And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God. — Genesis 28:20-21
A Christian upbringing is a great blessing. However, a heritage alone is not enough to secure salvation. Each person must establish his or her own connection with God.
Kristi, a young mother in our church, testifies, “My mom was raised in the Apostolic Faith Church, where my grandfather was a minister. She loved the Lord as a child and was saved at a young age. My dad’s mother also loved God and raised Dad and his siblings the best that she knew how. When Dad was older, he was invited to special services at the Apostolic Faith Church in Puyallup, Washington. There he heard the Gospel explained more fully, and soon gave his heart to the Lord.
“My parents provided my siblings and me with a loving, Christian home. My sister, brother, and I were taken to Sunday school and church from the time we were babies. Our parents were faithful to read the Bible to us and pray with us, and we learned that Jesus died for us and how much He loves us. The Easter Sunday morning when I was six years old, I knelt at the altar of prayer in our church in Chehalis and gave my heart to God. I remember picturing Jesus on the Cross and truly realizing what He did for me. At such a young age, I certainly did not have a lot of sinful things in my life, but I told Jesus I was sorry for anything I had done to hurt Him, and that I wanted to serve Him the rest of my life. Later, God sanctified me and then baptized me with the Holy Spirit. Those three experiences are such an important foundation, and I appreciate how they have helped keep me on the right path.”
In today’s passage, Jacob came into direct communication with the God of his grandfather and father. The covenant promises that God had given to Abraham and Isaac were passed on to him, extending them to the third generation. However, Jacob had to establish his own personal relationship with God as well. He was blessed with an amazing dream, in which the Lord himself communed with him. This revelation was a defining moment in Jacob’s life. He responded to the dream with a voluntary declaration of loyalty, and the vow he made in our focus verses became a landmark in his personal history. Jacob had schemed and deceived, but at this point he pledged his future to God and determined to allow Him to govern his life.
Each of us also must have a point at which our personal relationship with God is established and we submit ourselves to His will. Life will be different from that point forward, and we will thank God for that day.
In today’s chapter, the focus of the Abrahamic promise shifts from Isaac to Jacob, who becomes the leading figure in the sacred history of the Jewish people. Directed by his father to go to Padanaram to seek a wife, Jacob left Canaan and soon had a personal and life-changing encounter with God.
As noted at the end of the previous chapter, Esau was so angry over Jacob’s deception that he determined to kill him. Rebekah entreated Isaac to send Jacob to her homeland, stating that she did not want him to marry a local woman.
Verses 1-5 tell of Isaac’s blessing and charge to Jacob. Isaac’s words indicated his understanding that the promises given first to Abraham and then to himself were to be carried out through Jacob and his posterity. Isaac knew from his own experience the importance of a wife from the family line rather than the nearby pagan tribes, so he sent Jacob to his uncle Laban in their ancestral homeland, though Haran was over four hundred miles from Beersheba, where they were residing.
Esau’s actions in verses 6-9 were an effort to please, rather than defy, his parents. Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother, had been dead for about thirteen years at this time, so the phrase “then went Esau unto Ishmael” means he went to Ishmael’s family.
It seems that Jacob traveled alone toward Haran, which is located in modern-day Turkey. The Bible makes no reference to anyone being with him, and in Genesis 32:10, he said, “With my staff I passed over this Jordan.” The “certain place” in verse 11 was Bethel, previously called Luz, which was located between forty and seventy miles from Beersheba.
In Jacob’s dream (verses 12-15), God communicated with him, personally giving him the same promise that had been given to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob and his seed would possess Canaan; his seed would be “as the dust of the earth,” would spread in every direction, and would bless all the peoples of the world; and God would be with him. Pagans of that era believed that each god had power only in a particular region, but God promised to protect Jacob wherever he was, and to bring him back again to the land he was leaving behind.
Verses 18-22 relate Jacob’s response. He set up the stone he had used for a pillow as an altar to God and poured oil upon it, signifying his prayer and reverence to God. He called the place Bethel, which means “house of God.” Then he made a vow to God, showing his contrition and dependence upon God for all his temporal needs, and concluding his vow with the solemn promise to give tithes of all that God blessed him with.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
2. Jacob’s departure to Padamaram (28:1-22)
a. The blessing and command of Isaac (28:1-9)
b. Jacob’s dream (28:10-17)
c. Jacob’s vow (28:18-22)
Each of us must make a personal and lasting commitment to the living God.