“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:
And this stone, which I have set for a pillar,
shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me
I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”
I was about to break a promise I had made to God.
I had promised Him that I would never again enter a certain music club because I thought the place was demon-possessed.
I had come to that conclusion based on my own hysterical notions at the time that were in no way based on Scripture.
The truth be told, there are probably just as many demon-infested houses of worship out there as there are night clubs and live music houses.
Anyway, getting back to my story, it was a beautiful Friday night and I really, really, really wanted to go to this club to chill with my friends, have a drink, and jam to some groovy tunes.
But I was literally terrified that God would curse me or maybe even kill me if I went.
So I decided to pray.
After I finished, I was led to telephone a Jewish scholar friend of mine who sometimes visits our synagogue.
He had lived in Israel for seven years and can fluently read the original Hebrew texts.
In fact, he is in the process of earning his PhD in Rabbinical Studies.
We had a fascinating discussion about the nature of vow-making in the Bible.
The conclusion reached is directly connected to the text I would like to look at today.
In the vow Jacob makes to God, notice the conditional “If the Lord God will be with me…“.
The point is, Biblically speaking, if there isn’t a condition attached to a vow you make to God, then it really isn’t a vow.
Think of a contract.
What good is a contract if there are no consequences for breaking that contract?
The truth is, based on my own subjective hysteria and mistaken unscriptural notions, I had “promised” God that I would never enter a certain establishment.
However, I had never attached any conditions to it.
I never said, “If I break this promise, I will tithe a whole month’s salary to my congregation.”
“If I break this promise, I will fast for a whole month.”
“If I break this promise, let me be cursed for all eternity.”
Biblically speaking, a vow has no meaning if there isn’t a consequence attached to it for breaking it.
Having said that, it is best if you don’t make a vow.
Look what happened to Jephthah and his daughter.
Jephthah made a vow to Adonai:
“If you will hand the people of ‘Amon over to me,
then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me
when I return in peace from the people of ‘Amon will belong to Adonai;
I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
-Judges 11:30-31 (Complete Jewish Bible)
Well, the first thing that came through his door was his beloved daughter, which the Scripture tells us he indeed sacrificed as a burnt offering to HASHEM to uphold the vow he had made.
Before I close, it is interesting to note that I think we are beginning to see a pattern with Jacob here.
He is always the suspicious bargainer.
He carefully negotiated the conditions of the sale of soup to the famished Esau.
And later on we will see his shrewd negotiation skills when he encounters his uncle Laban.
Jacob closes his negotiation with God by saying “if You fulfill your end of the bargain, then 10% of everything You give me, I will give it back to you.”
Oh, in case you were wondering, yes I did end up going to one of my favorite music houses.
While inside, sipping on my drink, I was wiping my forehead in relief that I hadn’t actually entered into a legitimate vow with the Creator of the Universe.
I also vowed to myself to never make any rash promises to God again.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago,
‘Do not break your oath,
but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’
But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all:
either by heaven, for it is God’s throne
or by the earth, for it is his footstool;
or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
And do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make even one hair white or black.
All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’;
anything beyond this comes from the evil one”
Matthew 5: 33-37
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN GENESIS CHAPTER 29