Today's Lectionary Text
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
Jacob was following his father’s orders to find a wife from among family, someone who might be a God-worshiper. But Jacob was also running from his brother Esau, the one he had cheated out of the birthright and the blessing. God confronted Jacob, saying that the promise He had made to Abraham was valid for Jacob, too. But Jacob was Jacob and wanted to be in charge. So as he set up his stone pillow as a memorial to that promise, he vowed, “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey … so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
If, so that, then, and. How many times are our prayers more like the deal Jacob was trying to swing? How many times do we ask God for something but withhold our trust until He comes through for us? Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” As we begin 2020 with all of its uncertainties on so many levels, let us who follow Christ say with certainty, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”1 No ifs, so thats, thens or ands. Just raw trust and faith.
Pastor Diana Webster
Bushton and Claflin UMC's
1 I Know Whom I Have Believed, words by Daniel W. Whittle, music by James McGranahan, United Methodist Hymnal #714
Prayer for Reflection
God of all time and circumstances, encourage our trust, strengthen our faith. Help us to live as Children of the Promise, even though we don’t know where this year will take us. All we have is You; let that be enough. Amen.
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