Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JACOB’S TITHE”

Genesis 28.10-22

 

When the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian congregation, he rehearsed to his readers some of the experiences of the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings more than a thousand years earlier. Then, in First Corinthians 10.6-11, he made use of those same Israelites to teach his readers. Listen, as I read his words:

 

6      Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

7      Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

8      Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

9      Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

10     Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

11     Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

 

Paul very effectively warns his readers in Corinth using the bad behavior and tragic consequences that befell the children of Israel centuries earlier. In doing so, the inspired apostle established that the Word of God, even those portions that relate events to us from the distant past, is presently useful for instruction and direction in life. To his disciple Timothy a few years later, the Apostle Paul established more clearly the usefulness of events that took place in the Old Testament to benefit later readers, when he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write Second Timothy 3.16-17:

 

16     All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17     That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

 

Thus, everything in the Bible is beneficial for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. That is, it is both useful and relevant to our lives today. Verse 17, of course, is where Paul points out to Timothy the particular usefulness of scripture to the man of God as he preaches, teaches, counsels, and otherwise makes use of God’s holy Word in ministry to people.

I say all that to say this: Even Old Testament passages of scripture are of great benefit to the reader, to the student of the Bible, and can profitably be used by the preacher to minister grace to those who hear him.

 

SERMON:

 

Have you ever heard of a fox hole conversion? A fox hole conversion occurs when a soldier finds himself trapped in a hole he has dug in the ground to hide from artillery fire or some other danger, who then promises God that if he is allowed to live and not be killed in combat he will be good and serve God when he gets out of there. Of course, such promises are conveniently forgotten as soon as the danger passes.

There are varieties of fox hole conversions in every day life. How about when the credit card bill comes and you have no money to cover the minimum payment? Is that not when you promise God that you will trust him and never foolishly use a credit card again as long as you live?

Here is an example I recently experienced: My roof started leaking one night about two months ago. Since it was ten o’clock and raining very hard, I knew I needed help. So, I called up a church member and asked him to send his eighteen-year-old over to help me. Long story short, after coming down out of my attic, I then climbed up on my roof in the driving rain to patch the leak. However, just as I cleared the ladder I lost my balance and almost fell off the roof. It was then I thanked God I did not fall, and knew I should never get upon a roof again as long as I live. A week later one of the men in the church and I were patching a leak in the education building and I almost took a header again.

The point that I seek to make about fox hole conversions, as well as the domestic variety of pledges, commitments, and instant flashes of wisdom that circumstances force upon us, is that when such things happen no one ever decides to do wrong. No one ever commits to begin foolishness in the future. As well, those promises to God to be good and do right in the future are always commitments people ought to keep anyway. In the message from God’s Word this morning, we will see something akin to a fox hole conversion in the life of Jacob.

Before we read from God’s Word, let me set the stage: Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac, and the grandsons of Abraham. Their personalities were as different as night and day. “Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.”[1] The result, of course, was favoritism. “. . . Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.”[2] Over the course of time, two events brought the friction between the twins to a potentially violent climax: First, Jacob bought Esau’s birthright from him for what was basically a bowl of beans.[3] Though Esau should have regarded his birthright more highly than to sell it cheaply just because he was very hungry, his own lack of wisdom did nothing to alleviate his anger against his brother for taking advantage of him in that way.

It was the second event, however, which caused Esau to boil over, putting Jacob on the run for his life. When Esau was hunting, Jacob pretended to be Esau to his blind old father and tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing instead of giving it to Esau.[4] Of course, this resulted in Esau’s hatred toward his brother, and a determination to kill him. As we turn to Genesis chapter 28, we find Jacob on the run from his brother, fleeing for his life. Stand now, and read verses 10-22 with me:

 

10     And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

11     And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

12     And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13     And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14     And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15     And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

16     And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

17     And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

18     And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

19     And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

20     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,

21     So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

22     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.

 

Though Esau certainly was a profane man, and greatly displeased his parents by taking to wife two women who were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob was a conniving sneak.[5] Therefore, when what he did became known he knew he had to leave to save his life.

Think about it. On our way to the life’s lesson I want to highlight for you this morning from the experiences of Jacob, keep in mind that this conniving, scheming, greedy sneak of a man, who wanted and got his brother’s birthright, and who wanted and got his brother’s blessing, is now running for his life, is now using rocks for pillows, and will never see his beloved mother alive again in his life time.

Do you really think a man gets ahead apart from God, even when he is clever, when he seizes unfair advantage over others, and when he discards important relationships to get what he wants? My friends, Jacob is an example that it just does not work that way in life. He got what he wanted. He got the birthright and the blessing. However, as you read of his life throughout the book of Genesis, you see that every material possession he ever had he got by hard work. He got nothing the birthright and blessing entitled him to. The price he paid to get what he wanted, however, was the loss of his home and the loss of his mother for the rest of her life.

As I suggested a few minutes ago, this morning’s message really revolves around the closest thing to a fox hole conversion Jacob ever experienced, and is directly related to our stewardship emphasis month that draws to a close today.

Four observations about Jacob, Israel’s patriarch, as he runs from his brother to save his skin:

 

First, In Our Text We Read Of JACOB’S FEAR

 

Imagine yourself to be somewhat like Jacob, making your way through life scheming and conniving, depending upon your cleverness and deviousness. However, when you finally go too far and have to run for your life to escape the fury of your brother, when you have to leave home with nothing you cannot carry, never to see your mother alive again, you think you are free in a way you have never been free before.

You can go anywhere you want to go, do anything you want to do. Who is there to tell you what you can and cannot do? Who is there to say “No.”? To be sure, your pillow is a rock; you are broke and have no income. Still, you can do anything you want. Therefore, you go to sleep one night and dream a dream. In addition, in that dream, which is no ordinary dream, God speaks to you, and you see a vision in that dream that is real.

Let me read to you again:

 

12     And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13     And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14     And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15     And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

16     And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

17     And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

18     And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

19     And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

 

To be sure, there are a great many details provided in our text, but it is most important for us to take note of verse 17: “And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Beloved, Jacob was scared. He was frightened. He was terrified.

 

Next, Consider That Fear Was The Result Of JACOB’S REALIZATION

 

According to verse 17, Jacob realized that the place he had slept was a dreadful place. That is, it was a place that evoked dread in him. As well, it was none other but the house of God, and the gate heaven. Maybe the Canaanites living there did not know this about that place, but because of God’s revelation Jacob knew it. Though he named that location Bethel, which means “house of God,” verse 19 tells us that it was first called Luz. According to Arthur Pink, Luz means separation.[6]

May I suggest the thinking in Jacob’s mind, what he realized that produced such fear and dread? First, in his dream the revelation of God was so real as to be undeniable. Thus, perhaps for the first time in his life he is confronted with the truth that God, the God of his father, is real. He has come to grips with the reality of God on his own, without the secondhand faith of a child living at home. God has manifested Himself to Jacob and it has frightened him. Because, though he is running away from home, and is deep into Canaanite country, he finds himself sleeping on a rock out in the middle of nowhere, that turns out to be the very house of God. Isaiah 66.1 reveals what I think Jacob grasped: “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” When he left home, he probably had few thoughts of God. He may even have questioned the existence of God, since what he knew of God was second hand from his father and his grandfather. How utterly shocked he was to find that though he had slept outdoors, he was in fact in the house of God in heathen territory. That could only mean that unless God reveals reality to someone he has no idea what is really going on anywhere. However, that is not all. The vision of the ladder reaching up to heaven, verse 12, and the name Luz, verse 19, served to bring home to him that not only is God here and I did not know it, not only is this place the house of God and I did not know it, but I am separated from God by a gulf that only a supernatural ladder can span. Of course, we learn in John 1.51 that the ladder Jacob saw represented none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the only way anyone down here can reach God in His heaven.

Imagine what it must have been like for Jacob. The flood of consciousness that overwhelmed him with the realizations that God is, God is everywhere, God is invisible and must reveal Himself to be known, that I do not know nearly what I thought I knew, and there is a great gulf that separates between God and me. No wonder he came to fear. No wonder the place filled him with dread. For the first time in his life saw spiritual reality.

 

Third, The Reaction To This Eye-Opening Encounter With God Was JACOB’S VOW

 

20     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,

21     So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

22     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.

 

This is very much like a fox hole conversion, is it not? First, we see that our subject is terrified. He is not terrified of dying, as with most fox hole conversions. This man is terrified of God. So, he vows a vow. The vow, of course, is a promise to God to tithe: “and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee,” verse 22.

