William D. Watley, Pastor
St. James A.M.E. Church
Summary: It’s easy to become so comfortable at Shechem that we forget about the promises we made at
The journey from home. It must have been one of the loneliest nights of his life. Jacob had run away from home. As he faced the reality of his failing eyesight, Isaac found himself thinking more and more about the inevitability of his death. He needed to pass on the mantle of family leadership and make disposition of his estate between his two sons.
Isaac prepared to bless Esau as head of the family. However, Isaac’s wife Rebekah favored their son Jacob over Esau and successfully conspired with him to steal his brother’s blessing. When Esau discovered that his brother had cheated him, he swore that Jacob would not live to enjoy the rewards of his trickery. No matter what we’re after, the way we get it is just as important as getting it.
Esau recognized that although there was nothing he could do about his lost birthright and stolen blessing, he could do something to prevent Jacob from enjoying what rightfully belonged to him. He resolved that when his father died, he would kill Jacob. Rebekah learned of Esau’s designs and told Jacob to run fast and far to the distant home of her brother Laban.
Jacob was alone in the middle of the night, fleeing the murderous wrath of his brother. There he was, miles from his home, perhaps on the first long journey of his life. The journey from home is always a long and difficult journey to make. There he was, the grandson of Abraham, father of the faith; there he was, the son of Isaac, whose own life had been spared because of his father’s faith—separated from all he knew and loved. There he was, on the bleak summit of the
Alone, but not deserted. Out there by himself, Jacob discovered he was not alone. While feeling dejected, he discovered that he was not deserted. Out there, away from the reach of Esau, Jacob discovered that he was not out of the reach of God. As he dreamed, he saw the vision of a ladder or stairway that stretched from heaven to earth, upon which angels were ascending and descending. The Lord who stood above it told Jacob that one day his descendants would dwell in the land and in the place where he slept. Jacob received the further assurance that God would be with him and would one day bring him back to this place.
Jacob awoke and said: ?Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven? (Gn 28: 16-17, NRSV). The next day Jacob took the stone that had been his pillow, set it up as a monument, and consecrated it by pouring oil on it. He called the place
We ought never to assume that persons who tithe are necessarily more p
Like Jacob, many people who pledge to tithe are financially shaky at best. Jacob’s pledge was a result of his belief in God’s promise of protection and care for him. Most people I know pledge on the same basis. We pledge in faith that God will help us and provide the means for us to keep our pledge. The apostle Paul reminds us, ?Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience? (Rm 8:24-25, NRSV).
Secondly, Jacob’s pledge to tithe was a voluntary act. Jacob did not tithe because tithing was part of God’s law at that time. The first Old Testament tither was Abraham. In Genesis 14:20 Abraham tithed to Melchizedek a tenth of everything he had as an act of thanksgiving to God for victory in battle. In Genesis 28 Jacob pledged to tithe to God a tenth of all he had. Both of these incidents occurred many generations before the law was given to Moses.
We tithe because the Scriptures identify tithing as an appropriate standard, one way of expressing thanksgiving and faith. Other standards of giving lifted up by the Scriptures include that of the widow, who gave the two mites; Barnabas, who sold his field and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and Jesus, who gave His life. Each gave not a tenth, but all. Their gifts of all, like Abraham’s and Jacob’s gifts of the tenth, were given voluntarily, as acts of thanksgiving and expressions of faith. For ?God loves a cheerful giver? (2Cor 9:7, NRSV).
At the close of Genesis 28, we see Jacob, the homeless young man, making a faith pledge to give God a tenth. By the opening of chapter 35, over thirty years have passed. We observe two things. First, God has kept the promise made at
The heart’s altar. It’s easy to become so comfortable at Shechem that we forget about the promises we made at
But though our memories are short, God’s memory is long. God came to Jacob and said, ?Arise, go up to
Not only had Jacob forgotten his vow, but he had allowed strange gods to infiltrate his household. When we forget our word to God and God’s word to us, it’s easy to become infiltrated by strange gods, strange doctrines, and strange ideas. When we fail to remember the God of Bethel it’s easy to start making allowances and permit things that we know we shouldn’t. Incorrect and forgotten stewardship commitments lead to shady discipleship. When we fail to keep God first in our giving, God also ceases to be first in our living.
Maybe that’s why the spiritual life of the church is sometimes so poor, and our stewardship has become so shaky. When the early church had needs, people sacrificed and gave as God had p
We need not only to return to our Bethels of biblical stewardship and tithing; we need to return to other Bethels of broken promises and forgotten vows. We need to go back to that
Maybe, like Jacob, we were wandering around lost in life, confused and lonely, but the grace of God found us and comforted us in the day of our distress. We need to find our way back to
When Jacob went back to
This abridged sermon is taken from Dr. Watley’s book, Bring the Full Tithe: Sermons on the Grace of Giving, copyright 1995 by Judson Press. Used by permission of Judson Press, 800-4-JUDSON, www.judsonpress.com.