And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.I. THE ANGELS THEMSELVES.
1. Their number is very great.
2. They are swift as the flames of fire.
3. They are strong.
4. They seem to be all young.
5. They are evidently endowed with corresponding moral excellences.
II. THE MINISTRY OF ANGELS HAS THESE CHARACTERISTICS. It is a ministry of —
5. Fellowship and convoy through death to life, and from earth to heaven.
III. THE WHOLE SUBJECT SHOWS IN A VERY STRIKING MANNER —
1. The exceeding greatness of the glory of Christ.
2. The value and greatness of salvation.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THE ANGELS OF GOD MET HIM, We do not know in what form they appeared, or by what sign Jacob recognized them. In its simplicity the angelic office is a doctrine of revelation. There exists even now a society and a fellowship between the sinless and the fallen. As man goes on his way, the angels of God meet him.
II. ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL WAYS IN WHICH WE MAY RECOGNIZE AND USE THIS SYMPATHY?
1. The angelic office is sometimes discharged in human form. We may entertain angels unawares. Let us count common life a ministry; let us be on the look-out for angels.
2. We must exercise a vigorous self-control lest we harm or tempt. Our Saviour has warned us of the presence of the angels as a reason for not offending His little ones. Their angels He calls them, as though to express the closeness of the tie that binds together the unfallen and the struggling. We may gather from the story two practical lessons.(1) The day and the night mutually act and react. A day of meeting with angels may well be followed by a night of wrestling with God.(2) Earnestness is the condition of success. Jacob had to wrestle a whole night for his change of name, for his knowledge of God. Never will you say, from the world that shall be, that you laboured here too long or too earnestly to win it.
I. The angels of God meet us on THE DUSTY ROAD OF COMMON LIFE.
II. God's angels meet us PUNCTUALLY at the hour of need.
III. The angels of God come IN THE SHAPE WHICH WE NEED. Jacob's want was protection; therefore the angels appear in warlike guise, and present before the defenceless man another camp. God's gifts to us change their character; as the Rabbis fabled that manna tasted to each man what each most desired. In that great fulness each of us may have the thing we need.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. JACOB'S VISIBLE WORLD. He had just escaped the persecutions of his father-in-law, and was now expecting to meet with a fiercer enemy in his brother. All was dread and anxiety.
II. JACOB'S INVISIBLE WORLD. What a different scene is presented to him when his spiritual eye is opened, and God permits him to see those invisible forces which were engaged on his side. We are told that "the angels of God met him." He was weak to all human appearance; but he was really strong, for God's host had come to deliver him from any host of men that might oppose. The host of God is described as parting into two bands, as if to protect him behind and before; or to assure him that as he had been delivered from one enemy, so he would be delivered from another enemy, which was coming forth to meet him. Thus Jacob was taught —
1. To whom he owed his late mercies.
2. The true source of his protection.
3. His faith is confirmed. It is justified for the past, and placed upon a firmer basis for the future.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. God has a multitude of servants, and all these are on the side of believers. "His camp is very great," and all the hosts in that camp are our allies. Some of these are visible agents, and many more are invisible, but none the less real and powerful.
2. We know that a guard of angels always surrounds every believer. "Omnipotence has servants everywhere." These servants of the strong God are all filled with power; there is not one that fainteth among them all, they run like mighty men, they prevail as men of war. We know that they "excel in strength," as they "do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word." Rejoice, O children of God! There are vast armies upon your side, and each one of the warriors is clothed with the strength of God.
3. All these agents work in order, for it is God's host, and the host is made up of beings which march or fly, according to the order of command. "Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path." All the forces of nature are loyal to their Lord. They are perfectly happy, because consecrated; full of delight, because completely absorbed in doing the will of the Most High. Oh that we could do His will on earth as that will is done in heaven by all the heavenly ones!
4. Observe that in this great host they were all punctual to the Divine command. Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. The patriarch is no sooner astir than the hosts of God are on the wing. They did not linger till Jacob had crossed the frontier, nor did they keep him waiting when he came to the appointed rendezvous; but they were there to the moment. When God means to deliver you, beloved, in the hour of danger, you will find the appointed force ready for your succour. God's messengers are neither behind nor before their time; they will meet us to the inch and to the second in the time of need; therefore let us proceed without fear, like Jacob, going on our way even though an Esau with a band of desperadoes should block up the road.
5. Those forces of God, too, were all engaged personally to attend upon Jacob. I like to set forth this thought: "Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him"; he did not chance to fall in with them. They did not happen to be on the march, and so crossed the patriarch's track; no, no; he went on his way, and the angels of God met him with design and purpose. They came on purpose to meet him: they had no other appointment. Squadrons of angels marched to meet that one lone man He was a saint, but by no means a perfect one; we cannot help seeing many flaws in him, even upon a superficial glance at his life, and yet the angels of God met him. All came to wait upon Jacob, on that one man: "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him"; but in this case it was to one man with his family of children that a host was sent. The man himself, the lone man who abode in covenant with God when all the rest of the world was given up to idols, was favoured by this mark of Divine favour. One delights to think that the angels should be willing, and even eager, troops of them, to meet one man. Are ye not well cared for, oh ye sons of the Most High!
6. Those forces, though in themselves invisible to the natural senses, are manifest to faith at certain times. There are times when the child of God is able to cry, like Jacob, "The angels of God have met me." When do such seasons occur? Our Mahanaims occur at much the same time as that in which Jacob beheld this great sight. Jacob was entering upon a more separated life. He was leaving Laban and the school of all those tricks of bargaining and bartering which belong to the ungodly world. By a desperate stroke he cut himself clear of entanglements; but he must have felt lonely, and as one cast adrift. He missed all the associations of the old house of Mesopotamia, which, despite its annoyances, was his home. The angels come to congratulate him. Their presence said, "You are come to this land to be a stranger and sojourner with God, as all your fathers were. We have, some of us, talked with Abraham, again and again, and we are now coming to smile on you. You recollect how we bade you good-bye that night, when you had a stone for your pillow at Bethel; now you have come back to the reserved inheritance, over which we are set as guardians, and we have come to salute you. Take up the nonconforming life without fear, for we are with you. Welcome I welcome I we are glad to receive you under our special care." Again, the reason why the angels met Jacob at that time was, doubtless, because he was surrounded with great cares. He had a large family of little children; and great flocks and herds and many servants were with him. Again, the Lord's host appeared when Jacob felt a great dread. His brother Esau was coming to meet him armed to the teeth, and, as he feared, thirsty for his blood. In times when our danger is greatest, if we are real believers, we shall be specially under the Divine protection, and we shall know that it is so. This shall be our comfort in the hour of distress. And, once again, when you and I, like Jacob, shall be near Jordan, when we shall just be passing into the better land, then is the time when we may expect to come to Mahanaim. The angels of God and the God of angels, both come to meet the spirits of the blessed in the solemn article of death.
7. Thus I have mentioned the time when these invisible forces become visible to faith; and there is no doubt whatever that they are sent for a purpose. Why were they sent to Jacob at this time? Perhaps the purpose was first to revive an ancient memory which had well-nigh slipped from him. I am afraid he had almost forgotten Bethel. Surely it must have brought his vow at Bethel to mind, the vow which he made unto the Lord when he saw the ladder, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. Here they were; they had left heaven and come down that they might hold communion with him. Mahanaim was granted to Jacob, not only to refresh his memory, but to lift him out of the ordinary low level of his life. Jacob, you know, the father of all the Jews, was great at huckstering: it was the very nature of him to drive bargains. Jacob had all his wits about him, and rather more than he should have had, well answering to his name of "supplanter." He would let no one deceive him, and he was ready at all times to take advantage of those with whom he had any dealings. Here the Lord seems to say to him, "O Jacob, My servant, rise out of this miserable way of dealing with Me, and be of a princely mind." Oh for grace to live according to our true position and character, not as poor dependents upon our own wits or upon the help of man, but as grandly independent of things seen, because our entire reliance is fixed upon the unseen and eternal. Believe as much in the invisible as in the visible, and act upon your faith. This seems to me to be God's object in giving to any of His servants a clearer view of the powers which are engaged on their behalf. If such a special vision be granted to us, let us keep it in memory. Jacob called the name of that place Mahanaim. I wish we had some way in this western world, in these modern times, of naming places, and children, too, more sensibly. We must needs either borrow some antiquated title, as if we were too short of sense to make one for ourselves, or else our names are sheer non. sense, and mean nothing. Why not choose names which should commemorate our mercies?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE PATH OF COMMON DUTIES IN DAILY LIFE IS THE BEST AND SUREST WAY TO HEAVENLY VISIONS. Jacob's track lay downward to the deep valley, and through its shadows to the fords of Jordan. So, if our life is led downward, through toil and care and sorrow, heaven may open as freely above it as on the hill-tops. All know how the proof of a soldier is given on the march as much as in battle; and it is so in common life. But in spiritual application there is a difference: the rewards of men are won only on the field; but our Divine Commander observes and honours equally those equally faithful in the daily march, in farm, or shop, or household, or in the shut-in camp of sickness those "faithful in that which is least."
II. GOD'S CARE OVER THOSE THAT FEAR HIM.
III. GOD'S WAY OF APPEARING FOR MAN'S HELP.
(W. H. Randall.)
1. Laban's departure and Jacob's progress are adjoining. Oppressors retreat and saints advance.
2. God's servants are careful to move in their own way enjoined by God.
3. In their way commanded, God appoints His angels to meet them (Psalm 91:2, 4). God with His angels appears to comfort His, after conflicts with their adversaries (ver. 1).
5. God sometimes affords His visible helps unto visible troubles for His saints' support.
6. God's angels are God's mighty host indeed, and that in the judgment of the saints.
7. Not single angels but troops God appoints for the guard of single saints.
8. God's saints desire to call mercies by their right names. God's angels are called God's hosts.
9. It is proper to God's saved ones, to leave memorials of God's strength in saving them (ver. 2).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. An apostle speaks of entertaining angels unawares. He says that the duty of hospitality may be exercised in this remembrance — thereby some have entertained angels. It is so still. The angelic office is discharged sometimes in human form. Let us count common life a ministry: let us, in common life, be on the look-out for angels!
2. And more especially, in the exercise of a vigilant self-control, lest we harm or tempt. Our Saviour Himself has warned us of the presence of the angels as a reason for not offending — that is, for not thwarting and not tempting — His little ones. Beware, careless parent! beware, sinful brother! beware, false friend! That child, that boy, that youth, has his angel, and the home of that angel is the heaven of God l
(D. March, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. The earliest angel is the angel of youth. Do not think that you can retain him long. Use, as wise stewards, this blessed portion of your lives. Remember that as your faces are setting into the look which they shall wear in later years, so is it with your lives.
II. Next is the angel of innocent pleasure. Trifle not with this angel. Remember that in heathen mythology the Lord of Pleasure is also the God of Death. Guilty pleasure there is; guilty happiness there is not on earth.
III. There are the angels of time and opportunity. They are with us now, and we may unclench from their conquered hands garlands of immortal flowers. Hallow each new day in your morning prayer, for prayer, too, is an angel — an angel who can turn "pollution into purity, sinners into penitents, and penitents into saints."
IV. There is one angel with whom we must wrestle whether we will or no, and whose power of curse or blessing we cannot alter — the angel of death.
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother.I. We will consider, in the first place, THE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES WHICH JACOB ADOPTED. In the first instance, as soon as he heard of the evil which apparently awaited him, he immediately divided" the people that were with him into two bands," in the hope that if one company was suddenly surprised and smitten, the other might in the interim escape.
II. But in the second place, let us notice WHAT WAS JACOB'S CHIEF RESOURCE IN THIS PRESSING EXIGENCY. It was the throne of grace. Prayer is, in fact, the peculiar privilege and the natural habit of a truly pious mind. Prayer also is a very powerful proof of the state of the heart. If we see men, who profess and call themselves Christians, struggling and contending in their own strength, with second causes, as the source of their sorrows, in the hope of overcoming them, and not affectionately, earnestly, spontaneously spreading their case before the Lord, we have reason to doubt the sincerity of their religious profession.
III. But, with these prefatory remarks, let us now examine THE NATURE OF JACOB'S PRAYER. It is a very beautiful example of real prayer. It is simple, full, and energetic. We will glance briefly at its leading topics.
1. There is, first, a simple and vindicatory statement of the circumstances in which Jacob was placed. He had not brought himself thoughtlessly or wilfully into this difficulty. "Thou saidest unto me, return unto thy country and thy kindred." "I am here, in obedience to Thy command." There is a very wide distinction between those trials and sufferings into which a man is brought by wilfulness and sin, and those which come upon him independently of his own control, and in respect to which, his mind must necessarily be free from guilt.
2. But, secondly, though in this instance Jacob was free to appeal to the knowledge of God for his acquittal from any wilful trangression in those steps which had led him into danger, yet he did not hesitate, in other respects, to take at once the only ground upon which a human creature can consistently stand before God; and, consequently, we find the justification of his conduct in his present circumstances, immediately followed by an humble acknowledgment of his utter unworthiness before God. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, that Thou hast showed unto Thy servant." How different is this from the proud feeling of independence with which men generally regard their property in this life I The language of a prosperous man among his fellows, as well as in his heart, is too frequently, "My power, and the might of my hand, have gotten me this wealth."
