When Jacob fled from his brother Esau, God appeared to Jacob and he made a foolish vow. Twenty-one years later, Jacob desired to start a business and provide for his family of eleven sons and four wives. But God cannot bless the works of Jacob’s hands until he keeps the foolish vow he made at Bethel. I call the vow foolish because God offered him grace that made no demands on Jacobs life. Jacob turned grace into law when he vowed to make God his God, tithe and build a church if God did everything Jacob requested.
God sent angels to help Jacob because he wanted to bless the works of his hands. In a dream an angel told Jacob it was time to return home and reminded him of the vow he made at Bethel. Jacob departed in the middle of the night. His uncle pursued him. God prevented him from harming Jacob. Laban departed and the angels arrive. Jacob was conflicted. He knows he should keep his vow. When he made the vow he was a poor man. Now he is a rich man and a tithe of his wealth is a lot to sacrifice. Jacob’s sin nature is rebelling and the angels know it.
Jacob spent the night wrestling with himself. The angel pointed to the problem when he touched Jacob’s thigh knocking it out of joint. Jacob’s thinking is out of joint with the covenant of grace God made with Abraham. Even though Jacob has a permanent physical reminder, he ignored the angels counsel. Bethel was a mere twenty miles south. Instead of returning to Bethel to keep his vow, he limped to Shechem, bought land and started his own business. He stopped following God twenty miles short of preventing a disaster.
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for he takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”
God is patient, but the consequences of Jacob’s actions will eventually catch up with him.
Fifteen years after Jacob set up permanent residence in Shechem, his seventeen year old only daughter decided to visit some girlfriends in town. She never returned. Hamor, a Hivite prince, seduced Diane, and then fell in love with her setting in motion a series of events that destroyed the work of Jacob’s hands.
Following the example of their deceitful, rebellious father, Jacob’s sons made a covenant with Hamor, an honorable man, that they never intended to keep. Jacob’s sons slaughtered every male in the city and plundered their goods. In that one deceitful act Jacob’s name was ruined and everything he spent more than a decade building destroyed.
This time an angel bearing a message was not sufficient. God spoke to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”
This time Jacob obeyed. He returned to Bethel with his family and kept his vow. Again God spoke to him, but the message has not changed for three generations. God will give Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and one seed/son descended from them the land they lived upon as foreigners. They will become a nation producing kings and more nations.
God never wavered from the promise he made to Abraham, but he did add to the promise. Jacob’s name, which means supplanter, will be changed to Israel, which means he will rule as God.
 All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Ecclesiastes 5:4-6, NASB
 Genesis 34:19
 Genesis 35:1