God commanded Jacob, who was about to be renamed Israel, to go build an altar in Bethel in Genesis chapter 35. However, Jacob knew that his house had to be in order before he could proceed with this command.
Gen 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
Gen 35:2 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:
Gen 35:3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; 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.
Gen 35:4 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.
He knew that he needed to make sure that there were no false idols in his house. Even though the 10 Commandments hadn’t been handed to Moses yet, there was obviously some part of Jacob that knew that he needed to make sure that God was the only thing that was receiving his and his family’s worship.
There are numerous passages in the Bible that warn us to be careful about idolatry, but let’s focus on the passage from the 10 Commandments.
Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
The key to this passage is the fact that God is a jealous God. He doesn’t want to share our worship with anyone or anything.
There are many things that compete for our attention, and there are many things that we can put above our relationship with God. Some of them are great things like our education, our careers or even our families, but in reality, God really needs to be our top priority.
After all, Jesus himself explained that when He was asked what the most important commandment was.
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
There’s really no reason that we should not put God and His will first in our lives, but we keep trying to run our own way. Personally, I am an ambitious person, and it is definitely tempting to try to do whatever I can to hit whatever goals I want to achieve.
However, that is definitely the wrong perspective. I should be more worried about the goals that God has set for my life. Even though I don’t necessarily know what they are, they are much better than whatever I could achieve by my own power.
My goals don’t deserve my worship, God does.