3. But, thirdly, in the midst of humiliating confession, Jacob did not forget His mercies. He thankfully records them. He extols the mercy and the faithfulness of God. "With my staff I passed over this Jordan, and lo, I am become two bands." If we would secure the continuance of our blessings, we should be free to remember them. But once more we notice, that Jacob continues his prayer by an affectionate enunciation of God's promises. "I fear lest Esau come and smite me, and the mother with the children; and Thou saidst I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." We are always safe when we can grasp the promises of God, and convert them into prayers. "Thou hast said, a new heart will I give thee, and a new spirit will I put within thee. O Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me."
4. Lastly, Jacob evidently showed that he placed an unfeigned and implicit confidence in the covenant, the promises, and the mercies of God. All the language of his prayer, tends to call up before him an animating view of the character of Him whom he addressed. This is precisely the spirit in which the Christian is now encouraged to approach the Lord. He has purer light, and greater knowledge.
I. HE TOOK THOSE MEASURES DICTATED BY HUMAN PRUDENCE.
1. He sends messengers of peace.
2. He divides his company into two bands.
3. He sends a present.
II. HE TOOK THOSE MEASURES DICTATED BY RELIGION. Prayer.
1. He appeals to God as the Covenant God and Father (ver. 9).
2. He pleads God's gracious promise to himself. "The Lord which saidst unto me, "Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee."
3. He confesses his own unworthiness, and God's goodness and faithfulness (ver. 10).
4. He presents his special petition expressing his present want (ver. 11). He prays to be delivered from his brother's anger, the possible consequences of which were fearful to contemplate.
5. He cleaves to God's word of promise (ver. 12). God had promised to do him good, and to make his seed as the sand of the sea for multitude. And Jacob pleads as if he said, how could this promise be fulfilled if himself and his family were slain? This prayer shows the kind husband, the tender father, the man of faith and piety.
(T. H. Leale.)
I. In regard to THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH JACOB WAS PLACED, we may observe that he was surrounded by a numerous family, to whom he was strongly attached, and some of whom were of a very tender age; and that he saw the whole of them, with himself, liable, in the course of a few transitory hours, to be cut off by the sword of an enraged brother.
II. THE CONDUCT WHICH JACOB ADOPTED UPON THIS OCCASION IS FULL OF INTEREST AND INSTRUCTION. It was equally removed from presumption and despair; and presents one of the most edifying examples of sanctified affliction.
1. He did everything in his power to avert his brother's wrath, and conciliate his favour.
2. He made an arrangement in regard to his family, which was calculated at least to save some of them.
3. He had recourse to earnest prayer.(1) It was addressed to the God of his fathers. Jacob had descended from ancestors distinguished by their piety; and he avails himself of that circumstance to raise his drooping faith.(2) In Jacob's prayer we observe an humble acknowledgment of his absolute demerit before God.(3) When asking of God the favour of protection, Jacob gratefully acknowledges the blessings he had already received.(4) The prayer which is now under our consideration contains an encouraging reference to the Divine direction, which Jacob was then in the very act of obeying.(5) In this most impressive prayer the patriarch pleads the promise of God in regard to his posterity. The facts which have now occupied our attention contain many practical lessons of general application. They remind us, in a very impressive manner —
1. Of the established connection between sin and punishment.
2. The history of Jacob suggests the immense importance of genuine piety.
3. The example of Jacob, on the occasion described in the text, teaches the important lesson, that to obtain from God the blessing we desire, it is our duty to use the requisite means, and at the same time to place an absolute reliance upon His mercy.
1. Providence ordereth returns of messages sometimes to be cross to the expectation of His saints.
2. Messages of peace are delivered to wicked men from saints sometimes without answerable return.
3. Faithful messengers will perform their charge whatever the issue be (Proverbs 25:13).
4. Wicked men though intreated, may show themselves in their power and terror to the saints (ver. 6).
5. Creature-terrors are apt to stir up fears vehemently in the hearts of God's dearest ones.
6. Fears in saints are not so violent, but that they rationally provide for their safety under them.
7. It is good prudence to save part from ruin when the whole is in danger.
8. Military order in setting troops in place, is not unbeseeming saints (ver. 7; Genesis 14:15).
9. God's armies do not quiet saints sometimes, when sense worketh on outward danger.
10. Smitings of some by enemies are reasonable warnings for others to escape (ver. 8).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Faith in prayer to God is the saints' immediate help against fear in the hour of temptation.
2. The saints' providence for themselves is but in order to their refuge in God.
3. God in gracious relations to poor souls is the proper object of prayer.
4. Saints may be bold to fly to God for help in the execution of His commands.
5. God in the promise of grace to His people is the special object of their faith and prayer.
6. Special faith evidencing and applying promises is very necessary to effectual prayer in temptation (ver. 9).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I. JACOB'S PLAN.
1. How it originated.(1) In the report he heard of Esau's approach at the head of four hundred men (ver. 6).(2) His fear lest Esau might intend to carry out his old purpose of revenge (ver. 7; 27:42).(3) His perplexity. Not having strength to resist such a force (ver. 7).(4) His desire to save, if possible, the half of his property (ver. 8).
2. In what it consisted. In the division of his flocks and herds, &c., into two companies. It must have been a huge company at the first, for him to think, after the message he sent (vers. 4, 5), that his brother would imagine the half was all he had. He thought that one half, hearing the attack upon the other, might in the confusion escape while Esau was driving off his plunder.
3. The plan was well contrived. A little of the old Jacob is here planning and scheming.
4. How he wronged his brother by his unjust suspicions.
5. How he wronged God, by not in the first place seeking His guidance and help. His old method of taking the plan into his own hands. Still relying too much on human sagacity.
II. JACOB'S PRAYER.
1. Having made his plans, according to his own wisdom, then he asked God to bless him; and in the end found that his plans were all needless. Prayer at the first would have saved him much perplexity and fear.
2. When he did pray he displayed great humility of soul and dependence upon God.(1) He approached God in His covenant relation as the God of Abraham.(2) He reminds his Divine friend of his own obedience in obeying His call to return.(3) He mentions the promise, "I will deal well with thee."(4) He protests his own great unworthiness.(5) He gratefully acknowledges the good hand of God in so increasing his substance.(6) He supplicates present help in his time of need.(7) He reminds God of the covenant promise. Having presented this his prayer, he proceeds to select a present for his brother.
III. JACOB'S CONDUCT. All being ready, his company divided, the present prepared, Jacob sent the present forward in divisions, each drove with servants, and each servant with a message; one part of the message being that Jacob was himself about to follow the gift. The spirit of the gift conciliatory. Conciliation his avowed purpose (ver. 20). The present was designed to break down every feeling of revenge and anger supposed still to exist in the mind of Esau. Jacob himself would remain that night, which at one time he feared would be his last, with his company. Growing more confident as the night advanced, he arose and sent over his wives and children. Thus committed to the care of God all that he had. Learn:
1. That the fruit of past sins is sure to spring up in our way. Jacob cannot forget the evil he had done; nor return, after this long absence from home, without confronting its results.
2. That, prayer is the best means of meeting great difficulties. Our best plans ineffective without that blessing which prayer secures. Prayer puts the heart into the best condition for enduring trial.
(J. C. Gray.)
I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies.
I. First, with regard to the MATERIAL. If we can show that it is typical; if it applies to the human nature of the present day, then what we wish you to do is this, not to leave the acknowledgment of God's providence for future years and old age, when you will be able to say, "It is all Thy doing"; but even now to acknowledge the goodness and providence and omnipotence of God, and depending on Him to try and work in commercial matters in a righteous and God-fearing spirit. Look at the matter as typically understood. Jacob has prospered, and has come to a spot in his career when the circumstances of his poverty are brought to mind, and he falls down in thankful adoration. Are the types of this history died out in our own land? Is this narrative very different to the narrative we could give one of another?
II. But the narrative also, we believe, IS TYPICAL IN A MENTAL, SENSE. A man is about to study for a profession — no matter what it may be, he has toil, arduous labour, before him. He begins with nothing but good wishes from his friends that he may be successful, a good name and earnest determination; and he becomes eminently successful. And when he is sitting on the Chancellor's seat in the House of Lords, or has otherwise acquired fame and fortune, will he not remember the Power that has done it all, and, remembering, devoutly and most thankfully acknowledge that he was not worthy of so great a mercy? If a man has reflection, honesty and common-sense, and believes in the existence of a Deity, he is forced to admit that this is true; and therefore we say, oh! what ingratitude not to thank Him for the health and strength supplied, and the providential ordering of circumstances which produced the result! Now, if you go thus far, you must go still farther. Ought you not to ask His blessing on everything you do? And if you do this He will bless; and in your old age, when you take a review of the past — of the circumstances under which you began life, the hopes and the fears that passed through your mind, and the prosperity that attended your path, you will be able to say, and to say with joy and happiness, "Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and now I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
III. But we want now to come to the SPIRITUAL. And here perhaps we shall be joined by the experience of more than even the other two classes. It is not every one of us that can become rich — not every one of us that can develop our mental powers to the highest; but it is within the reach of all to be spiritually minded. Now, you have been a Christian for many years; now your example has been a help to others, and you are filled with joy and peace. You live in the Lord Jesus Christ; your "life is hid with Christ in God," and you are looking forward to the period when you shall enter the eternal world. In a little time your body will be committed "dust to dust"; but you know and feel joyfully assured that there is a glorious resurrection life beyond, in the many mansions purchased with the blood of your Redeemer. Even now, in imagination, you join in the heavenly songs. You have felt the pressure of the golden crown on your forehead, and your fingers have seemed to sweep the strings of the golden harp. And sometimes you have felt to have a more intimate communion with Christ than you ever expected while in the body. When calling all this experience to mind, can you but remember the grace which has made you to differ from others, and remembering, say — "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan: and now I am become two bands"? And feeling thus — remembering what God has done for you — can you be content to go through life without doing anything for Him, or without trying to serve Him?
(W. Cuthbertson, B. A.)
Sketches of Sermons.I. THE ESTIMATE WHICH HE FORMED OF HIS OWN CHARACTER. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies," &c. This acknowledgment implies —
1. He was a believer in God.
2. He was a worshipper of God.
3. He was a follower of God.
II. His GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS. "All the mercies, and all the truth," &c.
1. They were abundant mercies.
2. They were unceasing mercies.
3. They were covenant mercies.
III. His CONSCIOUS UNWORTHINESS OF SUCH PECULIAR BLESSINGS. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies"; or rather, "I am less than all the compassions," &c.
1. This is the language of conscious dependence.
2. This is the language of grateful recollection.
3. This is the language of deep self-abasement.How amiable is this disposition; it is the characteristic distinction of all the righteous (Genesis 18:27; 1 Chronicles 17:16, 17; Ephesians 3:18; 1 Peter 5:5). We may infer —
1. The design and advantage of Scripture biography (Romans 15:4).
2. The duty of imitating the piety of the primitive saints (Hebrews 6:12).
3. The necessity of cultivating a spirit of humility and gratitude (James 4:10).
(Sketches of Sermons.)
I. Our first observation is that HUMILITY IS THE FIT ATTITUDE OF PRAYER. Observe that he here speaks not as before man, but as before God; and he cries, "I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies." He had been talking with Laban — Laban who had made a slave of him, who had used him in the most mercenary manner, and who had now pursued him in fierce anger because he had quitted his service with his wives and children that he might go back to his native country. To Laban he does not say, "I am not worthy of what I possess," for, as far as churlish Laban was concerned, he was worthy of a great deal more than had ever been rendered to him in the form of wage. To Laban he uses many truthful sentences of self-vindication and justification. The same man who speaks in that fashion to Laban turns round and confesses to his God, "I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies." This is perfectly consistent and truthful. Humility is not telling falsehoods against yourself: humility is forming a right estimate of yourself. As towards Laban it was a correct estimate for a man who had worked so hard for so little to claim that he had a right to what God had given him; and yet as before God it was perfectly, honest and sincere of Jacob to say, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto Thy servant." Now, whenever you go to prayer, if you have previously been compelled to say some rather strong thing as to your own integrity and industry; or, if you have heard others speak in your praise, forget it all; for you cannot pray if it has any effect upon you. A man cannot pray with a good opinion of himself: all he can manage is just to mutter, "God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are," and that is no prayer at all.
2. Brethren, it would ill become any of us to use the language of merit before God; for merit we have none; and if we had any, we should not need to pray. It has been well observed by an old divine, that the man who pleads his own merit does not pray, but demands his due.
3. Let me add, also, that in times of great pressure upon the heart there is not much fear of self-righteousness intruding. Jacob was greatly afraid and sore distressed; and when a man is brought into such a state the lowliest language suits him. They that are filled with bread may boast, but the hungry beg. Let the proud take heed lest while the bread is yet in their mouths the wrath of God come upon them.
4. I call your attention to the present tense as it is used in the text — Jacob does not say, as we might half have thought he would have said, "I was not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which Thou hast made to pass before Thy servant," but he says "I am not worthy." He does not merely allude to his unworthiness when he crossed this Jordan with a staff in his hand, a poor solitary banished man: he believes that he was unworthy then; but even now, looking upon his flocks and his herds and his great family, and all that he had done and suffered, he cries, "I am not worthy." What! Has not all God's mercy made you worthy? Brethren, free grace is neither the child nor the father of human worthiness. If we get all the grace we ever can get we shall never be worthy of that grace; for grace as it enters where there is no worthiness, so it imparts to us no worthiness afterwards as we are judged before God. When we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; we have only done what it was our duty to have done.
