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Jacob Makes a Promise

(Genesis 28:10-22)

Lesson 7 -- fourth quarter 2007
October 14, 2007

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2007

Was Jacob bargaining?

Well, it certainly reads like he tried to bargain himself into God's favor and blessing: "If you will do this and that for me (as well as the other thing), I will serve you. Oh, and I'll even give you a tenth of whatever you give me." (Maybe he thought God would exclaim, "What a deal!")

But what about us?

May God deliver us from the self-exalted spirit that would pretend to stipulate the conditions under which we will follow Him! "If You make me happy and successful, if You allow me sufficient freedoms, if You grant me the social and romantic desires of my heart, and if You subdue my opponents and detractors...or even if You do just one or two of the above...then I will serve You." May we instead clearly see the exquisite privilege it is to serve Him, regardless of what we may or may not receive from His hand. May we so love Him that obedient service comes naturally...and very unconditionally. You see, "The LORD is my portion, saith my soul" (Lamentations 3:24). I shall not dare bargain for "more."

Renewing promises

Commitments and covenants. How many have you signed to in your lifetime? "Not many," you say? Think! I have signed driver's license forms, temporary vehicle importation permits, passport documents, credit card applications, income tax returns, and a marriage license.

I have also made some unsigned commitments and covenants. I surrendered my life to Jesus. I promised fidelity to the church. I have taken marriage vows. I was commissioned as a missionary to Mexico.

These are all significant commitments and covenants. But no matter how genuine and sincere they may have been at the time, having made them once does not guarantee that I will keep them. Unless there is a periodic (even daily) reminder of these commitments and covenants, I will become nonchalant and careless about faithfully following through with them. I believe God expects us to often reaffirm and strengthen our commitments and covenants.

Periodic reminders and repeated reaffirmations are most effective when they take the form of simple life expressions of the "main" vow. Take my marriage vows to Ruby. Sure, I promised to care for her. Does she want me to take her hands, look her in the eye, and repeat that part of the vows...every single day? I doubt it! But each time I...insist she go to chiropractor...buy her prenatal vitamins...pay the rent on time... help her with the dishes unexpectedly...forego breakfast so she doesn't have to get up so early...warm up the car on a freezing morning...make sure the van is running properly before she goes 40 miles to visit her sister...I am reaffirming that vow!

I also believe that God is interested in establishing maturing covenants with His people. Another way of saying the same thing is to say that God desires parallel agreements. God doesn't want a single, static covenant and no more. When I gave my life to Jesus, I offered him a sort of blanket surrender; I yielded all of me. But in the last 30 or so years, He has lead me to additional "side deals": I won't accept government economic help, I will obey whatever the Bible teaches, I will not amass a lot of possessions, I will burn myself out for the Kingdom, I will always speak the truth, I will not keep a vehicle that becomes more to me than a mode of transportation.

Besides that blanket surrender and a host of side deals, I also want to give the Lord daily "byproduct" commitments. If I have to be in an area where I will be exposed to indecency, I want to again vow purity of thought as well as eyeball control. If I have been reading too much "non-productive" material, I want to promise abstinence from it for a certain lengthy period. If I know I will be getting showered with compliments and commendations, I want to reaffirm my commitment to meekness and humility. If I anticipate opposition from someone, I want to be ready with forgiveness, love, and grace. If I have had a rough day at work, I want to commit myself to a patient spirit and controlled tongue when I get home.

A workable, working Christian commitment builds on the initial surrender to God.

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