In our daily Bible reading this week we read one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. I love it because it shows what happens in the life of a person when the Lord really becomes your God. We see this in Jacob here, when after his encounter with God he says:
:21 “then the LORD will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Here Jacob shows us what happens “When The Lord Is Your God:”
I. When The Lord Is Your God, You Make A Personal COMMITMENT To Him.
:21 “Then the LORD will be my God.”
This is no small statement. Jacob was in essence making a personal commitment to YHWH as his God. (When you see “LORD” in all caps in the Old Testament, that means in the Hebrew text it is YHWH, or “Yahweh,” the personal name of God.) Was He not already his God? Well, perhaps. We don’t really know a person’s heart. But there is evidence that YHWH had NOT been Jacob’s God before now:
— I think it’s notable that when God appeared to Jacob in the dream in :13, He said “I am YHWH the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” God didn’t say “I am YOUR God.” Because maybe at that time, He wasn’t yet.
— And then there is Jacob’s statement here in this passage, when he says: “THEN YHWH will be my God” — as if He had NOT been his God before this point.
Jacob had to come to a time in his life when he made a personal commitment to the Lord, or YHWH, as his God. See, it wasn’t enough for God to be the Lord of Abraham, and Isaac, Jacob’s father and grandfather. That did not make Him Jacob’s God. Every person must make a personal choice as to who or what they are going to serve as their God. We can’t take that for granted. Just because I am serving God, doesn’t mean my kids will. Just because your parents are saved, doesn’t mean that you are. Each person must make their own personal choice.
And this appears to be the time when Jacob make HIS choice. He said in :21 “Then YHWH will be my God.” He made his own personal commitment.
Chapter 31:13 says when Jacob had gone to Haran. God said to him, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me …”. So God evidently took this commitment very seriously. He said Jacob had “made a vow” to him; and committed his life to Him, and pledged that he would do certain things because He was his God. It appears that God was referring back to this episode as Jacob’s “conversion time.”
We all need to come to a time like that. Even when we have grown up in church, we have to come to a time when it is no longer just “mom & dad’s faith”, but YOUR OWN personal faith, and when the Lord becomes YOUR God.
Franklin Graham is the leader of the Samaritan’s Purse ministry that has the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Franklin grew up in a home with Billy Graham as his father. Now THAT is a big privilege and responsibility! But having Billy Graham as his father did not save Franklin. In fact, many of you know that as a young person, Franklin did not live and act the way you’d think “the first-born son of Billy Graham” would! He said he just wanted to have fun, and he would do whatever it took to have fun, no matter what anybody thought about it. He smoked, drank, fought, got into confrontations with the police, and eventually was kicked out of college. But it cost him, and it hurt him. He said, “I had been running from God. I believed in God. I just didn’t want Jesus running my life. I wanted to run my own life. But I was miserable. I was empty and my life was broken into pieces.” And so he said that one night in his hotel bedroom, he called out to God and asked Him to forgive all the sins he had committed, and He surrendered to Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life. He said that after he did that, he woke up the next morning, and he didn’t necessarily “feel” like some big miracle had taken place; he was still the same person. But he said things WERE different, because now he had committed his life to Jesus, and He has led him and directed him, sometimes chastens and corrects him, and has used him in ministry ever since.
But see, even being Billy Graham’s son would not save Franklin. He had to make his own personal commitment to follow Jesus. And you have to make your own personal commitment too. You can’t just coast on your parents’ faith. You’ll run out of that — usually about the time you get to college. And we see that a lot. Kids go to church as long as they are at home with mom & dad, and they are expected to go. But when they get out on their own they stop — and it is often because they never really made God the Lord of their own life. You can’t “coast” on somebody else’s faith. You have to come to a time when you say like Jacob: “Then the LORD will be MY God.”
Have you ever done that? Have you ever truly committed your life to the Lord? It’s more than just “walking down an aisle” or getting baptized or filling out a card. It is coming to a time in your life when you realized that you were going the wrong way, your own way, and you turned around from your way, asked forgiveness from God through Jesus’ death on the cross, and committed yourself to Jesus as the Lord of your life, and NOTHING else is more important than Him. Has that ever happened to you? If not, then you need to take this step that Jacob did in Genesis 28, and make a personal commitment that the Lord will be your God. When the Lord is your God, you make a personal commitment to Him.
Well, Jacob didn’t just “say” he had made a commitment and that the Lord was his God; he showed it by doing several, practical things that we will do too, if the Lord is our God:
II. When The Lord Is Your God, You WORSHIP Him.
Jacob said because the Lord was his God, that he would set up this pillar, and make this place where God had appeared to him, a place of worship.
