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.” 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. 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.” 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. (Ge 35:1-4)
It is telling to read about God’s continued care and blessing of Jacob, all the while a deceiver and idolater. Even now, after wrestling with God at Peniel and seeing so much from God, Jacob’s family (and presumably Jacob too) has foreign gods. When they arrive at Bethel, God renames Jacob to Israel and renews with him the promises He made to Abraham and Isaac. At every stage of Jacob’s life we see God initiating with him. In the book of Romans, Paul points us back to Jacob and Esau to see that God’s salvation comes by the elective work of God, rather than man’s choice. Jacob never had a chance! This is humbling news. It means that we cannot take credit for our salvation. It means that all of the glory for it goes to God. There is no room for pride in the life of a Christian. God pursues us even as sinners, even idolaters, in order that we too might inherit the blessing given to Jacob.
This good news is what changes us. God calls and we respond. God awakens in us faith that we might believe (and obey) and repent. This work of God gives the believer a new heart filled that loves the Lord and embraces His purposes.
Lord, what I can do but give thanks for my salvation! It is a gift. Keep me from growing prideful about my faith and deepen my love for you.