The Encourager

The Encourager

“Keeping a Commitment to God”

Keeping a Commitment to God

by Jeff Curtis


In the movie Back to the Future, the main character went into the past to change a series of events in order to create a better future for himself, his family, and his friend. In a sense, Jacob had to go back to the past in his mind and remember his first encounter with God at Bethel, while fleeing from Esau. He needed to fulfill the vow he had made to the Lord on that occasion (Gen. 28:20-22) if he and his family were ever going to experience the future God had promised to him as a descendant of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 28:12-15).


Being Committed to God. God’s people need to be reminded of their spiritual commitments to Him. It is a human tendency to forget obligations, both in the natural realm of everyday life and in the spiritual realm of vows made to God. When Jacob fled from Esau, God appeared to him at Bethel, promising to be with him, bless him with many descendants, provide for him, and bring him safely back to Canaan (Gen. 28:13-15). In response to God’s promises, Jacob vowed to commit his life and one-tenth of his resources to the Lord if fulfilled those promises (28:20-22). Many years later, while Jacob was still in Haran, God spoke to the patriarch again and reminded him that He was “the God of Bethel” and it was time for Jacob to leave Haran and return to the land of his birth (31:13).


Even though Jacob had been back in Canaan for some time, he still procrastinated about returning to Bethel. The Lord revealed Himself to the patriarch at Shechem and said, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau” (35:1). Jacob’s pledge to follow God required him to turn completely away from idolatry. Neither he nor any of his company could worship on a pagan altar or have any further association with pagan gods. Such actions were unacceptable to God.


The sad story of God’s people has often been a repeat of Jacob’s: Many have promised to be faithful to the God of Abraham and Isaac but then have forgotten or postponed the fulfillment of their pledges of obedience to Him.


In later years, the psalmist repeatedly lamented Israel’s lack of faith, disobedience, idolatry, and rebellion against God. A root cause stated for their sins was their forgetfulness about the wonderful works of the Lord (Psalm 78:7-11; 106:7-14, 19-22). The Lord reminded Jacob that, as the God of Abraham and Isaac, He would bless him the way He had blessed his father and grandfather. Further, God promised to be with Jacob on his journey and bring him safely home. However, Jacob had to fulfill his vow to go back to Bethel and worship Him (28:13-15; 31:13; 35:1).


The same kind of challenge is evident in the New Testament. Almost two full chapters, Hebrews 3&4, warn Christians about the dangers of procrastination, unbelief and disobedience to God. The writer cautioned the brethren about making the same mistake Israel made in the Old Testament. He urged them with the words of the psalmist: “…’Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when [Israel] provoked [God], as in the day of trial in the wilderness’” (Heb. 3:7-8). God’s people were not to procrastinate and develop an “evil, unbelieving heart.” Such a lapse could be disastrous, leading to their disobedience and failure to enter into God’s heavenly rest (Heb. 3:11, 12, 18).


Peter described some of God’s people who had not developed the true qualities of Christian character as “blind or shortsighted.” Their spiritual growth was stunted because they had “forgotten” how they had been purified from their “former sins” (2Peter 1:8-9). They had forgotten the blessing of God’ “calling and election.” The apostle admonished them to “practice these qualities” so they would “never fall” (2Peter 1:10; ESV). He didn’t want them to lose their salvation.


Jacob’s problems of forgetting and procrastinating obedience were similar to the problem Peter addressed. God reminded Jacob to return to Bethel because, by delaying his obedience, Jacob was putting himself in danger of forgetting why God had called him. By demonstrating a careless attitude about fulfilling the vow he had made to the Lord, he was setting a bad example before his family. Jacob needed to get serious about his commitment to serve God.