I have tried really hard to like golf, but I prefer hobbies that do not tempt me to say or do things I will regret later. One thing I do like about golf is the mulligans. Mulligans make those terrible shots disappear into thin air.
In Genesis 35, we find the patriarch Jacob in desperate need of a mulligan. He has wasted the last decade of his life, but God gave him a chance to start over by moving back to Bethel. Eventually you will need a life or ministry mulligan, too, so let’s retrace Jacob’s footsteps back to Bethel and examine what God did.
Get Up and Go
God initiated Jacob’s restoration by telling Jacob to, “Get up! Go to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there” (v. 1).
Jacob had lived in Shechem for ten years. This was in defiance of God’s instruction. His family paid for his disobedience (Gen. 34). Fortunately, Jacob got another chance to “get up and go to Bethel.”
I love it when God gives us a mulligan!
If you are stuck spiritually, you might want to consider making an aggressive spiritual move. Get up and go back to where you started when you fell in love with Jesus. Celebrate a spiritual homecoming by building a new altar to the Lord.
Clean Up Your Act
Jacob’s family closets were full of foreign gods. If they were going to start over in a new place, they needed to re-prioritize what to pack. Jacob said to his family, Get rid of the foreign gods that are among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. (Genesis 35:2)
We moved twice in the last year. Once from Arkansas into a rental house, then again nine months later into our permanent home. Each move made us rethink what we really wanted to keep, give away, or throw away.
Spiritual house cleaning is usually not a quick or painless process. But if you want to get off of dead-center spiritually, you may need to aggressively get rid of some of your old baggage. After they cleaned out their closets, they buried their idolatry under the oak of Shechem.
What’s in your closet? Bring it out right now and bury it under the the cross of Calvary. If it is something that needs to go to the dump, ask a friend to help you follow through.
Build a New Altar
Jacob did return to Bethel where he had made a covenant with God thirty years earlier (Gen. 28). The old altar was in rubble, so he rebuilt it. Jacob had basically wasted the last 30 years of his life obsessing over his job at expense of his relationship with God and his family.
Instead of giving up, he got up, cleaned up, and rebuilt his life based on the original covenant (plan A), which God was giving Jacob (Israel) another shot at.
Jacob’s ministry mulligan is a great reminder that God is more interested in what is ahead of you than what is behind you.
God appeared to him again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. (Gen. 35:9)
The key word is “after.” Jacob got a new start, and with it a new nature, a new name and a renewed promise to bless his family and property. So many great things were on the other side of his obedience. It is no different for you and me.
Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions (Ps. 39:7-8).
What does God want to do in your life this fall? In your church? In your city?
In golf, mulligans are rarely and randomly given. Jesus is generously offering to you grace instead of guilt. Is it time for you to go back to Bethel for a spiritual homecoming? Get packing, friend!
Featured image credit, edited for size.