This chapter covers a lot of ground from Shechem to Bethel to Hebron. God calls Jacob to a new name - Israel - and protects him from the surrounding tribes who were afraid of him after the slaughter at Shechem. He calls his household to rid themselves of any idols and travels back to Bethel to worship God where he first encountered Him when he fled from Esau. On the journey, Rachel dies in childbirth as she delivers his last son, Benjamin. God leads him back to Hebron to his father, Isaac, who dies at age 180. Jacob and Esau bury their father.
What stands out to me this time as I read this chapter is that Jacob and Esau are together in their loss of their father. After all the deception, the efforts at reconciliation that seemed to only go so far, they are together again as they bury their father.
Shared grief can bring families back together with memories of happier times, but they can also bring to mind all the past hurts and slights. The direction it takes depends on whether we are focused on ourselves, our losses, and our hurts, or on others and on encouraging them.
One of the quickest ways for me to get mired in sin is to focus on myself, and especially on how others have wronged me. I get sucked into the vortex of self-pity that leads to bitterness and resentment.
But when I turn my attention to the hurts of others, when I consider what circumstances or weaknesses they are battling, or when I consider all the blessings God has given me which perhaps they haven’t had, it draws me closer to God. His mercy to those who don’t deserve it (like me) overflows and draws my attention to how I can help them. With that perspective, I'm much less likely to fall into temptation.