2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
The place that God had called Jacob to was of special significance to him. It was the same location where God had first appeared to Jacob, given him a vision of a ladder ascending to heaven, and had promised to be his companion. All this had occurred as Jacob was fleeing for his life from Esau, out in the middle of nowhere. At the time this location must have seemed like the farthest place from home, but now it literally was his home.
Jacob knew that this place had been sanctified by the personal presence of God, and as he examined his household, he saw that they were not ready to dwell there. Evidently members of his family and/or servants had pagan idols, perhaps a carryover from when they had lived under Laban’s roof.
Now was the time to officially set all of that behind them, though. The camp was purified, their sins were put away, and everyone changed their clothes, symbolic of putting off their old way of life and putting on a new, clean one instead.
This is an example of a very important theme in the Bible: that of purifying, cleansing, and dressing in fresh clothing. Anyone that has tried to live a life of discipleship knows that we have to refresh ourselves many times over. We are called by God, but then we go aside in the rut, and then we clean ourselves up and recommit again.
In fact, this month I am going to attend a spiritual retreat in the mountains that I go to yearly, which is one of the most sacred keystones of my life. Each time I attend I feel the presence of God more vibrantly than at any other, but before each visit I find myself taking inventory of where I’m at, in what ways I have lapsed in my discipleship, and how to clean my heart in preparation for going to meet my God.