Repentance involves saying no to something in order to say yes to God.
2 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.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. – Genesis 35:1-4
When God re-appears on the scene, he invites action. God doesn’t want Jacob to settle for Shechem, so he tells him to “arise” and go further – toward Bethel. Bethel signifies a time of life and vitality, when Jacob recognized God’s active hand in his life. But, before Jacob can get back a season of livelihood, he must do a few things. First, he is to put away his foreign gods, second, purify himself and third, change his garments. Only then can he move toward Bethel. Although God grabs Jacob’s attention with the command to “arise,” there is something very important he must do before he begins his journey – repent.
Often when we hear God’s invitation toward something new, we think we’re ready to jump all in. We believe we’re totally ready to obey and follow him – wherever he leads. Yet, we, like Jacob, must first heed the essential instruction to repent. Repentance involves saying no to something in order to say yes to God. It requires making a decision to agree with God and turn from whatever may hinder our journey with him. The only catch is that we need to know what to put away, what needs to be cleansed and what needs to change.
It’s exciting to get up and go, but it’s harder admitting where we’ve gone wrong or where we need God’s cleansing touch. It’s easy to move. It’s harder to change. Yet, God invites repentance as the first gracious step toward the place he has called us. Take a few moments now to ask the Lord to search you for whatever keeps you from moving toward your Bethel. Allow yourself to agree with whatever he reveals to you. Then, as your day allows, physically change your clothes as a symbol of God’s cleansing and your deliberate decision to follow him today.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
– Psalm 139:24
By Yvonne Biel