He said it would be “God’s house” — in Hebrew “beth” means “house”, and “El” or “Elohim” means “God.” so “Beth-El” was “the house of God.” Now this was not literally “God’s house” of course; God doesn’t “fit” in our little houses of worship. As Solomon said when he was building the temple, “But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? So who am I, that I should build a house for Him, except to [g]burn incense before Him?”
Like Solomon said, we can’t really build a “house” that will hold God! But he did build a house where they could burn incense, which was dedicated to the worship of God. And it’s the same with our church buildings today. In one sense we can say this is not “God’s house;” He is not confined to this little room. He is literally everywhere! Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit; where can I flee from Your presence?” But it IS His “house” in the sense that it is a place that is dedicated to worshiping Him.
But the real point here is, when the Lord is really your God, you will be committed to worship Him. Nobody “made” Jacob set up a place to worship God at Bethel. He WANTED to do that. God had really touched his life; he had really himself committed to Him, so he wanted to set up a place to worship Him there. And that is characteristic of someone who has really made the Lord their God. They want to worship Him.
I appreciated the testimony that Amber Peterson shared a couple of weeks ago from Genesis in our Bible readings, of how wherever Abraham went, he built altars to the Lord. God was really his God, so he wanted to worship Him. And so he built places of worship, wherever he went!
That’s what you do when the Lord is your God. You worship Him. When the Lord is your God, people don’t have to talk you into going to worship. If someone had to twist your arm this morning to get you to come to worship, you need to take a serious look at your heart: is the Lord really your God? Because the #1 mark of someone who really loves God and who is committed to Him, is worship.
And if the Lord is really your God, your worship won’t just be limited to the “church building” either. In fact, if the Lord is really your God, MOST of your worship will NOT be done in the church building! Actually, I would go even farther, and say that if most of your worship is done in this building, then the Lord is most likely NOT your God! If He is really your God, then you are going to worship Him every day — starting at HOME!
If God is really your God, you’ll worship Him at home, too, not just at church. I am thankful for the testimony Jon shared about their family Bible reading time. In the same way, I love the picture that Amanda Knutson put up on Facebook this week, of Terrell & Wyatt doing their Bible reading and MasterLife at home. This is just what we want to see happening. This is just how it will be when the Lord is really your God. It’s not just going to be something that happens at church. You’ll worship Him at home too.
Last Sunday night in Student MasterLife we talked about some important elements of a good personal worship time at home: you need a certain time, a specific place, and a plan or procedure for what you are going to do. It really does help you if you have a place at home prepared: Cheryl shared in class last Sunday night about the importance of getting your “place” ready the night before: get your Bible, notebook, pencil, everything you need, all ready and set out in your particular place, so you’re ready to go in the morning. And that will be important to you, when the Lord is really your God. You’ll get that place ready to worship at home.
When the Lord is your God, you will worship Him:
— You’ll worship Him at home before you head out for the day.
— You will worship Him in your car while you are driving home from work; just singing and worshiping God, and maybe reviewing some scriptures you’ve memorized.
— You’ll worship Him in the evening while you’re out for a walk.
— You’ll worship all the time, in all kinds of places.
— And you will also worship in the “Beth-El” — the “house of God” that He has led you to, just like Jacob did.
When the Lord is really your God, then worshiping God is the most important thing in your life, and you will do it all the time.
Someone said recently, if you don’t love worship here on earth, you’re gonna hate heaven! That is all they do there!
— Revelation 4:8 says “Day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, who was and who is and who is to come.”
— Revelation 5:11-12 says that in heaven, myriads and myriads, thousands of thousands are crying out: “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
If you don’t get excited about that; if you don’t love that; then you may have some little form of “religion”, but you don’t really know what it means for the Lord to be your “God.” When the Lord is really your God, like Jacob, you will worship Him.
III. When the Lord Is Your God, you GIVE BACK to Him.
Jacob said at the end of :22, “and of all that You give me, I will surely give a tenth to You.”
I believe that this is one of the most important verses on giving in the whole Bible. Because it shows us that giving comes out of person’s commitment to the Lord as the God of his life. Jacob said here, God, You are going to be my God. And here is how I am going to show it:
— I am going to set up a place to worship You
— And I am going to give a tenth of everything you give me, back to You.
This passage is so instructive because it shows us that giving isn’t just an isolated religious deed; it springs forth from a person’s commitment to God. When someone really believes in God, and commits their life to Him, and they understand that everything they have comes from God, they are very willing to give that tenth back to Him.