II. Secondly, the same thought will be kept up, but put in a somewhat differing light, while we note that THOSE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAKE TOWARDS HUMILITY ARE THE STRENGTH OF PRAYER
1. Observe, first, that Jacob in this prayer showed his humility by a confession of the Lord's working in all his prosperity. He says with a full heart, "All the mercies and all the truth which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant." Well, but Jacob, you have immense flocks of sheep, but you earned them, and through your care they greatly increased — do you not consider that those flocks are entirely your own procuring? Surely you must see that you were highly industrious, prudent, and careful, and thus grew wealthy? No; he takes a survey of his great estate, and he speaks of it all as mercies — mercies which the Lord had showed unto His servant. I do not object to books about self-made men, but I am afraid that self-made men have a great tendency to worship him that made them. It is very natural they should. But, brethren, if we are self-made, I am sure we had a very bad maker, and there must be a great many flaws in us. It would be better to be ground back to dust again, and made over anew so as to become God-made men.
2. The next point is a consideration of God's mercies. For my part, nothing ever sinks me so low as the mercy of God, and next to that I am readily subdued by the kindness of men. The man who has a due sense of his own character will be laid low by words of commendation. When we remember the loving kindness of the Lord to us we cannot but contrast our littleness with the greatness of His love, and feel a sense of self-debasement. I have a dear brother in Christ who is now sore sick, the Rev. Mr. Curme, the vicar of Sandford, in Oxfordshire, who has been my dear friend for many years. He is the mirror of humility, and he divides his name into two words, Cur me? which means, "Why me?" Often did he say, in my hearing, "Why me, Lord? Why me?" Truly I can say the same, Cur me? Tills exceeding kindness of the Lord all tends to promote humility, and at the same time to help us in prayer; for if the Lord be so greatly good, we may adopt the language of the Phoenecian woman when the Master said to her, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs," She answered, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." So we will go and ask our Lord to give us crumbs of mercy, and they will be enough for us poor dogs. God's crumbs are bigger than man's loaves; and if He gives us what to Him may be a crumb, it shall be a meal to us. Oh, He is a great Giver! He is a glorious Giver! We are not equal to His least gift.
3. Again, a comparison of our past and our present will tend to humility and also to helpfulness in prayer. Jacob at first is described thus, "With my staff I passed over this Jordan." He is all alone, no servant attends him; he has no goods, not even a change of linen in a parcel, nothing but a staff to walk with; now, after a few years, here is Jacob coming back, crossing the river in the opposite direction, and he has with him two bands. He is a large grazier with great wealth in all manner of cattle. What a change! I would have those men whom God has prospered never to be ashamed of what they used to be; they ought never to forget the staff with which they crossed this Jordan. I had a good friend who preserved the axle-tree of the truck in which he wheeled home his goods when he first came to London. It was placed over his front door, and he never blushed to tell how he came up from the country, worked hard, and made his way in the world. I like this a deal better than the affected gentility which forgets the lone half-crown which pined in solitude in their pockets when they entered this city.
III. And now, as time flies, we must dwell upon the third point, still hammering the same nail on the head: TRUE HUMILITY SUPPLIES US WITH ARGUMENTS IN PRAYER.
1. Look at the first one, "I am not worthy of all Thy mercies"; nay, "I am not worthy of the least of all the many mercies which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant. Thou hast kept Thy word and been true to me, but it was not because I was true to Thee. I am not worthy of the truth which Thou hast shown to Thy servant." Is there not power in such a prayer? Is not mercy secured by a confession of worthiness?
2. Then please to notice that while Jacob thus pleads his own unworthiness he is not slow to plead God's goodness. He speaks in most expressive words, wide and full of meaning. "I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies. I cannot enumerate them, the list would be too long! It seems to me as if Thou hadst given me all kinds of mercies, every sort of blessing. Thy mercy endureth for ever, and Thou hast given it all to me." How he extols God as with a full mouth when he says, "All Thy mercies." He does not say, "all Thy mercy" —the word is in the plural — "the least of all Thy mercies." For God has many bands of mercies; favours never come alone, they visit us in troops.
3. Notice, next, how he says "Thy servant." A plea is hidden away in that word. Jacob might have called himself by some other name on this occasion. He might have said, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which Thou hast showed unto Thy child", it would have been true, it would not have been fitting. Suppose it had run — "Unto Thy chosen," it would have been true, but not so lowly; or "unto Thy covenanted one" — that would have been correct, but not so humble an expression as Jacob felt bound to use in this time of his distress, when the sins of his youth were brought to his mind. He seemed to say, "Lord, I am Thy servant. Thou didst bid me come hither, and hither I have come because of that bidding: therefore protect me." Surely a king will not see his servant put upon when engaged in the royal service. Jacob was in the path of duty, and God would make it the path of safety. If we make God our guide, He will be our guard. If He be our Commander He will be our Defender.
4. Jacob had yet another plea which showed his humility, and that was the argument of facts. "With my staff," says he, "I passed over this Jordan." "This Jordan," which flowed hard by, and received the Jabbok. It brings a thousand things to his mind, to be on the old spot again. When he crossed it before he was journeying into exile, but now he is coming back as a son, to take his place with loved Rebekah and father Isaac, and he could not but feel it a great mercy that he was now going in a happier direction than before. He looked at his staff, and he remembered how in fear and trembling he had leaned upon it as he pursued his hasty, lonely march. "With this staff — that is all I had." He looks upon it, and contrasts his present condition and his two camps with that day of poverty, that hour of hasty flight. This retrospect humbled him, but it must have been a strength to him in prayer. "O God, if Thou hast helped me from abject want to all this wealth, Thou canst certainly preserve me in the present danger. He who has done so much is still able to bless me, and He will do so."
5. In closing, I think I discover one powerful argument here in Jacob's prayer. Did he not mean that, although God had increased him so greatly, there had come with it all the greater responsibility? He had more to care for than when he owned less. Duty had increased with increased possessions. He seems to say, "Lord, when I came this way before I had nothing, only a staff; that was all I had to take care of; and if I had lost that staff I could have found another. Then I had Thy dear and kind protection, which was better to me than riches. Shall I not have it still? When I was a single man with a staff Thou didst guard me, and now that I am surrounded by this numerous family of little children and servants, wilt Thou not spread Thy wings over me? Lord, the gifts of Thy goodness increase my necessity: give me proportionately Thy blessing. I could before run away and escape from my angry brother; but now the mothers and the children bind me, and I must abide with them and die with them unless Thou preserve me."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. JACOB'S THANKFUL REMEMBRANCE OF HIS PAST BLESSINGS.
II. THE SOURCE TO WHICH JACOB HERE TRACES HIS BLESSINGS,
1. He refers his blessings first to the mercy of God; for observe, he calls them mercies, and this shows us that he traced them all to God's free bounty and grace.
2. But the patriarch mentions also here, the truth of God. He couples it, you observe, with mercy, and this blending together of these two things as the source of our mercies is very remarkable in Scripture. "Not unto us, O Lord," says David, "not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake." "God will send forth His mercy and truth." "Mercy and truth are met together." "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." And in Jacob's case the connection between these two things is very plain. He deserved nothing of God; whatever, therefore, God bestowed on him came from God's mercy. But God promised to bestow many blessings on him; these blessings, therefore, when bestowed might be said to come also from God's truth. Mercy made the promise and prepared the blessings; truth fulfilled the promise and sent the blessings.
III. THE TIME WHEN JACOB THUS REMEMBERED HIS BLESSINGS. We well know when we remember mercies; it is generally when they are first given us, and the heart is warmed and glowed by the first possession of them. And very little disappointment and vexation will, almost at any time, drive away all our thankfulness for them. Men, generally, never dream, when they get into trouble, of taking up the language of praise. But look back to the circumstances under which this patriarch thus thinks of mercy and truth. If we went no farther than the text, we should say he has just received some new proof of God's love to him. There he is, we should say, once again travelling, with joy and gladness, his native plains, and pitching his tent there in security and peace. But not exactly thus; he is in an extremity, and a very painful one. And yet, before any deliverance or any prospect of deliverance appears, we hear Jacob talking of mercy and truth; and he blesses God for His past goodness.
IV. THE EFFECT PRODUCED IN JACOB BY THE REMEMBRANCE OF HIS MERCIES — OR ONE OF THE EFFECTS. I allude to this, a deep sense of his own unworthiness and nothingness. "I am less than all Thy mercies" — less, not only than the most signal of them, but less than any, the least of them; I cannot think of any one of them that is not larger than I am. He seems to dwindle away to nothing in his own view as he contemplates God's mercy towards him. There is no proportion between these mercies and myself; it is not only mercy, but abundant, marvellous mercy, that has bestowed them on me. And what has brought him into this state of feeling is, doubtless, a vivid remembrance at this time of those mercies. As his mind ran over them from year to year, tracing their multitudes and ways, there was something connected with them which he could not pass over — the vileness and nothingness of the creature on whom they had been bestowed. He thought, perhaps, of the baseness of his conduct which had driven him at first from his father's house; but, if that did not enter his mind, he thought, doubtless, of the ingratitude and many sins that had stained him since. A sense of God's love towards you lays you humble; and there is a tradition among the Jews, that all through his life this man was kept down. It is said, as a proof of his humility, that he had in his hand the staff which he carried with him over Jordan, when he went to Padan-aram; that he never afterwards parted with his staff; that it was upon this he leaned when he blessed the sons of Joseph, and that it was lying by him when he died. Now, let me ask you, Do you understand this truth? Have you ever experienced anything like it? Have the mercies of God towards yourselves ever made you shiver, as it were, from a sense of your guiltiness and nothingness?
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
I. JACOB'S CONDITION AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS JOURNEY TO PADANARAM. "With my staff I passed over this Jordan." It is difficult to imagine a state of greater destitution. And well did the patriarch bear it in mind. It was engraven deeply upon his memory, and he could not forget it. It would have been his sin and his shame, if he could have banished it from his recollection. O, my dear friends, who haw the God of Jacob for your refuge, but who know Him under an immeasurably dearer relation, as" the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," "look to the rock from whence ye are hewn, and the hole of the pit whence ye are digged." What was your natural condition? A spiritual state immeasurably more dark and dreary than were the circumstances of Jacob, when he set forwards on him journey.
II. BUT WHILE JACOB REVERTED TO HIS PAST WRETCHEDNESS, HE CONTRASTED IT WITH THE PROSPERITY INTO WHICH GOD HAD BROUGHT HIM. "Now I am become two bands." He had thus divided his wives and children, and servants and cattle, that if one were smitten, the other might escape; and the separation proved his wealth. Thus it is, that they whom the grace of God hath brought manifestly within the covenant, must compare the wretchedness of the past with the mercies and the blessedness of the present, for His glory who graciously made the change. It is for each of them to say, as I trust may be said by each of many among yourselves, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."
III. WELL, THEN, DID JACOB ACT IN GIVING UTTERANCE TO THE HOLY GRATITUDE AND DEEP HUMILITY OF HIS SOUL. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant." O, never should one who hath experienced the gospel of Christ to be the power of God unto salvation, in believing — never should one in whom Christ hath been "formed the hope of glory," forget to own the Hand from whence all his blessings come; and his own unworthiness, who yet is privileged so largely and so freely to receive them. Observe the language of Jacob; "not merely the mercy, but all the mercies"; everything from the greatest to the least, and everything in the riches of absolute grace. The spring is inexhaustible, and the streams are many, suited to every need of every individual member in the Church of the Most High. There are mercies past, for which to thank a covenant Father, according to His promise; and there are mercies yet to come, secured to them by the promise. O, it is true grace in exercise, to lie low in the dust before God, acknowledging our vileness, and to know that we merit wrath, while yet we are emboldened to plead for mercy, and to expect it.
IV. THE CONDUCT OF JACOB WILL NOW SHOW US THE DUTY OF ONE WHO HATH ACCESS TO A COVENANT GOD IN THE TIME OF TRIAL. Jacob's refuge was the throne of grace, and we find him pre-eminently a man of prayer. O, let trials, temptations, conflicts, sorrows, sins, shortcomings, lead you, dear brethren, thither.
(R. P. Buddicom.)
1. In the prayer itself, consider how sweet it is in the child's woe, for him to be able to remember that his parents were godly and in favour with the Lord. Then conceiveth he comfort, that he which loved the stock, will not east away the branch, but graciously respect him. A great cause to make parents godly if there were no other, that their children ever may pray as did Jacob, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, look upon me, &c.
2. Consider how he groundeth both prayer and hope, upon word and promise, saying, "Lord, which saidst unto me, return unto thy country and to thy kindred, and I will do thee good." So let us do, and not first do rashly what we had no warrant for, and then pray to God for help wherein we have no promise: yea, if you mark it, he repeateth this promise over again in the twelfth verse, it was such strength unto him to consider it.
3. Not merit, but want of merit is his plea; I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies, and all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant.
