Today we have been reading Genesis again, this time it is the story of Jacob. Jacob is the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham whom we read about yesterday. Jacob has just pretended to be his older twin brother, Esau in order to get the special ceremonial blessing that is reserved for a father to give his first born son. And not much earlier he tricked his brother into giving him an extra portion of their father’s inheritance. Jacob has really lived up to his name which means deceiver.
So Jacob now finds himself heading on a long journey, partly running away from his brother and partly to see if he can find himself a wife.
It is a long journey and as he settles down for the night along the way, he rests his head on a rock. During the night he has a dream, a vivid dream that is more of a vision. He dreams about a stairway going up to Heaven, there are angels making their way up and down the stairway with God standing at the top. God speaks to Jacob and reaffirms the promise that he made to Abraham by telling Jacob that where he is lying is where his descendants will live in future generations.
When he wakes, Jacob is in awe. God spoke to him here. God was in this place! He takes the rock that he has been laying on and stands it up on end. Then he pours oil on it. This is quite an extravagant thing to do. He would have needed what he had to cook meals for himself along his journey. Some would consider that pouring oil on the rock was a waste, but to Jacob, giving up some of his oil, is a way of showing gratitude to God. Pouring his oil on the rock is a way of marking the rock as special, setting it aside as a holy place.
Then Jacob prays. He says if God will go with him on his journey, if God will provide him with food and clothes, if God will help him return safely and in peace to his family home then he will trust God, he will worship God and he will give God a tenth of all that he has.
How many times have you and I said to God, If you do this, I will...
If you help me God in this situation, I will go to church.
If you God just do this for me, I will do something, that I know you want me to do even though i don’t really want to do it.
This, seems to me, is what Jacob is saying to God. If you do this for me. I will do this for you.
But God didn’t put conditions on Jacob. God made a promise to Jacob that wasn’t dependent on Jacob’s behaviour or Jacob’s response.
And God makes so many promises to us that are not conditional too.
He tells us that he loves us, not because of what we have done or how we have behaved but simply because he wants to know us and us to know him.
He promises to always be with us.
He promises that there isn’t a single prayer of ours that goes unheard
He promises that he has an awesome plan for our lives.
He promises that any risks we take for him will be worth it.
He says that when we are weary and burdened we can go to him and he will give us rest.
He promises that we can find strength to do all things through Christ Jesus.
And there are so many more promises that he has made to us.
God made an unconditional promise to Jacob and in response Jacob made a conditional promise to God.
Tonight, what kind of response will you and I give to God’s unconditional promises to us?