For the week of December 16, 2000 / 19 Kislev 5761
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 32:4 - 36:43
Haftarah: Hosea 11:7 - 12:12

Is God Your God?

There Jacob set up an altar and called it El Elohei Israel (Bereshit / Genesis 33:20).

Last week we saw that as Jacob began his journey, he had an encounter with God. In response he made a pledge that if God kept his word to him, then God would be his God.

Jacob spent the next 20 years or so fending for himself through difficult circumstances. By the end of that time, he had a big family and many possessions. Just before arriving back to the land of Canaan, he heard his brother Esau - the person he feared most - was on his way to meet him. Just prior to meeting him, he had another encounter with God. This time God came to him in human form and wrestled with him, injuring him in the process. He also gave him a new name, "Israel."

As it turned out, things went well with Esau. Jacob then continued on to Canaan. When he got to the town of Shechem, he bought a plot of land, and set up an altar, calling it "El Elohei Israel - God, the God of Israel."

Jacob kept his word. God had taken care of him and brought him safely home. Now God was his God.

Notice that even though God had been clearly involved in his life, Jacob had not up until that moment considered God as his God.

Jacob would have been what we might call a practical atheist, meaning whatever his notions were of God, he lived as if God did not exist. He might have intellectually believed in the existence of God or gods, but it didn't seem to matter to him. He just did what suited him. Jacob was a true secularist in that he did not allow spiritual things to make much of a difference in his life.

But how can this be? This is Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. How could it be that God didn't matter to him? How could it be that he would hold God at arm's length and say that only if he would do such and such, would he make him his God.?

We are not told how this could be. We are only told that it was. And through it we are confronted with the fact that our lives can be filled with the things of God, and yet we can remain separated from any kind of meaningful relationship with him.

In order to have the kind of relationship with God that we really need, we must, like Jacob, make him our God. At some point we need to personally commit ourselves to him. It is not religious activities or the immersing of ourselves in spiritual events that make this happen. Nor is God our God simply because he is the God of the other members of our family. It has to be a personal decision. Is he your God?

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