1. He approaches God as the God of his father; and, as such, a God in covenant. This was laying hold of the Divine faithfulness: it was the prayer of faith.
2. As his own God, pleading what He had promised to him.
3. While he celebrates the great mercy and truth of God towards him, he acknowledges himself unworthy of the least instance of either. The worthiness of merit is what every good man, in every circumstance, must disclaim; but that which he has in view, I conceive, is that of meekness. Looking back to his own unworthy conduct, especially that which preceded and occasioned his passing over Jordan with a "staff " only in his hand, he is affected with the returns of mercy and truth which he had met with from a gracious God. By sin he had reduced himself in a manner to nothing; but God's goodness had made him great. As we desire to succeed in our approaches to God, we must be sure to take low ground; humbling ourselves in the dust before Him, and sueing for relief as a matter of mere grace. Finally, having thus prefaced his petition, he now presents it (vers. 11, 12). This was doubtless the petition of a kind husband, and a tender father; it was not as such only, nor principally, however, but as a believer in the promises, that he presented it; the great stress of the prayer turns on this hinge. It was as though he had said, "If my life, and that of the mother, with the children, be cut off, how are Thy promises to be fulfilled?"
1. An humble self-denying frame is best for prayer of faith to God in time of temptation.
2. It is a special way to humble saints, by comparing themselves with God's mercy and truth.
3. The mercy and truth of God go always jointly together (Psalm 25:10).
4. God's servants have experience of His mercy and truth in their pilgrimages below.
5. Gracious souls judge themselves less than any mercy or truth of God.
6. It is good to keep souls low to remember their former empty conditions.
7. God can make the solitary a multitude and make the poor to be full.
8. The remembrance of such mercy from God should humble souls in their approaches to God (ver. 10).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I. THE CONTRAST HERE PRESENTED BETWEEN THE EARLY LONELINESS AND POVERTY OF LIFE AND ITS GROWING RICHES IS UNIVERSAL.
1. What is life but a constant gathering of riches? Compare the man and the woman of forty with their childhood. They have made themselves a name and a place in life; they are centres of attraction to troops of friends. How rich has life become to them I how full its storehouses of knowledge, power, and love!
2. That which is stored in the mind, that which is stored in the heart, is the true treasure; the rest is mere surplusage. To know and to love: these are the directions in which to seek our riches.
3. There is no other way to make life a progress, but to root it in God.
II. Consider THE HIGHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE LAW OF INCREASE, the deeper and more solemn sense in which, through the ministry of the angel of death, we become "two bands."
1. Through death there has been a constant progress in the forms and aspects of creation. The huge, coarse, unwieldy types which ruled of old in both the animal and vegetable worlds have vanished, and out of their ashes the young phoenix of creation has sprung which is the meet satellite of man.
2. This is the counsel of God: to make the darkness of death beautiful for us; to make it the one way home; to show us that the progress is not rounded, but prolonged and completed, and that the increase is not gathered, but consecrated by death as the possession of eternity. To bring heaven easily within our reach God separates the bands — part have crossed the flood, part are on the hither side, and the instinct of both tells them that they are one. At the last great day of God they shall be one band once more, met again and met for ever.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother.
Homilist.Observe the spirit of Jacob's prayer.
I. IT WAS A REVERENT SPIRIT.
II. A HUMBLE SPIRIT.
III. A THANKFUL SPIRIT.
IV. A SPIRIT DEEPLY SENSIBLE OF ITS DEPENDENCY UPON GOD.
V. A SPIRIT OF GREAT CONFIDENCE IN GOD.
1. The greatest fears do not drive away holy souls from prayer: faith looks to God for help.
2. Jehovah alone is the rock of salvation to whom believing souls fly for deliverance.
3. Dismal is the danger by the hand of a brother engaged that is cruel and bloody.
4. Fears may possess the hearts of God's ,covenanted ones in respect of such cruel instruments and of danger by them to them and theirs (ver. 11).
5. God's promise of salvation quickens faith and strengthens prayer in His saints against their own unworthiness.
6. It is fit for faith to press God with the certainty and enlargedness of His promise to His servants.
7. General promises of grace are to be drawn to special use in times of temptation.
8. Upon such promises saints dare trust God with themselves and children (ver. 12).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I fear him. —
I. JACOB'S FEAR AT THIS TIME — "I fear him," said he.
1. My first remark respecting the fear is, that there was a great deal of unworthy unbelief in it.
2. And yet, secondly, there was not wanting in it an element, kindred at least to faith. True, he might have left the Divine promise — ought to have left it tranquilly — in the keeping of the Divine power and faithfulness. Still, this is no mere craven dread of his personal safety, nor of that even of his beloved family, simply as such, but for that family as in relation to the Divine covenant, with which his own hopes for eternity, and the welfare of all the families of the earth, were bound up. There was an element in his fear, I say, kindred at least to faith.
3. And, thirdly, I observe on Jacob's fear, that, amid all its unworthiness, it was a fear told freely out to God — laid bare before the omniscient One — "I fear him," says he, speaking to Jehovah. A great lesson this, beloved, for us in reference to our difficulties, temptations, fears — that we bring them all to the Lord — tell them freely out to Him. It may be that our fears are weak and foolish — such as others might only smile at. Or it may be that they are deeply unworthy, and such as we should be ashamed to tell to others. But they shall be much more than safe with God. Let us tell them to Him, hearing the voice, "Bring them hither to Me."
4. As it was a fear told freely out to the Lord, so it shut up Jacob the more to the Lord, and to His word of promise.
II. JACOB'S FAITH: "Thou saidst" — "I fear him: and Thou saidst."
1. Well, the things that have been already said have prepared us for my first remark on the faith, which is, that it is faith in conflict — faith in a struggle with unbelief and fear.
2. And so, secondly, I observe, on Jacob's faith here, that, if it is faith in conflict — in a struggle with unbelief — it is faith prevailing, victorious, in the conflict, "I fear him: and Thou saidst." I pray you to note that that is Jacob's closing word — he ends here. He plants his foot on this rock of the promise, and here will abide, "Thou saidst."
3. But, thirdly, I observe in Jacob's faith, that it is faith in the midst of difficulties taking simple hold of God in his word of promise.
4. Once more, I observe that this is faith exercised in immediate converse and fellowship with God in prayer. Brethren, prayer and faith are entirely distinct; yet they are most intimately connected together. For, as there is no true prayer without some measure of faith, so faith is never better exercised than in prayer.
(C. J. Brown, D. D.)
Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good. —
1. Because Jacob had a God, therefore he went to Him in the hour of his trouble. As well have no God, as have an unreal God, who cannot be found in the midnight of our need. But what a blessing it is to be able to go to our God at all times, and pour out our hearts before Him; for our God will be our Helper, and that right early! He is our near and dear Friend, in joy and in sorrow.
2. Make thou good use of thy God, and especially gain the fullest advantage from Him by pleading with Him in prayer. In troublous times, our best communion with God will be carried on by supplication. Tell Him thy case; search out His promise, and then plead it with holy boldness. This is the best, the surest, the speediest way of relief.
3. Beloved, we see that Jacob had a God, and that he made use of Him in prayer; but the point I want to call your attention to at this time is, that the stress, the force, the very sinew of Jacob's prayer consisted in his pleading the promise of God with God. When he came to real wrestling with the Lord, then he cried, "Thou saidst." That is the way to lay a hold upon the covenant angel — "Thou saidst." The art of wrestling lies much in a proper use of "Thou saidst." Jacob, with all his mistakes, was a master of the art of prayer: we justly call him "wrestling Jacob." He said, "I will not let Thee go." He gets grip for his hands out of this "Thou saidst." In handling my text, which was Jacob's prayer, I shall notice —
I. First, it ought to be OUR MEMORIAL. I mean that we ought to recollect much more than we do what God has said. We should lay up His word in our hearts as men lay up gold and gems in their caskets: it should be as dear to us as life itself. My heart stands in awe of God's word, and I am sorrowful because so many trifle with it. No good can come of irreverence towards Scripture; we ought to cherish it in our heart of hearts.
1. We ought to do this, first, with regard to what God hath said. You notice that Jacob puts it, "Thou saidst," and then he quotes the words — "Surely I will do thee good." It is an essential part of the education of a Christian to learn the promises.
2. Moreover, Jacob also knew when God had spoken a promise, for he quotes twice the fact that God had spoken to him, and said so-and-so. It is clear that he knew when the promise was spoken. I have often found peculiar comfort, not only in a promise, but in noticing the occasion for its being made.
3. There is another matter which it is important for us to know, namely, to whom God made the promise. Jacob knew to whom it was spoken. He tells us in a previous verse that God had spoken a certain promise to himself. "Which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee." A promise that was made to another man will be of no service to me until I can discover that I, being in the same condition as that other man, and being of like character to that other man, and exercising like faith to that other man, do stand before God in the same position as he did, and therefore the word addressed to him is spoken also to me. Brethren, I entreat you continually to study God's word to see whether the promise is made to your character and condition, and so is made to yourself, as much as if your name were written upon it.
II. Secondly, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good" this is GOD'S BOND. Nothing holds a man like his word, and nothing so fully fixes the course of action of the Lord our God as His own promise. From the necessity of His nature He will be faithful. What a mighty thing, then, is a promise, since it is a bond which holds God Himself! How does it do so?
1. I answer, it holds Him, first, by His truth. If a man says, "I will," it is not in his power, without a breach of truth, to refuse to make good his word. If a promise be made by one man to another, it is considered to be a matter of honour to fulfil it. Unless a man is willing to tarnish his honour, and disgrace his truthfulness, he will certainly do as he has solemnly promised to do. Alas! many persons think lightly of truthfulness: they even dare to swear lightly; but what do we think of such people? To utter solemn promises, and then to disown them, is not the way to be esteemed and honoured. It can never be so with God. None can impeach His veracity. None shall ever be able to do so.
2. But, next, he who enters into an engagement is bound to keep his word, or he is considered to be vacillating and changeable: the Lord is, therefore, held by His immutability. He is God, and changes not.
3. But sometimes men make a promise, and they are unable to fulfil it from want of power. Many a time it has cost honest minds great grief to feel that, though they are willing enough to do what they have engaged to do, yet they have lost their ability to perform their word. This is a grave sorrow to a sincere mind. This can never happen to the Almighty God. He fainteth not, neither is weary. To Him there is no feebleness of decline, or failure of decay. God All-sufficient is still His name.
4. Once more, the Lord's wisdom also holds Him to His promise. Men make engagements thoughtlessly, and before long they realize that it would he ruinous to keep them. It is foolish to keep a foolish promise. Yet because wisdom is not in us we make mistakes, and find ourselves in serious difficulties. It may so happen that a person may feel compelled to say, "I promised to do that which, upon nacre careful consideration, I find it would be wicked and unjust for me to do. My promise was void from the beginning, for no man has a right to promise to do wrong." Whatever justification an erring man can find in his folly to excuse him from fulfilling his rash promise, nothing of the kind can occur with God. He never speaks without knowledge, for He sees the end from the beginning, and He is infallibly good and wise.
5. I should not complete my statement if I did not add that to go to God through Jesus Christ, is to use the best and most powerful of pleas.
III. So then, last of all, this may be, and this ought to be, in prayer OUR PLEA, as it was Jacob's plea — even this "Thou saidst."
1. We may urge the gracious promise of the Lord as pleading against our own unworthiness. This must win the suit. If a man has made me a promise, he cannot refuse to keep it on the ground that I am unworthy; because it is his own character that is at stake, not mine. However unworthy I am, he must not prove himself to be unworthy by failing to keep his word.
2. This is also good pleading as against our present danger. See how Jacob puts it with regard to his own peril. He sets out his very natural fear from his brother's anger: the mother, the children, everybody would be smitten by fierce Esau; and to save himself from this threatened horror Jacob lifts the shield of the promise, and as good as says to the Lord his God, "If this calamity should happen, how can Thy promise be kept? Thou saidst, 'Surely I will do thee good'; but, Lord, it is not good for Esau's sword to shed our blood! If Thou permit his anger to slay us, where is Thine engagement to do good unto Thy servant?" This reminds one of the plea of Moses, when he asked, "What will the Egyptions say?" If Israel were destroyed in the wilderness, what would Jehovah do for His great name? This is a prevalent argument.
3. Once more, as to future blessedness. Jacob used this argument, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good," as to all his future hopes, for he went on to say, "Thou saidst, I will make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." Not as much as he should, but still in a measure Jacob lived in the future. He lived under the influence and expectation of the covenant blessing. Now, brethren, what hope have you and I of getting to heaven? None, except that the Lord has said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish." I shall never perish, for Jesus says I never shall. He has also said, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be." Therefore I shall be in the glory with Him, and that is enough for me.
(C. H. Spurgeon).
A present for Esau.1. Prudent disposition of presents must follow the preparation of them.
2. Good servants are fit helps unto good masters for ordering their affairs.
3. Order is as needful as matter unto prudence to pacifiy enraged enemies.
4. Wise masters must give instructions to servants for the prosperity of their own affairs.
5. Lawful instructions from masters must be strictly observed by servants.
6. Humble presentations of saints to lords of the world is comely to procure peace.
7. Frequent and gradual expressions of such goodness and humility is most likely to overcome them.
8. Faces of cruel men are hard to be reconciled unto the faces of the righteous.
9. By foregoing gifts and preventing grace from God, saints may gel a good look from such men.
10. Jacob and Jacob's children are forced so to seek peace in the world.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Himself lodged that night in the company.1. Honest hearts do not only intend good, but see it done, before they rest.
