1God 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.” 2So 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. 3Then 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.” 4So 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.
God asks for altars, not idols. Idols are man’s way of trying to capture who God is and box Him into a form that man can understand. Idols are man’s way of trying to control God- of trying to show God off to others as OUR god, rather than being HIS people. Altars, on the other hand, stay put. We can’t keep them and show them off. They cost us something; our time, our effort, and our stuff, and they remain in place forever as a testament to God’s holiness, God’s faithfulness, and God’s Lordship, not our own pitiful attempts at control.