Jacob wakes up in Genesis 28:16-22 and comes to a realization that his dream about God wasnít a dream at all, but a real honest-to-goodness conversation. You know, I once had a dream about God where he told me to fight purple tree-people with a television made out of cottage cheese, but then we were in Arizona, and God was a fish. Dreams canít be trusted and no God with even a modicum of self-respect would use them for communication. These days, dream interpretation is left to the psychics and New Agers; the same people that a Christian wouldnít touch with a ten-foot pole.
Also, Genesis 28:17 is a very telling verse. Youíd think Jacob would be overjoyed to realize that he just slept next to the gate of Heaven and his loving forgiving shepherd of a god, but religion back then wasnít all gleeful and giddy like it is now. To the ancient Hebrews, God was like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. Jacob is afraid and full of dread to be so close to God. Considering some of Godís earlier tantrums, I donít blame him.
So, to appease God, Jacob builds a pillar out of the stones he was using for his pillow (cozy), and pours oil all over them. He then declares that the land shall hence forth be known as Bethel. Yes, thatís the same Bethel that his grandfather Abraham visited decades before Jacob was even born. I think a DeLorean was involved.
Standing at his oily pillar, Jacob vows that, if God gives him food and clothes, then he will follow God, and for everything that God gives him, he will give a tenth back as a tithe. Amazing how that works. This is just like the teenager who says, ďGod, Iíll be the bestest Christian ever, just PLEASE donít let my girlfriend be pregnant!Ē I thought we were supposed to believe in God through faith? But Jacob teaches us that itís okay to make material demands of God before you should follow him.
If thatís the case: God, Iíll follow you, just set me up on a date with Jenny Lewis.