2. Means lawful being used for safety, men may better lie down in peace.
3. It behoveth masters of families to rest among the charge, when it may be (ver. 21).
4. Diligence and early care of their's becomes Governors of families in times of danger.
5. Wives and children are the chiefest matter of a man's care and providence.
6. It is fatherly care to see as much as they can wives and children past danger (ver. 22).
7. It is the duty of the father of the family to order the motions of all under him.
8. After wives and children, substance is to be cared for, to keep it safe, for subsistence (ver. 23).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him.
1. This is a crisis, a turning-point in his career. His experience at the ford of Jabbok is his "conversion" from the craft and cunning and vulturous greed of years to the sweet subjection of his will to the Eternal, and consequent victory over himself and his brother.
2. God is in this crisis from first to last and at every moment of these twenty-four hours.
3. The crisis closes in the victory of the patient and loving Lord over the resisting selfishness of Jacob. Note these points: —
I. It must have been a welcome fore-gleam of approaching victory, and a pledge of the sustaining presence of Jehovah in the "valley of the shadow of death," that as this day of crisis broke on the pilgrim the angels of God met him.
II. What is the significance of this terrific conflict? It means this assuredly. Jacob having gone to God in quaking fear, God holds him and will not let him go; goads and harrows his soul, till his heart swells and is ready to break; urges him to such a relentless and soul-consuming struggle with his self-will that he feels as though he is held in the grip of a giant and cannot escape. He resists, he struggles, he writhes, and in his furious contortions is at last lamed and helpless, and therefore compelled to trust himself and his all to God.
III. Jacob wrestled against God, but at last yielding, his soul is suffused with the blessedness of the man whose trust is in the Lord. Faber asks, with mingled beauty and force, "What is it will make us real?" and answers, "The face of God will do it." It is so. Israel is a new creation: Jacob is dead. Dark as the night was, Jacob passed through it, saw the face of God at day-dawn, and became himself, met his brother with serenity, and spent the rest of his days in the love and service of God.
(J. Clifford, D. D.)
I. In what position do we find Jacob's spiritual state up to the time of this second incident in his life? During the first period of his life he was simply a man of the world. After the vision at Bethel he was a religious man; the sense of religious influence was seen in his life; after the conflict at the ford Jabbok he became a spiritually minded man. He was going home with his sin yet weighty on his soul, unpardoned, unforgiven, uncleansed by the Divine power. Bethel was the house of God, to teach him that he could not set his foot upon a single acre of soil without finding that the Governor of the world was there; here we have the unfolding of the wider thought of the intercommunion and personal relationship between the soul of man and his Maker.
II. Those who trust in the God of Bethel and providence are looking to Him for what He gives; but the aspirations of the spiritual man are wholly different. At Bethel Jacob said, "If Thou wilt be with me and wilt do me good." At Jabbok his first thought was, "Tell me Thy name." He desired to know more of God, not to get more from God. To gain further spiritual experience — this is the thirst of the spiritual man. To make a friend of God for the good that we can get — this is the idea of the merely religious man.
(Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)
I. All the evidence here goes to prove that the wonderful wrestler, who contended with Jacob, was the one only true God.
II. Being God and being man, we are right in calling Him Christ, and in placing this incident as the second of the anticipatory advents of the Messiah which lie scattered over the Old Testament.
III. As Jacob wrestled with God in human form, so it is with God in the Lord Jesus Christ that in all our spiritual conflicts, in all our deep repentances, in all our struggling prayers, we must wrestle.
IV. There were two things which Christ gave in this encounter — a wound and a blessing. The wound first and then the blessing. The wound was small and for a season; the blessing was infinite and for ever.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. In this striving of the patriarch with God, and in the blessing he won at the end of the striving, we see the very height and picture of our life, if into that life has passed the life of Christ our Lord.
II. It is by wrestling that we win the Divine blessing, but whether in struggling against doubt, against temptation, or against the enemies of the Church, we must take heed that we fight wisely as well as earnestly. We may strive, and we must strive; but let us strive wisely and lawfully if we would win the blessing.
III. The homeliest, the least eventful life, may and should be a supernatural life-a life in which Christ dwells, a life which the Holy Spirit sanctifies. If we can thus strive and wrestle on, the dawn comes at last, and we are blessed of God.
I. Any attempt to make Jacob a hero, or even a good man, at the time of his deception of his father, must fail. At that time he represented the very lowest quality of manhood. We can call him a man only by courtesy; while Esau, a venturous and kind-hearted child of nature, stands up as a prince, uncrowned indeed, but only because a thief had robbed him of his crown. In the fact that God chose Jacob we find the germ of the redemptive idea at work.
II. Jacob was not at once promoted to his high place. As a wanderer and a stranger, he underwent most humiliating discipline, and on this night his old and wretched past was replaced by a new name and a new hope.
III. There must be such a night in every life — a night in which the sinful past shall go down for ever into the depths of unfathomable waters. The wrestling of Jacob was
(1) (2) (3) IV. The night of wrestling was followed by a morning of happy reconciliation with his brother. (J. Parker, D. D.)
(2) (3) IV. The night of wrestling was followed by a morning of happy reconciliation with his brother. (J. Parker, D. D.)
(3) IV. The night of wrestling was followed by a morning of happy reconciliation with his brother. (J. Parker, D. D.)
IV. The night of wrestling was followed by a morning of happy reconciliation with his brother.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. AS TO ITS OUTWARD FORM.
II. AS TO ITS SPIRITUAL MEANING.
1. That the great struggle of life is to know and feel after God. 2. That God reveals Himself through mystery and awe. 3. That God reveals Himself to us in blessing. 4. That God's revelation of Himself to us is intended to change our character. 5. That God is conquered by prayer and supplication. (T. H. Leale.)
2. That God reveals Himself through mystery and awe.
3. That God reveals Himself to us in blessing.
4. That God's revelation of Himself to us is intended to change our character.
5. That God is conquered by prayer and supplication.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. The germ of the Incarnation. Godhead and humanity wrestling with each other; the Godhead in the form of a man.
2. The germ of the atonement. Sacrifice of the human will.
3. The germ of justification by faith. "I will not let Thee go," etc.
4. The germ of the new-birth. Jacob, Israel.
5. The germ of the principle of love to one's enemies. The reconciliation with God, reconciliation with the world.
(J. P, Lange.)
I. His EXPERIENCE is singularly transparent, though seriously mixed.
1. We know, for one thing, he was in positive fear.
2. There was solicitude in his experience.
3. There was reminiscence in his experience.
4. There was remorse in his experience.
II. THE INGENIOUS PRECAUTIONS HE TAKES. He made the best disposal of all his affairs that he could under the circumstances. Four things there were on which he grounded some hope.
1. One was his late vision of the angels at Mahanaim.
2. His vast worldly wealth.
3. Disposition of forces.
III. HIS LONELINESS.
(C. S Robison, D. D.)
I. THE CONFLICT.
1. Its loneliness.
2. Its earnestness.
(1) (2) II. THE VICTORY. "He blest him there." What was the nature of the Divine blessing? 1. A change in the man's state. (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. A change in the man's relations. (1) (2) (S. Gregory.)
(2) II. THE VICTORY. "He blest him there." What was the nature of the Divine blessing? 1. A change in the man's state. (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. A change in the man's relations. (1) (2) (S. Gregory.)
II. THE VICTORY. "He blest him there." What was the nature of the Divine blessing?
1. A change in the man's state.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 2. A change in the man's relations. (1) (2) (S. Gregory.)
2. A change in the man's relations. (1) (2) (S. Gregory.)
2. A change in the man's relations.
(1) (2) (S. Gregory.)
(2) (S. Gregory.)
I. OF THE COMBAT ITSELF.
1. In the general, it is one of the most famous combats recorded in Scripture; we read, indeed, in that Divine record of sundry eminent conflicts carried on after the manner of a duel. As of that combat betwixt little David and great Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40, &c.); but in that the match was only made betwixt man and man, there was only one mortal against another, though the one was a great giant, and the other was but, in comparison of his antagonist, a little dwarf. Here is a rare show indeed. Go along with me, I beseech you, both to see and hear this great wonder in some sense, the greatest wonder that ever was in the world, that God Himself, as will appear after, should come down from His throne in heaven to wrestle a fall with man, a poor worm (Isaiah 41:14; Psalm 22:6), upon his foot-stool on earth.
2. But more particularly, in the second place, what kind of combat this was, whether corporal only, or spiritual only, or both together, is our next inquiry. There be some who say that it was only spiritual by way of vision, or in way of a dream, imaginary only. So Thomas, Rupertus, and Rabbi Levi, who thinketh that Jacob's thigh might be hurt by some other means, as by the weariness of his tedious travel, or by his catching cold while he lay that cold night upon the cold ground, rather than by any real wrestling; and he further added, that Jacob dreamed of that same hurt upon his hip. How improbable this is may be easily urged. Assuredly Jacob had little either list or leisure for sleeping, much less for dreaming, while he was so struck even with a panic fear of his bloody brother. It was, therefore, a real and corporal combat, not visional or imaginary, which appears by many reasons.(1) Because it is said, Jacob rose up that night and sent his family before him, after both which he is described to be immediately engaged, even that same night he rose up in, to wrestling work (Genesis 32:22-24), which must be when he was waking.(2) Jacob's valour and victory are both highly applauded even by God Himself; whereas, had both these been imaginary only, and transacted in a dream, such fancies are but a laughter to men.(3) The luxation of his loin, or lameness of his leg was undoubtedly real and corporal. Who will complain of an imaginary hurt?(4) As there is a reality in Jacob's valour, victory, and lameness, so there is no less in the change of his name from Jacob to Israel; it was not done in a dream or vision, or in imagination only. Accordingly must his wrestling be not visional but corporal. Yet there is a third sense, to wit, that Jacob's wrestling was both corporal and spiritual, for he did certainly contend with Christ by the force of his faith as well as by the strength of his body. The prophet Hosea gives a plain testimony that Jacob won the blessing here by weeping as well as by wrestling. He wept and made supplication with his soul as well as wrestled with his body (Hosea 12:3, 4).
II. The next part or particular of this famous history is JACOB'S VALOUR, which is conspicuously demonstrable in several circumstances.
1. It is a clear discovery hereof, if his antagonist be well considered, that he was no less than the Omnipotent Jehovah.
2. Discovery of Jacob's valour is drawn from the circumstance of time when he wrestled, as the first was from the person with whom he had his conflict. The time when was the most timorous time of all times, it was in the night time, which is accounted a time of fear.
3. Wherein Jacob's courage and valour carries a high commendation, is, in respect of the length as well as lonesomeness of it, even all the night until the dawning of the day (Genesis 32:24, 25). Though wrestling work be most wearisome work, stretching every sinew in the flesh, and every jointbone in the body, and requiring the very utmost of a man's strength and skill.
4. The fourth circumstance, which higher illustrates Jacob's valour, is the sad posture he was now in, a lame and limping man, who had but one sound leg to stand upon while he wrestled with his adversary. As his place was a solitary and disconsolate place, so his posture was a discouraging and disadvantageous posture.
5. The fifth circumstance, which further commends Jacob's courage and valour, is the lastingness of his valour, the ever and everlasting noble temper of his mind under this wounding hurt, and under all other wonderful discouragements.
III. NOW come we, from Jacob's valour, thus demonstrated, unto that which was the royal wage thereof, to wit, HIS VICTORY. Though this was, secondarily, but the just reward of his right, noble resolution. Yea, Jacob's victory and prevailing over God here was symbolical, as it was a predicting sign —
1. That his person should prevail over Esau.
2. That his posterity should prevail over Esau's offspring, the Edomites or Idumeans.
3. That Christ, springing from Jacob, should subdue all His enemies, that every knee should bow to Christ (Philippians 2:10).
4. It was also a symbol or sign that every true Christian, who are Israelites indeed (John 1:47), and the right new and now Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), should likewise conquer all their temporal and spiritual adversaries, the flesh, the world, and the devil.
IV. Though God granted Jacob the victory, yet must he have something with it to humble him, to wit, HIS LUXATION OR LAMENESS, as before, that he might not be too much puffed up with the glory of his victory, nor, as it were, drunk with his success in this single combat. The conqueror here cannot come off with his conquest alone, but he must come off halting from it. He must be made sensible both of his antagonist's potency, in being lamed by him, whereby he understood him greater than himself, therefore desired he his blessing, for the lesser is blessed of the greater (Hebrews 7:7), and also of his own impotency, and to have low thoughts of himself while he came off with flying colours in the most glorious triumph. He must, even when he had overcome the great God, understand himself to be but a sorry man, otherwise he could not have been so lamed. He was, therefore, lamed that he might not ascribe the victory to his own strength, and that he might not, notwithstanding his overcoming God, be overcome by the pride of his own heart. Pride is a weed that will grow out of any ground — like mistletoe, that will grow upon any tree — but for the most part upon the best — the oak. Of all sorts of pride, that which is spiritual is most venomous, and far worse than temporal. That pride which grows out of the ground of our own graces and duties, is more poisonous than that which flows from honour, treasure, or pleasure. The holiest have their haltings, which they carry, as Jacob did his, along with them to their dying day. God hath His redder at every man's foot, and His bridle upon all men's spirits, to rein them in from self-exaltation, that they may not mount too high by having the victory. Oh, that our former haltings may be sanctified to us, so as to work savingly in us some future humblings. Thus, holy Jacob, in this holy contention with this holy angel, by those holy weapons obtains those holy things.
