Bethel or Luz…Redeeming the Culture

“And the House of Joseph also went up against Bethel; Yahweh was with them. And the House of Joseph spied out Bethel. The name of the city before that was Luz.”

(Judges 1:22-23)

While “House of” is not an unheard of way of referring to the clans of Israel, it is a little unusual. In fact, the “House of Joseph” is the only one of the clans that is mentioned in this way in the Joshua-Judges narrative — in each other case, the tribes are referred to as “the sons of…” One can speculate that this phrase is used because Joseph’s children actually receive a double portion (Ephraim and Manasseh) and this is a phrase used to denote that these two related clans acted as one to attack the region around Bethel.

Arguably, a more simple reason may be before us. Bethel, when translated into English, means “House of God.” Bethel was named as such by Jacob as it is the place where he had his dream of the angels ascending and descending on the ladder (or stairway) (Genesis 28:19) — a place known by its inhabitants as Luz (which literally means “almond tree,” but may be a reference to a kind of Asherah that was worshiped by the Canaanites there. Thus we see the people not only taking another region in the Promised Land, but also restoring it to its historical, Biblical significance by changing the name back to “House of God.”

One principle of life that we often miss is that if restoring things to their proper place in the society around us. Too often, when the enemy takes an idea, a phrase, a symbol, or an expression, and uses it for ill, we as Christians abandon it altogether. An example would be that of the rainbow. Because the rainbow today has been so closely connected with the homosexual-pride movement, almost no Christian is willing to use the rainbow for fear of communicating the wrong message. Yet, for the vast majority of human history, the rainbow has been a sign of God’s covenant with his creation and with his people. It belongs to us, not to any other movement — especially not one that would stand against God — and we ought to be engaged in redeeming the symbol, restoring it to its proper use. The same could be said of forms of art, music, phrases in language, etc… All these things belong to Christ and thus should be used for his glory. Our calling is to work toward reconciliation not only between people, but for the benefit of the culture as well.

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