God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau. 2 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 clothes; 3 then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had and the rings that were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak that was near Shechem. 5 As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them. 6 Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 and there he built an altar and called the place El–bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8 And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So it was called Allon–bacuth. 9 God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan–aram,
and he blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he was called Israel. 11 God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him. 14 Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.— Genesis 35:2-15, NRSV
It’s human nature to forget. Some things, for whatever reason, do not stick to our mental hard drives. Moreover, it’s understandable when we cannot remember a particular conversation from 20 years ago. However, what if the conversation you had was with God, during which you promised to live always in submission to the God who saved you?
When you forget to keep your word to God, that’s not simply an unfortunate mistake. That’s sinful and stupid. Ecclesiastes 5:3-6 warns us how problematic it is to make a promise to God, but not keep it. Besides, we hold God’s feet to the fire when He makes us promises until He delivers on them. We expect him to keep his promises (See Numbers 23:19). Given that He knows everything about everyone, does He really expect us to keep ours?
20 years earlier (See Genesis 28:16-22), God made Jacob a promise, a promise which was connected to the original promise God made to his paternal grandparents, Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12:1-3). God promised to bless Jacob in virtually every area of his life. Moreover, God promised to watch over Jacob and bring him back, in due season, to his birthplace. In response to God’s promise, Jacob made a promise. God did not ask him to do so. He volunteered the vow. Perhaps Jacob responded out of gratitude and excitement. More than likely, though, Jacob responded out of his need to control every encounter, to one-up whoever he interacted with. To paraphrase his brother Esau: Is he not rightly named Jacob, the Get-Over-Artist (See Genesis 27:36)?
What did Jacob promise God? He makes a three-fold promise to God, which is outlined below:
a) Build a place of worship dedicated to Yahweh;
b) Pledge his loyalty and love to Yahweh exclusively; and
c) Give willingly and gladly 1/10 of everything God gives to him.
At the time when God speaks to Jacob, Jacob has been in the land of his birth for some time. What’s more, he returns with a family, wealth, and employees in contrast to him leaving home penniless, homeless, and powerless. God had to remind Jacob of his failure to fulfill his promise, thus far.
What kept Jacob from going back to Bethel to worship? If we were to ask Jacob, he might say it was “simply life” which got in the way – having and raising kids, attending to his significant others, and managing a growing financial empire. The truth, however, is more like misplaced priorities. Unfortunately, he placed chasing and attaining his dreams above keeping his word to the Source of all the blessings he enjoyed. Moreover, Jacob’s failure to honor his promise kept God from introducing himself to the rest of Jacob’s family (Genesis 35:2-10).
Questions To Answer & ActOn:
1) What keeps you from coming to corporate worship on a consistent basis?
(Hopefully, nothing!) How will you correct that tendency?
2) For that matter, what stops you from worshiping privately and daily?
(Again, hopefully, nothing!)? How will you do better in the near and distant future?
3) Before you come to corporate worship, how do you consecrate yourself to participate? What does your significant other and/or children do?
4) Based on your knowledge of their inconsistent presence and unintentional absence from weekend worship, for whom should you pray? And, to whom should you give a gentle nudge to return to worshiping God regularly?
5) How many people did you invite to worship with you at EBC in 2019? How many have you invited to worship with you thus far?