1. Holy honour.
2. The holy blessing.
I. How GOD PREVAILED WITH JACOB In regard to this Divine conflict, think of —
1. Its condescension.
2. Its necessity.
3. Its success.
II. How JACOB PREVAILED WITH GOD.
1. Jacob prevailed when he had been made to feel his own weakness.
2. Jacob prevailed, not by the exercise of natural strength, but by the purely spiritual force of trustful and earnest prayer.
III. THE RESULTS THAT FOLLOWED FROM THIS MEMORABLE CONFLICT.
1. Jacob received a new name.
2. Jacob received new spiritual power.
3. Jacob received a blessing which fully compensated for unexplained mystery.
(G. J. Allen, B. A.)
Homilist.I. JACOB'S WRESTLING.
1. A personal contest.
2. A protracted contest.
3. A contest with an unknown person.
II. JACOB'S VICTORY.
1. A partial victory.
2. A victory by which he obtained a better name.
3. A victory ever to be remembered.
Homilist.Man is lonely —
1. In his profoundest thoughts.
2. In his moral convictions.
3. In his greatest sorrows.
4. In his dying moments.
I. JACOB'S WRESTLING.
1. Of course I need hardly say that the wrestling of Jacob was not physical but spiritual, and that it refers to importunity in prayer, to great earnestness and perseverance in that duty. It is presumed all Christians know this much even from their cradles, Now, the time and place where this transaction occurred are worthy of notice. The time was during the night season. The place, very likely the tent of Jacob, fixed in the open country, in the spot from which the little village of Penuel, so called from this event, derives its interest. It was when all was still and hushed, and no voice was heard, perhaps, save the lowing of the cattle and the bleating of the sheep. It was on the eve of Jacob meeting his brother when the mind of Jacob was full of anxious thought and fears.
2. Consider the Infinite Being to whom Jacob addressed his prayer, and the manner or mode of His presence. God. Spiritually present to all who seek and love Him.
3. The intense earnestness of the prayer of Jacob is called a "wrestling" with God; it was so importunate, so full of feeling, and so bent upon obtaining its request. And the felt nearness of the Divine presence; the assurance of the power and willingness of the Infinite to bestow what was wanted; and of the very simple, gentle, and loving attractiveness of the Presence, drew out all that intensity of feeling and word so fully expressed in the language of the Patriarch, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." Such earnestness as here expressed, forms a striking contrast to the cold dead religious conventionalism of the age. There is great naturalness too in this earnestness of entreaty. It is what is felt oftentimes in some of our earthly affairs. For instance, let us suppose a person bent upon obtaining some particular object: say it has engaged his thoughts by night and by day, ever pressing itself upon his attention; an object of all others most desirable to be obtained. Well, let us further suppose that the moment has arrived when your wishes and hopes may be fulfilled; when he who can accomplish this is close beside you. Can you not imagine that as the person referred to becomes more and more friendly, and familiar, and endearing, that the earnestness of expectation will rise in proportion, and the determination to obtain what is longed for more and more fixed? Such too is the case with the heart in prayer with God.
II. THE RESULT OF THE PRAYER.
1. The change of Jacob's name to Israel, a prince and a conqueror, and also a change of character. The change of character is the most important, and his altered name is the sign by which that is forestalled. Henceforth he is no longer to be known as a subtle supplanter, but as an ennobled conqueror, who has waived all intrigue and treacherous design, and fought the battle bravely, openly, and honestly.
2. To conclude, know we anything of this inner life of the soul, of this earnest and intense struggle of a praying heart, of this deep and solemn communing with the Almighty? Do we feel that He is so near us at all times in the restless, and busy, and anxious seasons of life, that we have only just to turn our hearts towards Him to realize the power and comfort of His presence? Brethren beloved, who is in reality your God and mine? Is He the God of the wrestling Jacob, drawing us into close and earnest fellowship with Himself, and inspiring us with a feeling of trust that clings to Him, that yearns after Him, and that will not let Him go until He answers our petitions? Or is it some other idol we worship — some god of this world we obey?
(W. D. Horwood.)
I. IT BRINGS TO VIEW THE HUMAN SIDE OF PRAYER. Communion with God. No true or prevalent prayer where Christ is not laid hold of.
II. GENUINE PRAYER IS ACTUAL PERSONAL CONTACT OF THE SOUL WITH GOD IN CHRIST.
III. Note THE MEANS BY WHICH JACOB PREVAILED. Only when he ceased to rely on his own strength, and resorted to the weapon of prayer, did he succeed. So it is ever with the Christian.
IV. Note THE REWARD OF IMPORTUNATE PRAYER.
V. EVERY CHRISTIAN HAS POWER TO PREVAIL WITH GOD IN PRAYER.
VI. How SUGGESTIVE JACOB'S MEMORIAL NAME. "Penuel." "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
I. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JACOB AT PRAYER.
1. He represents the true Christian in that he prayed.
2. He represents the true Christian in the characteristics of his prayer.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 3. He represents many a Christian in his anxiety. 4. He represents the judicious Christian in using all proper means that lie in his power. II. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL. 1. It represents the purpose of God in all His disciplinary measures. 2. It represents the means by which faith grows to its maturity. (1) (2) 1. God graciously deals with each of His children according to their circumstances and temperament. 2. Wrong-doing ever brings anxiety, weakness, failure. 3. To prevail with God, faith must rely only on Him. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) 3. He represents many a Christian in his anxiety. 4. He represents the judicious Christian in using all proper means that lie in his power. II. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL. 1. It represents the purpose of God in all His disciplinary measures. 2. It represents the means by which faith grows to its maturity. (1) (2) 1. God graciously deals with each of His children according to their circumstances and temperament. 2. Wrong-doing ever brings anxiety, weakness, failure. 3. To prevail with God, faith must rely only on Him. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(3) (4) (5) 3. He represents many a Christian in his anxiety. 4. He represents the judicious Christian in using all proper means that lie in his power. II. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL. 1. It represents the purpose of God in all His disciplinary measures. 2. It represents the means by which faith grows to its maturity. (1) (2) 1. God graciously deals with each of His children according to their circumstances and temperament. 2. Wrong-doing ever brings anxiety, weakness, failure. 3. To prevail with God, faith must rely only on Him. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
3. He represents many a Christian in his anxiety. 4. He represents the judicious Christian in using all proper means that lie in his power. II. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL. 1. It represents the purpose of God in all His disciplinary measures. 2. It represents the means by which faith grows to its maturity. 1. God graciously deals with each of His children according to their circumstances and temperament. 2. Wrong-doing ever brings anxiety, weakness, failure. 3. To prevail with God, faith must rely only on Him. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
3. He represents many a Christian in his anxiety.
4. He represents the judicious Christian in using all proper means that lie in his power.
II. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL.
1. It represents the purpose of God in all His disciplinary measures.
2. It represents the means by which faith grows to its maturity.
1. God graciously deals with each of His children according to their circumstances and temperament.
2. Wrong-doing ever brings anxiety, weakness, failure.
3. To prevail with God, faith must rely only on Him.
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
I. THE NATURE OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER.
1. There must be a deep sense of personal unworthiness (ver. 10).
2. We must cherish confidence in the word and the goodness of God.
3. Perseverance should distinguish our prayers.
II. THE BLESSINGS WHICH BELIEVING PRAYER SECURES.
1. God's special protection.
2. The sensible enjoyment of an interest in God's love.
3. A blissful anticipation of glory.Conclusion:
1. A word to the sinner. Prayerless sinner, what will become of you?
2. A word to the saint. Encouragement. It is said " God blessed him there." He blessed him in the very place in which He had lamed him. And does not this intimate that when we are sunk the lowest in discouragement, that relief is just at hand that the darkest hour is the prelude to the brightest day, and that holy earnest petitions overcome heaven itself, and bring down to earth the odours of immortality and the supports of Omnipotence. Oh! believer, cleave to the example of Jacob — say, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."
I. THE BELIEVER IN HIS DIFFICULTY. Rest on the promises of a loving Jehovah, and go through all your trials honouring God, and experiencing patience and peace in your souls. But, moreover, you children of God, who have had trouble, and have it at this moment, do not be cast down.
II. THE BELIEVER IN HIS INSTRUMENTALITY.
1. You will perceive in the conduct of Jacob, in the first place, peculiar wisdom. There was no presumption in the conduct of Jacob. He made use of every variety of means to appease the anger of Esau; and after he had made these most providential arrangements, he remained with God alone. Having made these arrangements, he did not depend on them; he flew to his great resource, his only sure instrumentality, and that which, after all, must be that on which all must rest — namely, prayer to God.
2. You will perceive that this prayer, from the few words in which it is presented to our notice, is remarkable for its earnestness. Further, we mention that this prayer is remarkable for its perseverance, its persevering earnestness — "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."
III. THE BELIEVER IN HIS BLESSING.
(H. Allen, M. A.)
I. We have here A STRIKING ILLUSTRATION OF THE LONELINESS OF ALL REAL DISTRESS. There is a certain solitariness about every man. The proverb says that "there is a skeleton in every house," and it is equally true that there is a secret closet in every heart where the soul keeps its skeleton, and to which, after sending wife and children across the brook, it retires in times of sadness and insolation. There is something in every soul that is never told to mortal, but which, as if to make up for its being withheld from others, has a strange fascination for ourselves; and in every moment of silence it is heard sounding in our secret ear. Even those nearest and dearest to us know not of these hidden things. They are kept for solitude; nay, such is some their power over us that they draw us into retirement that they may speak to us awhile. Different exceedingly in their character may those things be that are hidden thus in the secret chamber of men's hearts. They differ in different individuals, and in the same individual at different times. In the case of Jacob here, guilt and suspense were the troubles of his soul.
II. But the narrative before us teaches us that in this dreary solitude our ONLY EFFECTUAL RESOURCE IS INCARNATE GOD. For as this mysterious one came to Jacob, so Jesus came to earth, a human brother, and, at the same time, a divine helper. And herein does He not precisely meet our need? As a man He comes, and so we need not be afraid of Him. You know the beautiful story which Homer tells in connection with the parting of Hector and Andromache. The hero was going to his last battle, and his wife accompanied him as far as the gates of the city, followed by a nurse carrying in her arms their infant child. When he was about to depart, Hector held out his hands to receive the little one, but, terrified by the burnished helmet and the waving plume, the child turned away and clung crying to the nurse's neck. In a moment, divining the cause of the infant's alarm, the warrior took off his helmet and laid it on the ground, and then, smiling through his tears, the little fellow leaped into his father's arms. Now, similarly, Jehovah of hosts, Jehovah with the helmet on, would frighten us weak guilty ones away; but in the person of the Lord Jesus He has laid that helmet off, and now the guiltiest and the neediest are encouraged to go to His fatherly embrace, and avail themselves of His support. But while thus His humanity emboldens us to apply to Him, His divinity furnishes us with the help we need. That which I cling to for strength must be something other than myself, and something stronger than myself, otherwise it will be time as worthless as a broken reed. When in the howling hurricane wave after wave is breaking over the ship and sweeping the deck from stem to stern, it will not do for the sailor to depend upon himself; neither will it avail for him to grasp his fellow, for they may together be washed into the deep; but he lays hold of the iron bulwark, making the strength of the iron for the moment to be as his own, and is upheld. So in the surges of agony that sooner or later sweep over every man, it will not do for him to depend upon himself, or even to hold by a fellow-mortal. He needs one who while, he is a brother, is mightier than any human brother; and here in Jesus Christ, the God-man, the great necessity of his heart is met; for is the omnipotence of divinity added to the accessibility of humanity. Nor is this all. Jesus Christ as God, is omniscient as well as omnipotent. He knows, therefore, precisely what is wrong with us.
III. But the narrative before us teaches us further, THAT OUR FIRST APPLICATION TO THIS DIVINE FRIEND MAY BE MET WITH SEEMING REPULSE, BUT THAT RELIEVING IMPORTUNITY WILL ULTIMATELY PREVAIL.
1. When our earnest applications to Him appear to be met with indifference, when our repeated importunity seems only to call forth repeated repulse, when in the yearning earnestness of our entreaty, our hearts feel as if they had lost all strength, even as Jacob's limb went from beneath him when the angel touched it, let us remember that His design is either to bring our faith to the birth, or by the discipline of resistance %o develop it into greater strength, and let us cling to Him all the more, saying, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."
2. But it is not alone for the strengthening of our faith that the answer to our application may be deferred. Jesus may design thereby to open our eyes to our real need. For observe, though it was suspense concerning Esau that was at first oppressing Jacob, there is no mention of that in this wrestling. He has discovered that he needs something far more important than reconcilation to his elder brother. He wants to know God's name, that is, his relation to Him, and he desires a blessing from Him. Thus through the apparent denial of the minor request, he is brought to feel his need of something greater than he had thought at first of asking. Now is it not thus very frequently with God's children still?
