“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, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.”
What is the meaning of God’s everlasting covenant of grace and what is its significance for you?
The covenant has its meaning and significance for your parents and for your church. Your parents belong to the people of God. They believe in Him, and through faith they enjoy all the blessings and benefits of their salvation. Your church is the church of God. In faith she confesses His name, and she worships Him in faithfulness to His Word. But the meaning and significance of that covenant for your parents and your church points also to you and has something to say about you. You are the seed of your parents. You are the children of your church.
On account of that covenant, your parents presented you for baptism, the sign and seal of washing in Jesus’ precious blood, the blood of the covenant. Because of that covenant your parents vowed their vows. They vowed that they would care for you and raise you as one of God’s sons and daughters, sealed with the blood of Christ. In reliance on God’s covenant promises, your parents took on the work they vowed to do. They instruct you by their word and example. They take up the necessary work to see that you attend a good Christian school. They pray for you, trusting God’s covenant promise.
The covenant also has its meaning and significance for your church. Your church demands that your parents baptize you, take care for your spiritual welfare, and see to your Christian education. Your church sees to it that your parents take you to the worship services and bring you to your catechism classes. Your elders pay attention to you, especially when they visit you and your family in your home. They take care to see that you are developing well as a Christian young man or woman. They regard you as a member of the flock. All because of God’s covenant.
But what is the meaning and significance of that covenant for you? Does it mean only that you are going to be on the receiving end of so much attention and care? Does it mean only that someday, sometime, all the care and attention your parents and the church give you will have its result, and you will believe, supplying your part, so that God can then do His part, and save you? Does it mean only that someday God will be your God?
God’s everlasting covenant of grace means that God is your God now. He is your God, not in some far-off, remote way. Not a possibility, not a maybe, but God is your God. Just as He is the God of your parents. Just as He is the God of your church.
For God was Jacob’s God. God was Jacob’s God before Jacob was born. God was Jacob’s God when Jacob saw the importance of the birthright and the blessing. God was Jacob’s God when God protected him from Esau’s hatred. And when God appeared to Jacob at Bethel, in that stunning vision, God made it crystal clear that He was Jacob’s God. Then and there God promised Jacob the same promises He had made to his father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham. He promised to bless Jacob and to take care of him.
So now you must hear God saying the same things to you. His covenant is an everlasting covenant. According to His covenant promise, as He is forever the God of your parents, so He is forever your God. He will bless you, and He will keep you. He will lead you all the way to His eternal kingdom.
How did Jacob answer this Word of God?
He vowed a vow: “Then shall the Lord be my God.”
See how Jacob’s vow completely agreed with God’s promise, and was based on God’s faithfulness to His promise. God had promised all these things, and Jacob took God at His Word. As God will show Himself faithful, to do everything He has promised, so will Jacob have God for his God. God had said, “I will be with thee.” So Jacob vowed, “If God will be with me….” God had said, “I will keep you.” So Jacob vowed: “If God…will keep me in this way that I go.” God had said, “I will give you bread to eat and raiment to put on.” So Jacob vowed, “If God…will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on.”
With those words Jacob already received and believed the promises that God made to him. Already he placed his life entirely in God’s hand. He did not trust in some other god to be with him and keep him. He did not trust in himself for his food and clothing. Jacob looked to God alone, to be his God and to supply his every need. Already he understood his place in God’s covenant by the Word of God to him that night at Bethel. Already he determined to have the Lord as his God.
But Jacob also vowed, “Then shall the Lord be my God.”
These covenant words are filled with meaning and significance for you.
Your parents have led you this way. You cannot remember back to the time when they began teaching you to pray, bringing you to the Lord’s throne of grace. They led you there so early in your life because of God’s covenant. They taught you to pray because He promised to them that He would be the God of their children (; ). He promised them that He would take care of you. He would be with you and keep you. He would give you food and clothing. So they led you to know your God and your complete dependence on Him. They taught you to ask Him for your care and protection, for your food and your clothing.
So you have continued to pray, and so you continue to trust.
As you have prayed, and as you have trusted, so you know God’s faithfulness to you. He has been your God. He has been with you. He has kept you. He has given you your food and clothing every day. He has blessed you with His peace. His faithfulness you have known for so many years already. You have known it in the food you ate. You have known it in the clothing you put on. You have known it by your safety at home and school and on the road. You have known it in the worship and service of God. His grace, mercy, and peace you have experienced in your heart and mind.
But your blessing is also to vow, “Then shall the Lord be my God.”
Take in all those years of the Lord’s care for you. As you prayed to Him, He remembered you, providing your needs, and guiding you in the way that you have gone. Now that you are capable of reflecting on all God’s care, it is your privilege to vow, “Then shall the Lord be my God.” This is the full significance and meaning of His covenant: You are God’s and He is yours. As He has spoken and proved, so now it is yours also to speak and to prove.
That vow is yours to remember in your heart. Remember it when you come to God’s Word. When you read it and meditate on it, and when you hear it preached to you, remember that it is His covenant with you. By that Word He is with you, telling you in so many words that He is your God forever. Remember that vow when you pray to Him, setting before Him every day your needs. Remember that vow when He shows every day His faithful answer to His Word and your prayers. As you remember, say, “Then shall the Lord be my God.”
That vow is also yours to vow before your parents and your church. Think of those three questions you will be asked when you make confession of faith (Psalter, p. 90, after the Form for the Administration of Baptism). In three different ways they all ask the same thing: Do you vow Jacob’s vow? Will the Lord be your God? Your parents and your church will delight in your answer: Yes! The Lord shall be my God!
How can you vow this vow? This vow you can vow because of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise. His faithfulness to that promise means that He will forever be your God. He will be your God, not only to provide you always with the protection and the food and clothing you need. But also He will be your God to provide you always what you need to keep your vow. As He has in the past, so He will continue to give you faith and obedience and perseverance (). You can vow to have Him as your God forever because He will be your God forever. All because He has promised.