Why a tithe? Why a tenth? He had certainly been taught the principle of the tithe by his grandfather, Abraham, and by his own father. However, it is obvious from his vow that he has not, to this point in his life, been a tither. This vow, like all fox hole conversion promises, is an oath to begin doing something he knows he ought to do, but has not yet done. No one promises God he will do what he is already doing. Oh, no. Guys who are scared and trying to reach a bargain with God always promise to do something they know they should do, and certainly will do, but have not to this point done.

However, there are some ludicrous things about Jacob’s vow: First, and this is true of all fox hole type conversions, there is the attempt to bargain with God. If you do this then I will do that. Beloved, you cannot bargain with God. What do you have that He does not already have and cannot get without your help? Next, if you will look at verses 13, 14, and 15 again, you will see that God had already promised to bless him and to be with him, quite apart from any requirement on his part. Obviously, then, there is no faith connected to Jacob’s vow, because he has no confidence that God will fulfill His Word to do what He has just promised to do, which is what faith in essence really is.

Why would Jacob vow such a ridiculous vow after coming to fear God? Does the Bible not say that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom?[7] Yet Jacob’s words seem foolish in light of what God has just promised him. My friends, there is a spiritual fear and there is a carnal fear, and Jacob’s is not the spiritual fear that is the beginning of wisdom. His is the fright that produces a foolish response, such as trying to bargain with God and promising that he will tithe if God will bless him, when the tithe is God’s whether he is particularly blessed by God or not. John Bunyan refers to this wrong kind of fear, this unholy terror, in his classic book, The Fear Of God. How else are we to explain those commands to fear God and those admonitions to fear not?[8] We explain them in this way: There is a spiritual fear of God that trusts His Word and tends toward obedience, and there is a carnal fear of God that does not trust His Word and tends toward disobedience.

I am convinced the explanation for Jacob’s rash vow to do what he should be doing anyway was his lost condition. This was a lost man who, none should deny, had a real encounter with God. However, an encounter with God does not guarantee conversion. God revealed Himself to Jacob without saving him on that occasion. However, the experience frightened him, even though God did promise to bless him. The reaction was an unwise commitment to do what he should have done anyway.

 

Finally, The Proof Of What I Claim Is JACOB’S FOLLOW-THROUGH

 

Did God fulfill His promise to Jacob? Yes. God, Who cannot lie, always does what He says He will do. Jacob arrived at his destination with nothing, and when he left to return home, he had twelve sons and at least one daughter, was a man of great material wealth, and had undeniably been blessed by God. Yet there is no record in the Bible to suggest that he ever fulfilled his vow and tithed.

In this respect, Jacob was just like any other lost man who gets scared by something or anyone who has an encounter with God that he mistakes for proof that he is converted. Again, not to deny that the encounter with God was real. However, the conclusion that an encounter necessarily means one is converted is a mistake.

Was Jacob ever saved, in the sense that he was truly converted and became what we would refer to as a new creature in Christ? Yes, Jacob had a marvelous conversion experience, but it was years after the occasion of this dream, the vision of the ladder reaching up to heaven, and the unfulfilled promise to give God His tithes.

 

As we close our Bibles on this message from God’s Word, what lesson can we take home with us? Of those many applications that bubble up to the surface as we examine Jacob’s life, there is one that I want to press home to you this morning.

Consider Jacob’s vow to give God a tithe. That was not only a promise that he made, it was also a response to what he knew was a holy obligation. The fright he was experiencing from that encounter with God evoked from him a response to do something he already knew he should have been doing.

The point that I want you to leave with is this: Jacob knew when he was lost that the tithe is the Lord’s. That is why the lost should tithe, though most do not. That is also why parents should train their children to give, though most do not.

At the end of his long life, when he joined his son Joseph in Egypt, Jacob was introduced to Pharaoh, who asked him, “How old art thou?” His answer was tragically telling. In Genesis 47.9 we read, “And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”

“Few and evil.” What a terrible autobiography. A man’s life is comprised of so many things, and it is a tragedy that the sum of it all would be “few and evil.” I cannot help but think that his life would have been so much more enjoyable had he simply honored the Lord with the first fruits of his increase. I mean, if a lost man knows he should tithe, what should be expected from someone who claims to be a Christian?



[1] Genesis 25.27

[2] Genesis 25.28

[3] Genesis 25.29-34

[4] Genesis 27.1-40

[5] Genesis 26.34-35

[6] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings In Genesis, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1950), page 252.

[7] Psalm 111.10

[8] 1 Peter 2.17 & Exodus 20.20

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org