“But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.”
Genesis 35: 8
King James Version
“A Comforting God”
The Ties That Bind
“No affliction nor temptation, no guilt nor power of sin, no wounded spirit nor terrified conscience, should induce us to despair of help and comfort from God!”
Do I long to have the God of “comfort” embrace me now?
What is there in my life that makes me long for God’s comfort?
“My soul cannot be fully comforted or perfectly refreshed, except in God alone, who is the Comforter of the poor in spirit and the Embrace of the humble and low in heart.”
Thomas á Kempis
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”
Psalm 94: 19
When we left Jacob, the murderous actions of his sons, Simeon and Levi, against the people in Canaan had caused, as Jacob himself describes, his name to “stink” in all the land.
God, in His merciful kindness, instructed Jacob to, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there.” Then God reminded Jacob that when he had to flee the anger of his brother Esau, after deceiving him and stealing the birthright, it was at Bethel that God came to him in a dream and said…“I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac….” (Genesis 28: 13, K.J.V.)
Bethel had a special place in Jacob’s life. It was a place of connection and comfort. It was at Bethel where, even after Jacob’s sin against his brother, God said, “There are ties that bind you to Me that are greater than your past – these ties are greater than any sins you may ever have committed.” Isn’t this beautiful? In a moment of abject fear and loneliness, God came to His son Jacob and reminded him that he was part of God’s family. Even though Jacob’s behavior had not been what God desired, his behavior did not cut the familial tie that Jacob had with God.
I hope you’ll think about this fact in your own life today. While we all fail and fall, God doesn’t cut off His children. As long as we want His presence with us, even if our faith is as tiny as an itsy-bitsy grain of mustard, that’s enough to keep us connected to our Royal King, our Father of Comfort.
Back to Bethel, Jacob built an altar and worshipped God. Then he instructed his entire family to get rid of all the strange gods that were among them. During this time of worship the Bible says “But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak.” The place was called Allonbachuth – which means the, “oak of weeping.” In Wesley’s notes we find this background about the text: “We have reason to think that Jacob, after he came to Canaan, while his family dwelt near Shechem, went himself to visit his father Isaac at Hebron. Rebekah was probably dead, but her old nurse (who is mentioned in Genesis 24: 59 as coming with Rebekah when she went to marry Isaac in a foreign country) survived her, and Jacob took her to his family. While they were at Bethel she died. And the oak she was buried under was called the “oak of weeping.”
Biblical historians offer this perspective that older nurses like Deborah were not only honored, but often loved like mothers. These nurses may have been servants, but as the Hebrew word for “nurse” tells us, these were women who provided milk, sucking milk for the babies in their care. We can only imagine the pain Jacob felt having to leave his mother Rebekah then later finding out she had died. What a joy it must have been to bring Deborah to his family’s home – a tie with his past and a help with his own family. No wonder there was great sorrow when this beloved nurse died.
But in Jacob’s moment of aloneness, when it appeared his last tie with his mother had been broken, God again came to Jacob with the reassurance that there is one tie that continually links us with our Heavenly Father. The prophet Hosea describes God’s cords this way: “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” (Hosea 11: 4, K.J.V.).
Can’t you just picture cords around you – cords that contain only love – drawing us, like a pulley, closer and closer to the heart of our Father.
Every time we see Jacob at Bethel feeling alone and destitute, it is the God of Heaven, our God of comfort who reaches down and promises He will never leave or forsake Jacob. And this same God draws us with cords of love. A God who never takes His hand of comfort off any of His children no matter how failed their behavior has been. I want to close today’s devotional with this beautiful poem by George MacDonald:
“When thou turnest away from ill,
Christ is this side of thy hill.
When thou turnest towards good,
Christ is walking in thy wood.
When thy heart says, ‘Father, pardon!’
Then the Lord is in thy garden.
When stern duty wakes to watch,
Then His hand is on the latch.
But when hope thy song doth rouse,
Then the Lord is in thy house.
When to love is ally thy wit,
Christ doth at thy table sit.
When God’s will is thy heart’s pole,
Then is Christ by every soul.”
“Here I am, Lord,
divided against myself.
Here I am
exposed to you.
Here I am
passive in the arms of my God.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus