Summary: Jacob put conditions on God and made unnecessary vows when faith was all that was needed.
Let me start today with a story about C.S.Lewis. During his army training, Lewis shared a room with another cadet named"Paddy" Moore. The two made a mutual pact that if either died during the war, the survivor would take care of both their families. Paddy was killed in action in 1918 and Lewis kept his promise. Paddy had earlier introduced Lewis to his mother, Jane King Moore.
Lewis lived with and cared for Jane Moore until she was hospitalized in the late 1940s. He routinely introduced her as his mother, and referred to her as such in letters. Lewis' own mother had died when he was a child, and his father was distant, demanding, and eccentric.
Jane Moore suffered from dementia in her later years and was eventually moved into a nursing home, where she died in 1951. Lewis visited her every day in this home until her death.
Although Lewis was not a Christian at this point in his life, he recognized the importance of keeping a vow. As we begin to discover the life of Jacob, keeping a vow plays a role in his life also.
As we discovered last week it was decided that Jacob would go to his uncle’s house to find himself a bride. Isaac like Abraham did not want his son to marry a Canaanite but rather a relative from their homeland. Plus Jacob was also escaping the wrath of his brother whom he had bargained his birthright from.
As Jacob is heading toward Haran he stops for the night. Using a stone for a pillow he falls asleep. He begins to dream. Genesis 28: 12 -15 “As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.’”
The promises that were made to Abraham first and then to Isaac were now passed to Jacob. This land would now belong to Jacob’s descendants. All the people of the earth would be blessed through his descendants, here again talking about Jesus. But notice how the promise of God has evolved. First descendants like the stars. Next descendants like the sands on the beach. Now descendants like the dust of the earth. Each promise is showing the impact that his descendants would have on forming the nation of Israel and the church. And how their influence would reach all the corners of the earth.
God made a covenant with Jacob. He told him “I am giving you….I am with you…..I will protect you….I will bring you back…I will not leave you.” Like Abraham God made the covenant expecting no response on Jacob’s part.
But let’s look at Jacob’s response. Genesis 28:20-22 “Then Jacob made this vow: ‘If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.’”
When we begin a statement with “if” we have immediately place conditions on our response to whatever is happening in our life. It’s like little children saying, “If you do this for me, I will be your best friend.” You know tomorrow they will have a new best friend.
Jacob had just encountered God in a supernatural experience. The Bible says when he woke up he stated, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”
God had promised to never leave Jacob. Jacob responded with if He doesn’t then He will be my God. God had promised to give to him. Jacob responded with if He provides for me then He will be my God. God had promised to bring him back to his land. Jacob responded with if He returns me safely to my father’s house then He will be my God.