20 Then Jacob made a vow (promise), saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if [He grants that] I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone which I have set up as a pillar (monument, memorial) will be God’s house [a sacred place to me], and of everything that You give me I will give the tenth to You [as an offering to signify my gratitude and dependence on You]”.
Genesis 28:20-22 AMP
Jacob was on his way to Haran, a couple of days into a journey that will take him over 500 miles on foot. He is on his way to fulfill his father’s request to take a wife from the people of his homeland, preserving the heritage of the family line.
Weary from the steps of his journey, Joseph is aware that he is also carrying the weight of holding the responsibility of continuing the covenant relationship between God and his family and his people. Additionally he is shackled with the burden of the knowledge that his trickery has so enraged his twin brother that Esau wants to kill him. Jacob knows that his life is in serious danger.
Have you wandered your journey of life under the weight of stress? Do you understand how weary the steps become when you are carrying the burden of circumstances, some of which have been the result of your own mishandlings? Can you relate to plight of a man whose journey seems never-ending?
Jacob approaches the end of his day, feeling far enough from home that he can afford the luxury to pause and rest. He has carved a moment of safety and security, a moment where he places a stone beneath him and lays his head for some well-earned peace. But his head is the only thing that is still. His mind races out of control, invading his dreams.
Jacob sees, through the picture of his dream, a stairway stretching from heaven to earth. Angelic creatures ascend and descend the steps of the great staircase past the stars. The images of the dream are not strange to Jacob. People of the area grew up with a blend of reality and mythological teaching. The beliefs of most understood their deities would descend from the heavens to their temple via such stairways. The location of such a dream established a sacred space.
God showed Jacob through the dream that He does not need a stairway to reach His people. God tells Jacob three things in the dream. First, “I will protect you.” Next, God shows Jacob, “I will provide for you.” Finally, God reveals, “I will return you safely to your father’s home.”
Jacob awakens from the dream realizing he has had an encounter with God. He in turn makes God three promises. Jacob assures God 1) I promise to live my life devoted to You; 2) I dedicate the place where this takes place and name it Beth-el, “the house of God;” and then 3) I promise that no matter what I accumulate from this point on, I will offer ten percent of it back to God.
Jacob chose to demonstrate the pledge of his heart, the devotion of his spirit, and the commitment of his life by the tithe of his possessions. The only promise of action he makes to God is the promise to give God a portion of how he has been blessed. Jacob understood his possessions were a result of God keeping His part of the covenant.
Charles Spurgeon focused on the heart of the matter when he said, “Give to God as you love, but then measure your love by your gift.”
Jacob never allowed himself to believe that he could live as a part of a covenant, breech his responsibilities in the covenant, and yet still expect to benefit from its blessings. Jacob made a pledge on our behalf. He did not need to be reminded to keep his part of the agreement. He fulfilled it throughout his life and passed it on to the next generation.
Can we dare to do any less?