The Vow
Genesis 28:20-22
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…

I. Notice THE IMPRESSION MADE UPON JACOB'S MIND. This vision, which had been vouchsafed to him, was not a mere idle dream, passing confusedly away with the shades of night, and leaving no useful lesson impressed upon the heart. It was a mysterious scene, permitted to pass before the mind of Jacob in his sleep; but it left a real, powerful, and lasting impression behind. The impression produced was rational, powerful, convincing, and influential; it was such an impression as was most desirable under his circumstances, and such as issued in the most becoming and consistent conduct.

1. He was impressed with a sense of the presence and nearness of the invisible God. Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." He had a clear conviction that God had been with him in a very peculiar manner. "He inhabiteth eternity. He filleth all in all. He is about our bed, and about our path, and spies out all our ways. If we go up to heaven He is there, if we go down to hell He is there also. In Him we live, and move, and have our being — and He is not far off from any one of us." But the scripture shows us also, that God is particularly present with, and near to His saints. A large portion of the revealed word of God is occupied in showing that "the Lord is nigh unto them that call upon Him"; that if we will "draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to us." "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms." The 121st Psalm seems almost to refer to this very event, when it says, "Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." There is then, for the first time, a consciousness of God's existence — of his presence and nearness to the soul — a reality of communion with Him — a living sensibly within the range of His holy influence and dominion — and a bringing this fact to bear continually upon the conduct and the heart. The impression produced on his mind through a vision, was the same as that which is now given through the shining of the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ into the heart. It was the knowledge of God.

2. He felt that the presence of God was awful. He said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place!" No man can trifle with religious services who is admitted to the reality of religious privileges. The more his religions impressions, convictions, intentions, and enjoyments, assume the character of reality, the more serious will he be in his spirit, and in all his religious feelings and transactions. A becoming seriousness of deportment is always the result of frequent communion with God — of much living in the Divine presence. It will not be irrelevant to notice here that a truly sincere and serious spirit in religion will show itself in an enlightened, but not superstitious, attention to all the decencies and proprieties of the public service of God.

3. Jacob was impressed with the conviction that the place where God communicates with men is "the gate of heaven." That communion with God by faith is an opening to the mind of the eternal and invisible world, a realizing of that interior and more elevated scene of God's dominions, where He reigns unveiled. Faith is the gate of heaven.

4. This vision evidently impressed Jacob with a higher notion of the benevolence and kindness of God. It was altogether a revelation of a peculiarly merciful character.

II. We come to notice THE CONDUCT WHICH JACOB IMMEDIATELY ADOPTED. His provision for the external act of worship was but scanty; but whatever, under his straitened circumstances, he could perform, he did. There was here no idle and specious delay. It would have been easy to have deferred this solemn scene of worship to a more seasonable opportunity, when he would be better provided. But this is not the effect of the gifts of Divine grace. The mercy of God, thus graciously revealed to him, had touched his heart; and it made the religious service, and the religious vow, his delight. He rose early, and while his feelings were yet fresh, and unblemished by the mere natural course of vagrant thought, he addressed himself to this act of piety, that he might perpetuate in his waking hours the enjoyments of his extraordinary dream. What could be more simple and spiritual than this act of worship? All the formalities of official sacrifice are, in the want of means for them, dispensed with. No bleeding sacrifice was there; but in the simple symbol that he was compelled to use, the true spirit of the appointed ceremony was retained. The type of the true Israel, he appears to have out-reached the bounds of knowledge in those earlier days, and to have approached God as a true worshipper, in spirit and in truth.

III. But we shall consider this more particularly as we notice THE VOW WHICH JACOB MADE. There are several circumstances in the language of Jacob's vow which are worthy of remark.

1. His piety, "If God will be with me." He does not ask for the advantage of powerful friends, or connections in life. "He sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," — counting "the lovingkindness of God better than life"; and the favour of God more valuable than worldly friends or honours. The love of God is the essential feature of true piety.

2. Observe his moderation. It is the legitimate effect of true religion, to moderato the desires of the heart for everything but spiritual blessings. "The land whereupon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed:" but he simply limited his prayer to this, "If God will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace." In the face of so extensive a promise, he asked only for food and clothing, and a return to his father's house. It is true, that generally in the outset of life, men's views and wishes are more moderate than they afterwards become; and even ambition is limited in its wishes, by the bounds of apparent probability — so much so, that in looking back upon past life, the moderation of man's early wishes is often a matter of surprise to themselves. But the spirit of Jacob was shown in this, that with the promise of wealth and exaltation before him, he still confined his wish to the needful supply of his daily wants — to food and raiment, and safe return. How few are there who are content with Jacob's portion! I speak of some, of whom there is reason to hope that they have Jacob's God for their God, but with whom there still seems a lingering attachment to the world which they are professing to renounce, and an unjustifiable managing and contriving to obtain, either for themselves or their children, a surer hold upon its dignities and its possessions.

3. Observe, again, Jacob's gratitude. He prayed even for less than God had promised; but he felt that all that he could ever be possessed of was a merciful gift, and he was willing to acknowledge that it was due to him from whom it was received. "This stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou shalt give me, I will give the tenth unto thee." A zealous contribution of personal exertion, and pecuniary aid, to the cause of God and of truth, had always marked the real servant of the Lord. The worldly man may be benevolent to men, but he is never liberal for God. Again, fix your attention on the event of Jacob's life, and consider how important was the influence which it had upon him. All his life was coloured by this solemn and interesting transaction. How important it is, then, to begin life with God — to set out rightly. Lastly, let the whole tenour of Jacob's conduct on this occasion show you, in illustration of the remark with which we set out, the legitimate effect of Divine mercy. It leads directly to holiness of life.

(E. Craig.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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,

WEB: 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 clothing to put on,

The Tenth is God's
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