Genesis 28:16-22 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” 18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
These verses occur after the dream that Jacob had of a latter reaching from earth to heaven. In this dream, Jacob saw angels ascending and descending upon this latter. God was at the top of this latter. When Jacob woke the next morning he made the statements in our text. What Jacob says about the dream and his experiences reveal some interesting aspects of Jacobs relationship with God.
Isaac learned from his father the nature and worship of Jehovah God. Abraham instructed Isaac in the importance of sacrifices and homage before Jehovah. We learn this from the events of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. After the death of his father, we also know that God blessed Isaac and that God was working with him in accomplishing His will. The real question that is not answered is how and to what extent Isaac had instilled this worship in his two sons.
When Isaac was ready to give the blessings of inheritance to his sons, he was intent on giving the blessing to Esau. Rebecca, however, knowing the promise of God, that Jacob was to receive the blessings, devised a plan so that her younger son would receive the promised blessing. This was deception on both Rebecca and Jacob’s part, however, in the scheme of God it was fulfilling His will. The result of this deception was the cause for Jacob’s fleeing to his mother’s home land and seeking a wife from that place instead of Canaan. All of this was in the over all plan that God had determined.
What is interesting about all of this is that we do not have any record of the worship of Jacob or Esau. We do not have them calling upon God or offering up worship before God. This is not to say that they did not do so with their Father. There is, however, the slight indication that the magnitude of worship of Jehovah was not fully instilled into these two young men. From the words of our text, Jacob must have believed that Jehovah was territorial. He was surprised to learn that Jehovah was in this place where he had never been. Notice his expression: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
Jacob now takes the rock that had been his pillow and makes it a monument for Jehovah. After making this alter or monument he makes a pledge. It is this pledge that reveals a lot about the development of Jacob’s faith and devotion to Jehovah. His pledge is filled with information regarding Jacob’s character and his developing faith.
“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
“If God will be with me.” The word “if” does not imply doubt or challenge, rather a statement of beginning of faith. This is very much like Abraham’s believing God’s promise based upon God’s word. The idea of these words is that of protection and safety in the journey that Jacob had begun. He has been made aware of God’s presence and the reality of God’s influence. He was a God not only at home, but anywhere that Jacob might be found. He was the God of heaven and earth.
Jacob’s pledge, before Jehovah, was that if He would guard and protect him and bring him back home safely, then he would know that Jehovah was God. This would be the same spiritual growth that Abraham and Isaac had to experience before they learned to put full, unconditional faith in God’s promises. Indeed, all of us go through a similar experience in our spiritual growth and maturity.
Jacob was not putting God to the test, but was seeking His assistance in his journey. This is very similar to Paul’s words to the Hebrews in chapter six verses 1-3:
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.3 And this we will do if God permits.
Only by our putting our trust in God’s promises and relying on those promises, will we ever develop the faith that enables us to fully trust and depend upon God’s promises. Our faith grows to maturity. Jesus even mentioned this in His explanation of the parable of the seed and the sower. In Mark chapter four verses 26-29:
And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
From what Jacob promises, we also learn that he had only known God as Elohim the covenanting God. As he makes his pledge to Jehovah, he states that if all is fulfilled as he believes that it will, then he will know for certainty that Jehovah is Elohim, or the same God. The God of righteousness is also the God of mercy and supply.
We know the outcome of this pledge. In chapter 35, when Jacob returns to this place, he worships Jehovah God and begins to fulfill his promise before God. Jacob’s faith was such that God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. From this point onward, Jacob’s full faith and confidence was based upon the relationship that he had developed with Jehovah God.
How great it would be if we, too, like Jacob, realized that God is not only with us at home, but in every place that we are found. If we could only realize that God is a faithful Father and that He challenges us to put Him to the test and see His great blessings. If we would, then our faith in the promises of God would increase and our faith would come to maturity. Let us, like Jacob, pledge our devotion to God and seek His guidance and protection in the journeys that we make in our lives.