Praying Purified with an Altar
Dan Sullivan

35:1 God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.

Genesis 35:1–3,6–7 ESV Read More

Jacob has just spent 14 years or more far away from home. He’s gained 2 wives and 2 mistresses and a gaggle of children. He had countless flocks and herds as part of the massive wealth he acquired on this journey.

God told him to get ready and go live at Bethel. Jacob knew where that was because he passed through there on his way to Laban’s and had a vision. After his vision, he spent time praying to God and planned on coming back to that very spot to worship God again.

But did you notice what Jacob did that God didn’t have to ask? “Put away your foreign gods and purify yourselves. Change your shirt, we’re going to meet with God.”

Jacob knew, somehow before the Law was given and before God ever said “Thou shalt have no other gods besides me,” that you didn’t want to have any other false gods made of wood or gold when you went to meet the Almighty. The time for all of that foolishness was over. Yahweh was summoning him back to the place where he had met with God before.

Altars were an interesting thing for Yahweh. His followers (Noah, Abraham, and Jacob and others) built them in places where they saw Him work miracles or give promises. They were certain to not turn them into idols! They were altars made of stacked stones, not carved stones. They weren’t like stone monuments that looked like things. They were stacked rocks that could hold a goat or a lamb for a sacrifice!

So Jacob did it and built the altar where God had revealed Himself many years previous. There is no mention of Jacob seeing angels going up and down from earth to heaven again. That wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was that Jacob passed here in distress and God made a promise. Returning to this spot as the distress was passing and marking it with an altar was a declaration that God keeps His promises.

Jacob no longer needed hope or faith that God would take care of him in this land. He had the proof to show that God had done it.

You can get the Daily Bible Readings to your inbox via email every day by subscribing on our home page. Join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.

One Life Podcast on iTunes