Courson helps us understand the motivation that should drive us to give up our idols, “When I realize how kind and good and benevolent and merciful God is to me day after day after day, it causes me to want to put away my trinkets and toys that are not of Him.” ​​ [Courson, 160]

            • With their focus in the right place they begin their journey from Shechem to Bethel

          • God’s grace

            • If you recall, Jacob is fearful that if the Canaanites and Perizzites (the people living in the land) join forces and attack them, they will be destroyed (Genesis 34:30)

            • He was fearful that Simeon and Levi’s murderous actions would motivate the current inhabitants to attack them

            • We see God’s grace at work, once again

              • They certainly would have been deserving of some kind of recourse from the Canaanites and Perizzites

              • They should be held accountable for their actions

              • But instead of some kind of retaliation, the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them and they were able to travel through the territory untouched

              • Jacob’s household had definitely received something they did not deserve (grace)

              • This was proof that God was still with him wherever he went, especially as he traveled back to Bethel

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – When we fear God, we don’t have to fear anyone else.

              • The fear of God is not just being afraid of Him

              • The fear of God is also referring to reverencing Him – giving Him the proper respect as Creator, Sovereign, King, Lord, Master, Savior, etc.

              • When Jesus was preparing His disciples for persecution, He told them, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. ​​ Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

              • Maybe you need to claim that truth today and begin to live with that reality

          • They are on their way and God is with them

        • “By abandoning their gods and rings at Shechem, Jacob closed the chapter at Shechem and looked ahead to the realization of the Bethel promise and vow.” ​​ [Mathews, 618]

    • Worship (vv. 6-15)

        • Building an altar (vv. 6-7)

          • As soon as Jacob and his household arrive at Bethel (Luz) in Canaan, he built an altar in obedience to God’s command

          • God calls us to purity and worship.

          • Jacob called the place El Bethel

            • El means “God”

            • Bethel means “house of God”

            • El Bethel means “God of the house of God”

            • Jacob is not just focusing on the place where God was, when He first stopped at Bethel

            • Jacob is now emphasizing the presence of God being there [Mathews, 620]

          • We have a little caveat, before the narrator continues with the Jacob narrative

        • Burial of Deborah (v. 8)

          • Rebekah’s nurse

            • We knew that Rebekah’s father and brother sent her nurse with her (Gen. 24:59), but we didn’t know her name until now

            • Her name was Deborah, which means “a bee”

            • At some point she joins Jacob’s household

            • “Deborah had either been sent by Rebekah to take care of her daughters-in-law and grandsons, or had gone of her own accord into Jacob’s household after the death of her mistress.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, 203]

            • Most scholars believe that the mention of Deborah is proof that Rebekah had already died

            • NOTE [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 378]

              • Genesis records the death and burial of Abraham (25:7-11), Isaac (35:29), and Jacob (49:33)

              • It also records the death and burial of each of the patriarch’s favorite wife (Sarah, 23:1-20; Rachel, 35:19), but it does not record Rebekah’s death and burial

              • We are told in Genesis 49:31, where Rebekah was buried, in the cave at Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan

          • Allon Bacuth

            • Deborah was buried under the oak below Bethel

            • It is not an exact location

            • The place was called Allon Bacuth (al-lone’ baw-kooth’/ alone’ bawk-hooth’)

            • It means “oak of weeping”

          • After the obituary, the narrator continues with Jacob

        • God’s presence (vv. 9-13)

          • I would encourage you to look at Genesis 17:1-8, 22 together with Genesis 35:9-14 to see the many similarities between Abraham and Jacob’s encounter with God

            • God tells them both that He is El-Shaddai

            • God tells them both to be fruitful and numerous

            • God changes both of their names

            • God will make them into a community of nations

            • God will give them the land of Canaan

            • God withdrew

          • Jacob’s new name

            • God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan Aram

              • We know that the first time was at Peniel when Jacob wrestled with God

              • Now God appears to him a second time at Bethel

            • God reiterates what he told Jacob at Peniel, his name will no longer be Jacob (deceiver), but will now be Israel (he struggles with God)

          • God’s name

            • The first encounter that Jacob had with God at Peniel, he asked Him His name

            • But, God did not give him His name, but simply blessed him

            • This time Jacob does not need to ask God his name, because He freely offers it

              • He tells Jacob/Israel that He is El-Shaddai (God Almighty)

              • This name for God is significant here, because He is promising to make Jacob into a nation and a community of nations, to have kings come from his descendants, and to give him the land that He gave to Abraham and Isaac

              • For all of this to happen it was going to take a mighty God, sovereignly working out every single detail

              • We know from reading the Bible and from historical documents that God accomplished everything that He promised Jacob/Israel

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – We can trust that God is Almighty.

              • He is still able to accomplish His will and purpose in your life, because He is Almighty

              • There is nothing that is impossible for Him

              • When we humble ourselves, repent of our sins, get rid of our idols, reverence God, and seek His grace, then He can work in and through us to accomplish is plan and purpose for us

              • We are not cleaning up so God will call us; we are cleaning up because God has called us – we are His children as followers of Jesus Christ

              • He will take us from where we are to where He wants us to be

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s almighty power to accomplish His plan and purpose in my life.

          • After God appeared to Jacob and blessed him, He went up from him at the place where He had talked to him (Bethel)

        • Jacob’s memorial (vv. 14-15)

          • Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him

          • This was the second time that Jacob had set up a stone pillar in Bethel – the first time was when he was fleeing from Esau and he set up the stone pillow he had used, as a memorial

          • He not only anointed this stone pillar with oil, but he also poured out a drink offering on it

            • This is the first time this is mentioned in Scripture

            • Later on this was a regular part of offerings to the Lord (daily, monthly, and annually) ​​ [Goldingay, 549]

          • God calls us to purity and worship.

          • There is reminder again that Jacob called the place, Bethel, where he talked with God


  • YOU

    • Do you need to humble yourself, repent of your sins, and seek God’s grace?

    • What idols do you need to get rid of in your life?

    • Do you need to reverence God today?

    • Are you ready to trust in God’s almighty power to accomplish His plan and purpose for your life?

  • WE

    • Where do we need to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and seek God’s grace?

    • What idols do we need to get rid of?

    • How should we reverence God today?

    • Where do we need to trust in God’s almighty power to accomplish His plan and purpose for us as a church?



“On December 4, 2000, forestry officials in Germany carried out a necessary but unusual task. ​​ They cut down trees that had been planted in the form of a swastika some sixty years before. ​​ When viewed from the air the trees were lighter in color than the forest around them, showing clearly the symbol of Nazi Germany more than half a century after the Third Reich had attempted to take over the world.


The continuing effects of evil represent one of the great realities of sin in the world. ​​ We have noted how the habit of deceit ran through Jacob’s family. ​​ We have seen Isaac’s weakness as a father reflected in Jacob as treachery, murder, and adultery ran rampant in the patriarchal family. ​​ We have noted that the sins of Simeon, Levi, and Reuben, unpunished at the time of their commission, came back to haunt them in Jacob’s final blessing of the tribes.


We find it hard to believe that it took sixty years for people to notice those Nazi trees; perhaps officials refused to deal with the problem. ​​ But just as Jacob’s family had to rid themselves of foreign gods and trinkets of evil, so we need to cut down the Nazi trees in our lives so sins of the past do not carry over into the present.”


[Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 298-99].