On Sunday, Father Michael Cupp talked about the story all of us who were raised in church know well, about “Jacob’s ladder,” the dream Jacob had at Bethel, the name he gave to that place afterward, which means, house of God. Angels were going up and down a ladder set on earth and going up to heaven. God promises the blessing given to Abraham and Isaac. After which Jacob so to speak (my own words now, I think) seeks to strike a bargain with God. God is making himself known to Jacob at least in unusual terms here in keeping with his covenant with Abraham. And Jacob is responding in terms of self-interest, but with a commitment to something more than that if God comes through in answering his request.
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.”
As Father Michael pointed out, when you read of a vow in scripture, most often it spells trouble. In this case though, as he went on to say, God was gracious in meeting Jacob where he was. Later Jacob became Israel, probably meaning, “he struggles with God” (Genesis 32:28), and was a worshiper of God (Genesis 47:28-31; Hebrews 11:21).
This should encourage us in regard to ourselves and to others. When we come to God in faith, God accepts us where we are, but God doesn’t leave us there. And as Father Michael pointed out from the gospel reading (Luke 13:1-9), God does everything he can to make us fruitful, and patiently waits. By faith we have to receive and live in what God has done and is doing. This should encourage us if we’re not seeing the “much fruit” (John 15:5,8) that is promised. It will come. We must remain in the true vine, Jesus, his words remaining in us, and as Luke 13 points out, repent of and away from our own ways. God is gracious, and in meeting with us, will change us over time, so that the fruit that is borne will last, to the glory and praise of God (John 15:8,16).