IV. I hasten to add, in the last place, that such an experience as that which we have been tracing always LEAVES ITS MARK ON THE INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS PASSED THROUGH IT, AND RENDERS MEMORABLE THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS UNDERGONE. "Jacob halted upon his thigh" — that was literal fact. But that was not the only permanent memorial of his night of wrestling which Jacob bore upon him. That was, in truth, but the corporeal indication of a spiritual result. The rocks beneath us bear the marks of the flames, to the actions of which, millenniums ago they were exposed; and in the mountain ridges of our planet we may see the record of those terrible convulsions and upheavels to which in former ages it was subjected. In like manner the spirit of a man is marked by the fires of those trials through which he has been made to pass; and we may see in the character and disposition of an individual, the indications or results of those inner struggles through which he has been brought.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
(M. Dods, D. D.)
I. JACOB PRAYING.
1. He was alone when God came out of His eternity to wrestle with him. There are some whom the Omnipresent can never find alone; He has seldom or never the opportunity of revealing Himself to them.
2. It was night. That is the time the Infinite is best revealed to us.
3. He was sunk in a deep fear. When in health and prosperity you may frame elaborate theories to demonstrate the absurdity of prayer; but let death stare you in the face, let a heavy sorrow or bereavement overtake you, and you cannot help praying.
II. JACOB WRESTLING.
1. There was bodily wrestling on that memorable night.
2. There was mental wrestling.
3. It was a long struggle: lasting all night. Why?(1) Jacob wanted to be set right with his brother; he is taught that he must first be set right with his God. The moral relations must be first rectified, and they cannot be rectified but on condition that the whole moral nature of the man be stirred to its depths, completly turned upside down, and the roots of sin be mortally bruised.(2) Jacob possessed a vast, profound, capacious nature; there were in him, underlying his glaring faults, immense possibilities for good, dormant powers which required to be stimulated into activity. Now a crisis had arrived in his life. His dormant faculties were to be roused; his bias to evil was to receive a mighty check. It was a terrible conflict. He felt as if his nature was dissolving, and his whole existence becoming a shattered wreck. His sinews shrivelled under the touch of the Almighty.
III. JACOB PREVAILING. He desired a blessing. God granted his request — giving him a change of nature, an elevation of character — making him a better, truer, more sincere man. This is the chiefest blessing He can bestow.
(J. C. Jones, M. A.)
1. The day and the night mutually act and react. A day of meeting with angels may well be followed by a night of wrestling with God. As you go on your way, through the toil and bustle of this life, remember the thousand eyes which watch you from heaven, and let speech and act testify that your heart is true to the sanctities and solemnities of being. So live and so move as those who know that they have come to an innumerable company of angels, and to God the Judge of all. Thus, when night comes, the veil which shuts out earth will be a glory to open heaven.
2. Lastly, earnestness is the condition of success.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Homilist.Here is —
I. SOLITARINESS OPENING AN OPPORTUNITY for a man to go "face to face" with God.
II. A CRISIS DISPOSING a man to go "face to face" with God.
III. A CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN SENDING a man "face to face" with God.
IV. A SENSE OF MYSTERY PERVADING a man while he is "face to face" with God.
V. INTENSE REALITY CHARACTERIZING a man while he is "face to face" with God.
VI. RICHEST BLESSING FOLLOWING from being "face to face" with God.
1. Elevation of his own character.
2. Reconciliation with men.
I. GOD WRESTLES WITH MAN TILL HE HAS PREVAILED WITH HIM.
1. The Divine desire to bless. This is the foundation of all God's dealings with us.
2. But before this blessing could be given, Jacob's strength must be destroyed.
3. To destroy this, God wrestles with him apparently as an enemy.
II. WE SEE THAT WHEN MAN IS THUS SUBDUED BY GOD, HE CAN PREVAIL WITH GOD. IS it not strange that the Divine Conqueror in this story should say to him who is thoroughly in His power, "Let Me go, for the day breaketh"?" It seems strange, but it is not; there is a sense in which God is in the hands of the soul He has subdued.
1. Notice that there is no prevailing with God till the spirit of resistance is destroyed, Until we yield to Him we can receive little from Him. That may explain much unprevailing prayer; the fact is it is not prayer: true prayer says "Thy will be done."
2. Then we see that we prevail with God when we only cling to Him in trustful prayer. That is the pleader that prevails. Thy covenant promises, Lord! Thy nature, which is love, and thus delights to bless! Thy mercy in Christ Jesus, which can bless the worthless; Thy fatherly relationship, which makes us trust Thy sympathy and depend on Thy resources, and which cannot cast Thy child back into the dark without a blessing!
3. Now to trustful prayer like this the delayed blessing is sure. But did God delay? We get an impression from this story (as I said) that God delays to bless and must be striven with, but did He delay, is there any sign of delay in the case of Jacob? None whatever after Jacob was subdued.
III. Then, we find that HAVING PREVAILED WITH GOD, MAN PREVAILS WITH ALL. Prevailing with God does not mean that we persuade Him to give us what we ask, but simply that we secure His blessing: "He blessed Him there." That may be the gift, the deliverance, the supply we desire, but it may not; it may simply be power to endure — to endure cheerfully, enrichingly, and so as to glorify Him, but it involves that in some way we prevail over the trial. There is a great truth here. If we would prevail over our trials, we must first prevail with God; we may go to meet them bravely, but there will be no enrichment, no peace, no conquest, if that be all; we must prevail with heaven if we would conquer on earth. See how then we conquer!
1. In prevailing with God, Jacob prevailed over his own troubled heart. From that time he was a new creature with a new name, and I suppose in nothing was this change more apparent than in the tranquility which possessed him.
2. Jacob also prevailed over his dreaded foe. Esau came, the Esau that he feared, with his four hundred men. But what then? Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him. God's blessing turns the foe into a friend.
I. SOLITARY MUSINGS. Jacob was left alone. Before him was the river Jabbok. Beyond the river his wives and children. Still beyond them, on the march to Esau, were the presents he had sent. The servants full of wonder and fear for their master's sake. The wives and children anxious. Jacob once more alone, as many years before he was when passing the same spot (ver. 10). He would think of the past. How greatly he had been prospered. How little he had deserved. Now he feels how entirely he is in the hands of God. The disposing of his wealth is with God. It is a question whether God will own the means he has so far employed. Jacob is doubtful and perplexed. He has prayed already (vers. 9-12) and exhausted all his arguments. He can now only cast himself on the undeserved mercy of God. Night a good time for such reflections. David often meditated thus in the night watches. Jesus also spent His nights in meditation and prayer. In darkness and silence there is less to divert attention than in the daytime.
II. MIDNIGHT WRESTLING. Jacob thus musing, becomes aware of the presence of some mysterious person. Called a man because in human form and nature. The angel of the covenant in disguise. Jacob perceives who his companion is. Seizes this mysterious personage, and declares he will not let him go unless a blessing is granted. The angel struggles to be released, doubtless intending by thus wrestling to teach that prayer should be bold, earnest, importunate, persevering. Physical wrestling a type of wrestling in spirit. The angel prevailed not. He had put forth only sufficient strength to excite resistance and earnestness, without causing discouragement to Jacob's mind. Unable to release himself, he touches and disables Jacob. Thus weakened, Jacob still clings to the angel. Will not let him go without a blessing. Jacob conquers. His name is changed. Hitherto he had been a mere supplanter by human methods, now he shall prevail on higher principles. As a "God's fighter" he shall fight God's battles with spiritual weapons. Faith, prayer, &c.
III. MORNING SUNSHINE. "The sun rose upon him as he passed over Penuel." The brightest day in his life was that in which the sun rose upon him a man blessed of God, and acknowledged to be a prevailer. With his bodily infirmity, he was a stronger man than he had ever been before. "Clothed with might by His Spirit in the inner man," he was "strong" though "weak." He felt better able to meet Esau, a lame man, than he had felt before in the pride of strength. Strength of soul the highest form of strength. Without this how weak are the strongest (illus. Samson, Goliath). Learn:
1. Select fit times and themes for profitable meditation.
2. Our affairs should be all placed in the hands of God.
3. Saying a prayer not truly praying. "Wrestling importunity"
4. The dark hour of earnest humble prayer is followed by sunshine in the heart.
(J. C. Gray.)
1. Then this wrestling warned and forewarned as it were Jacob that many strugglings remained for him yet in his life to be run through and passed over, which were not to discomfort him when they happened, for as here so there he would go away with victory in the end.
2. It described out the condition not only of Jacob but of all the godly also with him, namely, that they are wrestlers by calling while they live here, and have many and divers things to struggle withal and against; some outward, some inward, some carnal, some spiritual, some of one condition, some of another, which all, yet through God they shall overcome and have a joyful victory over in conclusion, if with patience they pass on and by faith lay hold upon Him ever in whom they only can vanquish, Christ Jesus.
3. It discovered the strength whereby Jacob both had and should overcome ever in his wrestlings, even by God's upholding with the one hand when He assaileth with the other, and not otherwise; which is another thing also of great profit to be noted of us, that not by any power of our own we are able to stand, and yet by Him and through Him conquerors and more than conquerors.
4. It is said that God saw how He could not prevail against Jacob, which noteth not so much strength in Jacob as mercy in God, ever kind and full of mercy. Lastly, that Jacob saith, "He will not let Him go except He bless him." It teacheth us to be strong in the Lord whensoever we are tried, and even so hearty and comfortable that we as it were compel the Lord to bless us ere He go, that is, by His merciful sweetness to comfort our hearts and to make us more and more confirmed in all virtue and obedience towards Him, yielding us our prayer as far as it may any way stand with the same; which force and violence as it were offered on our parts to the Lord He highly esteemeth and richly rewardeth evermore.
1. Open up this way of getting the blessing.
2. I will show what it is that makes some souls so peremptory and resolute for the blessing, while others slight it.
3. I will show that this is the true way to obtain the blessing, and that they who take this way will come speed. I am, then —
I. To OPEN UP THIS WAY TO OBTAIN THE BLESSING, WHICH YOU MAY TAKE UP IN THESE PARTICULARS. If we would have the blessing, then —
1. We must have a lively sense of our need of it.
2. We must by faith lay hold on Christ the storehouse of blessings for it. God blesses us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.
3. We must by fervent prayer wrestle with Him for it. How did Jacob obtain it? "Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept and made supplication unto Him."
4. We must by believing the promise, keep a sure hold of the blessed Redeemer. He had said to Jacob, "I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea which cannot be numbered." And we find Jacob reminding Him of this promise (ver. 12). Now what way can we hold Him and not let Him go, but holding Him by His Word? They who hold Him by His Word, they have sure hold.
5. We must by hope wait for the blessing. "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say on the Lord."
6. We must leave no means untried to procure it.
7. No discouragements must cause us to faint.
8. If at any time we fall, we must resolutely recover and renew the struggle.
9. We must resolve never to give over till we get it, and so hold on. "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." This is the resolute struggle, this is the way to the blessing.Motives to urge you to this way —
1. Consider the worth of the blessing. Whatever pains, and struggles, and on-waiting it may cost, it will far more than repay the expense of all. God's blessing is God's good word to the soul, but it is big with God's grace and good deeds to the man that gets it; and that is enough to make one happy for ever.
2. Consider the need you have of it. You are by nature under the curse, and unless you get the blessing, you must for ever be under the curse.
3. If you will not be at this pains for it, you will be reckoned despisers of the blessing; and that is most dangerous, and will bring on most bitter vengeance. And you will see the day you would do anything for it when you cannot get it.
4. If you will take this way you will get the blessing.
II. To SHOW WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES SOME SOULS PEREMPTORY AND RESOLUTE FOR THE BLESSING, WHILE OTHERS SLIGHT IT.
1. Felt need engageth the soul to this course.
2. Superlative love to and esteem of Christ engageth them to this.
3. Without the blessing all is tasteless and unsatisfactory to them.
4. They see not how to set out their face in an ill world without it. They say with Moses, "If Thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence."
5. They see not how to face another world without it.
III. THAT THIS IS THE TRUE WAY TO OBTAIN THE BLESSING, AND THAT THEY WHO MAKE THIS WAY WILL COME SPEED. "And He blessed him there." Such as come to Christ for the blessing, they shall get it, if they hold on resolutely and will not be said nay.
1. We have many certain instances and examples of those who have obtained the blessing this way. Jacob in the text. The spouse (Song of Solomon 3). The woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:22 and downwards; see also Lamentations 3:40-50 and downwards). Would you know how to get the blessing? There is a patent way, behold the footsteps of the flock, not the footsteps of lifeless formal professors, who cannot go off their own pace for all the blessings of the covenant; but the footsteps of wrestling saints, who were resolved to have the blessing cost what it would
2. We have God's word or promise for it. "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall hath abundance."
3. It is the Lord's ordinary way to bring great things from small beginnings by degrees.
4. Consider the bountiful nature of God, who will not always flee from them that follow Him, nor offer to go away from them that will not let Him go, except He bless them.
5. None coming to Christ for the blessing ever got a refusal, but they that court it by their own indifference.
6. Our Lord allows and encourages His people to use a holy freedom and familiarity with Him, yea a holy importunity, as He teaches us (Luke 11:8, 9).
