Gathering (Choose one)

1. The coolest symbolic statue or marker that I have seen or can think of is:

  • St. Louis Gateway Arch.
  • Statue of Liberty.
  • Vietnam War Memorial.
  • Paris’ Eiffel Tower.
  • Other ______________.

2. When have you returned to a place from your past?

  • High school reunion.
  • Moving back in with parents after _________ (college, divorce, losing a job).
  • Returning to my hometown after serving in the military.
  • Other ______________.



Jacob is the grandson of Abraham and father of the twelve tribes in the land of Israel. To get there is a long, twisted story…. Jacob cheated his twin brother Esau and fled to the land of his uncle Laban (Genesis 25; 27). As he fled, he stopped for the night and had a dream in which he saw angels ascending and descending a stairway (28:10-27). God told him he’d be safe and would come back to this place, which he named Bethel (“house of God”). After becoming rich and building a huge family (2 wives, 11 sons; 29:1–30:43), Jacob feels cheated by Laban, so he flees again. Laban pursues and the two reconcile (31:1-55). Later, Jacob wrestles with God (32:22-31) and is renamed Israel. Jacob returns to reconcile with Esau (33:1-20). But then his sons put him in another awkward situation by slaughtering all the men in Shechem as revenge for raping their one sister, Dinah (34:1-31). Now, alienated from others in the land where he had settled, Jacob must flee once again, this time back to that safe place called Bethel. And that is where we pick up Jacob’s story….


God’s Story

Read Genesis 35: 1-15. When reading the words God speaks to Jacob (the lines in quotes at verses 1, 10, and 11-12), be sure to use a deep voice. As you listen to this narrator, do so with all 5 senses.


Finding My Story in God’s Story

3. God changed Jacob’s name from Jacob (meaning “one who grabs or seizes”) to Israel (meaning “fights or struggles with God”).If I had to pick a new name that defines my character, I’d want it to be:

  • Nero. (“powerful, strong”)
  • Hugo. (“a thinker”)
  • John. (“graced by God”)
  • Kareem. (“generous, giving”)
  • Peter. (“the rock”)
  • Other ____________.


4. Jacob set up a pillar to mark the spot where God transferred to him the promise first made to Abraham, to make of him a great nation. What would you like to do, or have you done, to mark a promise from God?

  • Build something at our church and put a plaque on it.
  • Start a savings fund for our grandchild.
  • Write a memoir to document my lifelines and legacy.
  • Not much, I don’t think God makes such promises any more.
  • Other ____________.


5. Despite deception and violence, detours and delays, Jacob’s life was greatly blessed by God. If you were Jacob, just receiving Abraham’s promise from God, what would you be thinking?

  • “I’ve messed up so many times, why would God still bless me?”
  • “It’s so good, so wonderful to always have God on my side.”
  • “I’m right where I’m supposed to be, back where it all began.”
  • “I have no idea why God is still on my side.”
  • Other ____________.


6. Jacob buried all the statues of other gods, plus their jewelry. What I learn from this is:

  • Sometimes we must sacrifice things valuable to us, even if nobody benefits.
  • What?! That stuff must be worth lots of money, and he just wasted it.
  • God does not want us to hold tightly to anything that does not glorify Him.
  • To get clean, I must “bury” a past allegiance, or an attitude, habit, or idol: ______________.
  • To give thanks for God’s provision and protection, I will: _____________.


7. Running away from troubles (at home, in the family, or at work) doesn’t always work out as well for us as it did for Jacob. What is your experience of running away?

  • I’ve run away so many times, but trouble follows me wherever I go.
  • I can’t really think of a time that I’ve run away. I just stay safe.
  • My one safe place, my “go-to Bethel” where I seek God and find peace is: ___________.
  • I’m facing trouble at work right now—and running, but not sure where.
  • Before, whenever trouble chased me, God blessed me and kept me safe.
  • I’m running, but without much confidence that things will work out.



8. Jacob told everyone to purify themselves by getting rid of other gods and putting on new clothes. If you were stuck in his caravan, what do you think would have been the hardest item for you to “put away.”

  • Why do I need new clothes? I like the ones I have.
  • I’d need some new friends who don’t know me so well.
  • This camel has got to go.
  • It’s hard to think about giving up things I like so much.
  • Other _____________.


9. This week I will:

  • Take a hard and honest look at what I’m running from in my life.
  • Consider what other gods I have in my life and pray about removing them.
  • Build an altar of gratitude to God for all the blessings he has given me.
  • Pray for understanding, for all of the twists and turns in my own life.
  • Other _______________.


10. Close your group time in prayer. Be sure to pray for any next steps or lifelines identified above.