Then Jacob made 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 clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.” Genesis 28:20-22
Dear members and friends,
Sometimes, I hear a statement such as, “If I were to experience God, it would be easier for me to be faithful.” Yet, this statement is based on an assumption that if a human being experienced God for real, such a person would change internally and thus become deeply spiritual and faithful. In other words, there seems to be an excuse by many that the lack of faithfulness in people is the result of uncertainty regarding the existence of God due to the transcendental nature of God’s existence. However, what we find in the Bible is not exactly so. According to the Bible, knowing of the existence of God does not result in faithfulness in the minds of humans. Consequently, having faith in God is not the result of knowing the truth that God exists, nor the result of being able to explain God’s nature. The Bible illustrates – especially though the story of Jacob – that true faith has to be cultivated by each individual and personally initiated by volitional choice, which should be followed by an experiential journey in seeking, finding and accepting the innately present reality of God.
Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28 is quite a famous story among all Christians, especially the image of the ladder connecting heaven and earth with angels descending and ascending upon it. However, what Jacob vows to God after having such a wonderful and mysterious dream is not as famous. Jacob states, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.” There are two things that I would like to point out from this statement. First is that to Jacob, the mere existence of God is not meaningful enough, but God must be present in his daily life with favor, support and protection to be meaningful to him. Second, there is a big difference between a God who exists and a God who Jacob would call my God. My emphasis here is precisely on the part where Jacob says, “then the Lord shall be my God.” Faith, or having faith, means taking an inner spiritual journey, which is often initiated by one’s own choice and involves a certain personalized process. In other words, the matter of faith is not about finding and knowing whether God exists or not, but about making a room within us to accept God as God is revealed to us.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee