It doesn’t really appear that Jacob was concerned with God. He seemed to be far more focused on duping his brother and acquiring the inheritance of his father. But, as actions always have a way of catching up to people, he eventually found himself alone—far from his conniving mother’s advice and protection—fleeing the disappointment of a father and the anger of a brother.
Perhaps for the first time, Jacob had to grow up. It appears he’d gone quickly—before Esau found out he was leaving.
Now, it was night—dark, desolate—no city lights for comfort and assurance. Just the perfect place to find God—or for God to find him.
Note that God does not claim to be his God at this moment. He tells Jacob, “I am the LORD,” the God of your father and grandfather. He promises Jacob the land and the inheritance—for it was truly only God’s to give in the first place. Who but God controls our future? He promises to stay with Jacob and foreshadows becoming Jacob’s God as well.
When Jacob awoke, he was a changed man. Neither proud nor self-seeking, he was simply afraid (Gen. 28:16). If Jacob had never taken God seriously before, he certainly does now. He worships there and makes a vow—a commitment to God—that if God only watches over him and brings him safely home, God will be his God too—far less than what God had just promised him.
Though Jacob’s words have the impression of a condition, from this point forward we see Jacob’s growing dependence on God. Perhaps that’s always true of a real encounter with God—a shift from depending on our own control to a reliance on God’s eyes to watch over us and never to leave us. And, to bring us safely home.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything