Deal-Making with God
Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing…then the LORD will certainly be my God.” — Genesis 28:20-21
IF God does this for me, THEN I’ll do this for him. This is thinking we’ve all done. Here are two modern-day examples. If God gives me a good day at the family picnic tomorrow, including my interactions with so-and-so, then I’ll give him my attention. If I make through this milestone next week, then I’ll know God really is God and my allegiance is His COMPLETELY…until…until some other challenge comes up in my life.
Then we’ll renegotiate. Again.
Jacob shows us a part of ourselves in our relationship with God. We are deal-makers with God. We will do so and so or such and such only after God gives us the goods first. Vaguely or conceptionally, we get (or are told) God is good. We just need to see this for ourselves. Upfront.
Here in Genesis 28, Jacob uses a rock as a pillow and encounters God in a dream. The dream ends. Jacob, who truly gets what God can do by night, reverts to challenging God by day. “If you do this for me,” he says, “then I’ll do this for you.”
None of us are exempt from this thinking.
Faith isn’t something we are handed; it is something we earn.
Like Jacob, it is also something we can build daily. You can show others your faith through what you say or by how you live (mostly, not always), but you cannot give someone your faith.
The reverse of this is true, too. No one can GIVE you their faith; you have to do the work for it. There is that step that has to be taken, an action from independence to dependence, much like the one the Israelites do into the Red Sea when their enemy, the Egyptians, are literally on their heels (Exodus 14:5-31).
In these verses, Jacob is showing us what this work can look like. He shows us our hesitation, our reluctance, and maybe even our own laziness. He shows us even more, too. As the third link in God’s plan to start a nation from Abraham, Jacob allows us to see that sometimes we can’t even bank on our own faith. During a sudden or particularly challenging hardship, we may find ourselves questioning, or deal-making, with God.
Let’s not flip out when our faith falters. Instead, let’s do what Jacob did. Keep going. Scripture shows us Abraham’s grandson lies, deceives, and is selfish—like all of us, Jacob is not perfect—but, like us, he is also capable of great achievements.
When you find yourself deal-making with God, recognize what you’re doing. This is a key first step. When we realize we are negotiating with God, we realize how silly we sound. Then we stop. Then we do what we are supposed to do, which is let God be God.
PRAYER: God, I can be like Jacob, a deal-maker. Rather than challenge what You’re doing in my life, help me see today that You have my best interest, and the best plan—even when I can’t see it. Amen.