Bethel is often mentioned as a place that the Patriarchs would go and build an altar to God to offer sacrifices; it simply means the “House of God”. Right before God changes Jacob’s name to Israel in Genesis 35, Jacob is instructed by God to rise and go to Bethel and build an altar there to God. Before Jacob goes, there are a few things that are necessary for him to do. Notice the instructions he gives to his family: “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us rise up and go to Bethel, so that I may make an alter there to God” (Genesis 35.2-3). Jacob’s instructions are just as relevant for us today as we prepare to offer up our sacrifices to God. Before we come into the presence of God to worship Him, we must first make sure we “put away the foreign gods that are among us”. I realize that we may not have any small figurines that we pay tribute to on the side, but do we not have a lot of different things that we hold as very valuable to us? In fact, many of these things that we hold valuable to us are quick to come between us and our relationship with God. It may be our phone, our pride, and our relationships that we have that have become idols to us. Before we come into the presence of God to offer our sacrifice, we need to make sure we evaluate our priorities and remove those things that can be considered “idols”. Next, Jacob required his family to “purify themselves and change their garments”. In this culture that meant to wash themselves of any dirt or things that make them unclean. By putting on new garments, you were signifying that you were doing your best to avoid anything from contaminating the holiness of God. Again, this is very significant for us to do the same thing today before we come into the presence of God. Yet our purification doesn’t require water for a bath, but a spiritual purification of our heart. We do this by allowing the blood of Jesus to wash away those sins we have committed so that we can come into the presence of God with a clean heart, not having anything to defile us as we are in His presence. Just think about how much better our relationship would be with God, if before we came into His presence in worship, in prayer or in study, we would make sure we got rid of anything that would come between us and God; purify ourselves of the sins that we have committed and renew our heart before God. I bet it would be better than your relationship is with Him right now.