I say “give BACK”, because that is exactly what it is. We shouldn’t feel all “puffed up״ and “magnanimous” about it when we give something to the Lord, because the truth is we aren’t really “giving” anything to Him at all. He gave us everything we have, and we are just giving BACK to Him from what He gave us in the first place:
— If you look at the text, that is what Jacob expressed here: “of all that YOU GIVE ME, I will surely give a tenth to You.” See, Jacob knew that whatever he was able to accumulate, it was GOD who was giving it to him, and that whatever he gave back to Him in the tithe, was just giving back to the One who gave it to him in the first place!
— In Job 41:11 this week in our Bible reading God said: “Who then has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”
— This is what David said in I Chronicles 29:14, after the people of Israel took up an amazing offering for the temple: “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.”
It’s just like when our kids were little, we would take them to the store, and we’d give them some money to buy each other and us some Christmas presents. So on Christmas Day we would open the “gift” that they gave us — but they literally bought us this “present” from the money that we gave them in the first place! That’s exactly what David, and Job, and Jacob were saying: “From Your hand we have given You.” So when we give the tithe back to the Lord, we are acknowledging, like Jacob and all these others, that we realize that everything we have was given to us by God.
And it was no accident that Jacob set his gift to God at a “tenth.”
If you are reading through the Bible with us, you read in Genesis 14:20 that when Abraham came back from the Battle of the Kings, “he gave a tenth of all” to Melchizedek the priest. So early on, by Genesis 14, this tenth had already been established as a principle of what a person should give to God: Abraham did it; Jacob did it here; and we see God commanding later in the Law that the children of Israel should do it too. Now I know of some people who like to say that “tithing” is something from the Old Testament Law, and that since we are now under “grace”, in Christ, we don’t need to actually “tithe”; and we are free in the New Covenant to just “give” whatever we want to by grace.
But here’s the thing: Abraham and Jacob here in Genesis were not yet under “The Law.” The Law was not given until Moses in the Book of Exodus. It is very significant that Abraham gave the tithe to Melchizedek, and Jacob gave the tithe to God, BEFORE the Law ever came — it indicates that this is a spiritual principle, outside the Law, that a tithe should be given to God in recognition of His provision for us.
It really is a mark of one’s commitment to the Lordship of God in their life. Jacob said, in effect, God, You are going to be my God: and one of the ways I am going to show it is by giving You the first tenth of everything You give me. That tithe was a mark, a sign, that God was really the Lord of his life.
And I believe that the tithe is one of the most revealing signs of His Lordship in our lives today, too. It is SO easy in America today to say that you are a Christian.
Cheryl & I were listening to an Eric Metaxas podcast on the way back from Kansas yesterday, and in the course of the conversation Eric said to his guest, “I know you aren’t a Christian, but …”. And I was almost surprised to hear him say that, because SO many people in America claim to be Christians. It’s almost an INSULT for someone to say that your’e not! Especially here in North Carolina. Just about everybody says they’re a Christian.
But how do you really show that that is not just an empty claim? One of the most practical ways we can show the real priority of God in our lives, is by tithing. THAT is not just cheap talk. THAT is “putting your money where your mouth is” and shows that the Lord is really your God. It shows that He’s even more important to you, than money, or whatever you could have bought with that money. In all honesty money or the things you can buy with money is the true god of most people; and they show it because they put that money ahead of the tithe that God asks for. So the tithe can be one of the best giveaway signs that the Lord really is, or is not, your true God.
There are several signs like that that show whether the Lord really is, or isn’t your God. These are the two that this passage shows us: worshiping and giving.
But the key is, if the Lord is really your God, there WILL be signs of it in your life. Your life will not be the same as everyone else’s, or the same as it used to be. There will be some things in your life that are different, and that will change, because you have committed your life to the Lord. We saw that in Franklin Graham’s life. In his early years, he lived for fun, for pleasure. He didn’t want Jesus telling him what to do. But after he committed his life to the Lord, things changed. And you can see it to this day. Franklin Graham has SHOWED that the commitment he made to the Lord that night in his bed was real, by the way that he has lived his life ever since.
Can that be said of YOUR life? Have you ever made a personal commitment to Jesus as the Lord & Savior of your life? Is the Lord your God? And if you say He is, does your life show it?
— Are you worshiping Him regularly, in “the house of God” like Jacob?
— And are you gladly giving back to Him from what He has given you?
It’s just like Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” If that’s so — and it is — then what does the fruit of your life say about whether the Lord really is YOUR God?!