Although a church building is not really the house of God, we have heard preachers refer to the local church as the house of God, figuratively. And, in truth, there are many similarities that we can find between “Bethel,” which means “the house of God,” and the local church. There are memorable events that took place at Bethel between God and men that are types of the things that God does with men in church. Bethel, the “house of God” is in type:
A House of Promise – Gen. 12:6-9
This is the place where God promised Abram the gift of a seed and of land. Likewise, for many of us, the local church is the place where we heard about God’s gift to us of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life when we received him (Jn. 3:16).
A House of Prayer – Gen. 13:3-4
When Abram returned to Bethel after sojourning in Egypt, he “called on the name of the Lord.” Undoubtedly, he thanked God for protection and for increasing his wealth. For many of us, the local church is where we come to thank God for the many things he has done for us and to pray with the other saints for our mutual requests (Acts 4:31).
A House of Revelation – Gen. 28:10-19
Bethel is the place where God revealed himself and his will to Jacob. For many of us, the local church is where the Holy Spirit reveals his word to us (1 Cor. 2:10). It’s where we study and learn more about God and His word.
A House of Commitment – Gen. 28:20-22
After God revealed himself to Jacob, Jacob made a vow of commitment to God. The local church is where many of us committed our lives to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). We promised we would serve him faithfully or we answered a specific call, like the call to preach (Acts 13:2-4). Many of us exchanged our wedding “vows” in church.
A House of Remembrance – Gen. 31:13
When God wanted Jacob to return to Bethel, he said “I am the God of Bethel.” That reminded Jacob of the meeting that he had with God there. So many Christians stray away from the Lord for a period of time and somewhere along the way God presents himself to them again. They are reminded of the times that they used to meet with God in church. Their hearts flood with the memories of the blessings of being with God in church and they end up going back (Mal. 3:16).
A House of Fellowship – Gen. 35:1
God told Jacob to “dwell” in Bethel. He didn’t want him to just show up and then run off again. Likewise, God wants us to “dwell” in church, not just show up on Christmas and Easter. He wants us to be faithful to come and have fellowship not only with other believers but with Him (Heb. 10:25; 1 Jn. 1:3).
A House of Sacrifice – Gen. 35:3
Jacob made an altar to God at Bethel. That altar was for a sacrifice. Likewise, we commonly offer our spiritual sacrifices at church (Heb. 13:15-16; Rom. 12:1-2).
A House of Folks – Gen. 35:6
When Jacob went back to Bethel, he took his family and servants with him. The first time he was in Bethel, he was alone. Likewise, we should be about bringing our family and friends to church where they can hear the gospel, be saved, and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. We need to reproduce ourselves (Acts 16:31).
A House of Sadness – Gen. 35:8
Jacob had to bury Rebekah’s nurse in Bethel. That reminds us of the loved ones whose funerals we have attended in church. We had to say goodbye, for awhile, to those we had spent a good deal of time with. Deborah evidently came with Rebekah when she went to marry Isaac (Gen. 24:59).
A House of Blessing – Gen. 35:9-12
God blessed Jacob at Bethel with the same blessings He had given Abraham and Isaac. Many of us receive special blessings from the Lord in church, blessings we would never have received had we just stayed home (Eph. 1:1-3).
We are much better off, as Christians, to get into a good Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church and “dwell” there, for the “house of God” is definitely one of the greatest places where God “meets” with His children.