7. As importunity is usually in all cases the way to succeed, so it has special advantages in this case, which promise success.(1) Our Lord does not free Himself of such as thus hold Him, and is not this promising?(2) Nay, our Lord commands them to keep the hold which they have gotten. "Strive," says He, "to enter in at the strait gate." And is not this promising?Use
1. This lets us see why many fall short of the blessing. They have some motions of heart towards it, and if it would fall down in their bosom with ease, they would be very glad of it. They knock at God's door for it, and if He would open at the first or second call, they would be content, but they have no heart to hang on about it, and so they even let Him go without the blessing.Use
2. I exhort you all to hold on. You that have received a blessing, wait on resolutely for more. And you that are going away mourning, take up with no comfort till you get it from Himself; and be resolute that you shall never let Him go till He bless you.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
1. It does not appear to be a vision, but a literal transaction. A personage, in the form of a man, really wrestled with him and permitted him prevail so far as to gain his object.
2. Though the form of the struggle was corporeal, yet the essence and object of it were spiritual. An inspired commentator on this wrestling says, "He wept and made supplication to the angel." That for which he strove was a blessing, and he obtained it.
3. The personage with whom he strove is here called "a man," and yet in seeing Him, Jacob said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Hosea, in reference to his being a messenger of God to Jacob, calls him "the angel": yet he also describes the patriarch as having "power with God." Upon the whole, there can be no doubt but that it was the same Divine personage who appeared to him at Bethel and at Padan-aram, who, being in the form of God, again thought it no usurpation appear as God.
4. What is here recorded had relation to Jacob's distress, and may be considered as an answer to his evening supplications. By his "power with God" he had "power with men": Esau and his hostile company were conquered at Penuel.
5. The change of his name from "Jacob" to "Israel" and the "blessings" which followed signified that he was no longer to be regarded as having obtained it by supplanting his brother, but as a prince of God, who had wrestled with Him for it and prevailed. It was thus that the Lord pardoned his sin and wiped away his reproach. It is observable, too, that this is the name by which his posterity are afterwards called. Finally, the whole transaction furnishes an instance of believing, importunate, and successful prayer.
(M. Dods, D. D.)
I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.I. He was thoroughly in earnest; he wrestled till he got the blessing.
II. If we wish to gain a blessing like Jacob's, we must be alone with God. It is possible to be alone with God, even in the midst of a multitude.
III. Jacob's heart was hardened with a load of sin. It crushed his spirit, and was breaking his heart. He could bear it no more, and so he made supplication. He wanted to be lifted out of his weakness, and made a new man.
IV. in the moment of his weakness, Jacob made a great discovery. He found that when we cannot wrestle we can cling.
V. He received the blessing wrestled for as soon as he became content to accept it as God's free gift.
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
I. THE SOUL'S AGONY.
1. The soul is absorbed in the awful loneliness of its own thought. "Jacob was left alone." So is every one in similar experiences. In times of agony, friendly sympathy seems distant and ineffectual. We are even impatient with well-meant words of kindness. Then comes a sense of powerlessness. The afflicted one has done all he can, and now can only wait. At this juncture he begins to ask himself as to the cause of his misery. Why is he thus situated? Perhaps, like Jacob, he recognizes his sorrows as the lineal descendants of some former sin; or more likely, he now perceives, as never before, the general fact of his sinfulness, his imperfections as a Christian, and his failure to enjoy religious privileges.
2. Just here the soul is arrested by God's presence. Abstracted from the world, because grief has made him indifferent to worldly thoughts, the Christian can now see God and feel His power. We can imagine Jacob, in his conflict of emotion, standing in the darkness by the brook Jabbok, lost in thought, when suddenly a heavy hand is laid upon his shoulder. He turns to find a mysterious Presence of terrible reality and power. That Presence he speedily recognizes as God. So now every storm-racked heart is introduced by conscience to its God.
3. In such times of trial, the soul at first finds God a seeming foe. Jacob at first was obliged to defend himself against his mysterious adversary. Who can tell what fearful surmises came over him as he wrestled in the dark with his terrible opponent? Can this be Esau? No; this is a superhuman strength. Can this be God? It surely is none else; but why does He meet me thus? God hedges men in to bring them to His feet, to show them themselves, to prevent prosperity from injuring them, very likely to prepare them for it, to purify them from remaining sin, frequently to fit them for some great work. We must pass through the furnace before we are what we should be.
II. THE RELIEF OF THE SOUL.
1. The narrative discloses the human means of securing this relief, namely, prayer.
2. The narrative sets before us the Divine methods of giving relief to the soul.
(1) (2) (3) 3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle. (A. P. Foster.)
(2) (3) 3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle. (A. P. Foster.)
(3) 3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle. (A. P. Foster.)
(A. P. Foster.)
The Study.1. It was a prayer that by living faith took firm hold upon God. He came to God, not as one far off, but close at hand; not merely on the throne, but present in all the affairs of daily life. He comes to Him as the God of his fathers, the God of the covenant. He at once lays hold of the Divine faithfulness. As much as any one thing, we need to-day this sense of God as ever present to be a restraining power in business life. Like the patriarch, every believing soul must draw nigh to God, reverently, it is true, but not timidly or distrustfully. The command is to "come boldly to a throne of grace." We must come not as though we more than half questioned whether there is any God, or, if there be, whether He cares anything about us, and will hear our prayer; but with all the heart believing "that He is, and is the Rewarder of those that diligently seek Him."
2. Jacob did not offer a hasty prayer for safety merely in general terms, and then go about his worldly business with all the intensity of his nature. His need was urgent, was deeply felt; and he found time enough to press it before God. The whole night was none too long for his business with God.
3. Wrestling, Jacob came to a point where he was powerless. All he could do was to hold fast to God. God never takes from any of His children their power to do this. Every other refuge may be swept away, but they can cling still.
4. Jacob's prayer was direct and simple. He asked for just what he wanted, then stopped.
I. THE OBJECTS OF JACOB'S PRAYER; or, the blessings implored. It need not be disguised that one of these was the preservation of his own life, and the safety of his family and substance. It would be doing Jacob injustice, however, to deny that higher objects than the preservation of himself, and of his family and substance, occupied his thoughts and prayers on this critical occasion. The very circumstances in which he was placed were calculated to call his sins to remembrance; just as his sons were reminded of their unnatural and criminal conduct towards Joseph, by being thereby involved in difficulties in Egypt many long years after their sin had been committed. Jacob being reminded of the falsehood and deceit by which he had provoked the anger and vengeance of his brother, would humbly confess his sin and earnestly pray for the salvation of his soul, whatever might be the fate of his body at this time. Knowing that the souls of his family were as precious as his own, and remembering the relation in which he stood to them, and the duty that he owed them, he would be very importunate in prayer for their salvation also, though they should fall by the sword of Esau. But he would not despair of their preservation. He would remember the covenant of God with his father Abraham, and the promise that He would make of him a great nation, and that in his seed, which is Christ, all the families of the earth would be blessed. He would pray that he and his family might live to be witnesses for God in a world lying in wickedness, and might introduce the spiritual seed, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE DUTY SHOULD BE PERFORMED.
1. Jacob sought retirement for devotion.
2. Jacob spent a long time in prayer.
3. We must implore lawful things, and employ proper arguments to attain them.
4. We ought to be earnest and persevering in prayer.
5. We should pray in faith and hope.
III. THE ANSWER WHICH JACOB OBTAINED TO HIS PRAYERS. God blessed him there. He obtained a gracious answer.
(R. Smith, D. D.)
I. EXPLAIN THIS HOLY WRESTLING IN PRAYER. Wrestling implies some resistance to be overcome. Some of the chief obstructions which must be overcome are —
1. A sense of guilt whelming the soul.
2. A frowning Providence discouraging the mind.
3. Unbelieving thoughts and inward temptations.
4. Coldness and slothfulness of the heart.
5. Discouragement through Divine delays.
II. THE REASONABLENESS OF IMPORTUNITY IN PRAYING.
1. It strengthens in our minds a sense of God's glory.
2. Our unworthiness vindicates it.
3. The inestimable value of the blessings to be obtained requires it.
III. ITS ADVANTAGES.
1. It prepares for blessings in many cases: it is itself the actual possession of them.
2. It has the promises of success.
3. Memorable examples confirm its worth.
1. How many have cause to mourn their lack of this spirit!
2. Its absence is one cause of the low state of religion.
3. As you would persevere in prayer, be watchful and circumspect, observe the course of Providence, be much in intercession for others.
(Dr. J. Wotherspoon.)
(T. M. Rees.)
1. Who was that personage that appeared to Jacob, and wrestled with him? The narrative calls him a man; but all interpreters are agreed, that by this is meant some one in the form of a man. Was it, then, a created angel? or, was it God Himself? We think the latter; because, though He is called an angel, Jacob paid Him Divine homage. Again, because the inspired prophet, referring to this event, says that Jacob had power with God. And again, because Jacob himself said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Once more, because the patriarch appeals to Him in our text for a blessing, which he could hardly look for from any being but God. There is another point to which I would direct your attention, viz., that this angel was not merely God, but God the Son, who in this, and in many other instances, anticipated His Incarnation, by appearing in the form and fashion of a man. With whom should Jacob wrestle to obtain pardon for his sin, and deliverance from its just consequences, but with the appointed Mediator, who should make atonement, and then enter into the heaven of heavens, there to appear in the presence of God for us?
2. What was this wrestling? Was it spiritual, or corporeal, or both? There are a few interpreters, and but a few, who think it was purely spiritual; and that there was no bodily conflict at all, but that it was illusive and imaginary. It is said distinctly, "There wrestled a Man with him"; and that Man, when the conflict had lasted long, says, "Let me go, for the day breaketh." Finally, he touched Jacob's thigh upon the sinew that shrank, so that he went halting to the end of his days. All these are strong marks of reality, which go far to prove that the outward form of this conflict was corporeal. Yet, beyond all question, it was connected with a mental and spiritual wrestling with God in prayer. The outward was a sign and picture of the inward strife; and Jacob to this day is an image of every saint who prevails with God by the holy boldness, earnest opportunity, and untiring perseverance of His supplications.
3. Why did this wrestling take place? what was its great end? With respect to Jacob himself, it signified that he should overcome the hatred of his brother Esau; for what has he to fear from man, who, as a prince, hath power with God? With respect to ourselves, and to the Church generally, we may consider this scene as descriptive pictorially, not of Jacob's condition only, but of all the saints with him. They are all wrestlers, by their very calling; wrestlers with affliction, with temptation, with outward and with inward, with carnal and with spiritual enemies: yet, in the strength of God, they shall all overcome. Wrestlers with God; that is, men of prayer. Now, we take our text as exemplifying to us this one subject, boldness in prayer: "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." Now, there are two reflections that, in a manner, force themselves upon our notice. One is, that God never violently withdraws Himself from a praying man. His trial of our faith and importunity never stretch beyond this, "Let me go, if Thou canst consent"; and, even when the trial proceeds so far, it is only done to provoke a refusal. It was obviously not the Divine intention to send Jacob away unblessed, but to elicit this proof of his determination. The other reflection is consequent upon it; namely, that when God withdraws from any man, it is always with his own consent. He must be willing to give up the point before he loses his advantage. No man can fail to obtain everything that he really needs, and everything that God has promised, unless he himself voluntarily draws back and yields; otherwise, God consents to be overcome by prayer. This is the great comfort of every sinner, and of every saint.
I. Consider WHAT KIND OF BOLDNESS IT IS THAT GOD APPROVES, NEGATIVELY AND POSITIVELY.
1. God does not approve the boldness which is grounded on self-righteous principles: it must, therefore, be connected with a deep sense of guilt and unworthiness (ver. 10).
2. God does not approve that boldness which loses sight of His own awful majesty and holiness. Boldness must be associated with reverence and godly fear, to be acceptable. What! can God's condescension and love give an unworthy creature the smallest ground to forget his own unworthiness, and the infinitude of Him with whom he has to do? On the contrary, it should deepen his sense of his own meanness, and increase his adoration.But let us come more particularly to the question.
1. God approves that boldness which surmounts all the doubts and fears adapted to obstruct our freedom of access to Him. There are improper fears, and a sinful diffidence opposed to the exercise of prayer. When, for instance, a sense of guilt and unworthiness leads us to suspect that God will not hear us, will not forgive; this is a sign of faint-heartedness, not of humility. It is a sentiment directly contrary to His revealed will. Now, Jacob might have been restrained by similar considerations. He might have thought of all his sins.
2. God approves that boldness in prayer which is evinced by the largeness of its desires. He is not honoured by feeble desires and limited supplications. His promises are most ample, and various in the benefits which they convey.
3. God approves that boldness which is importunate, and will take no denial. It is often necessary that a blessing be withheld for a season, in order that its full value may be realized. Moreover, this is an important test of sincerity. Coldness and languor are repulsed and betrayed. Genuine devotion believes the word, and will not consent to go empty away. Formality is satisfied without the blessing, when conscience is appeased by the performance of the duty. The true worshipper cannot rest in outward services if the blessing be not given.
II. Let us take notice of one or TWO CONSIDERATIONS WHICH NOT MERELY JUSTIFY THIS BOLDNESS, BUT GO FAR TO PROVE IT INDISPENSABLE.
1. The urgency of our wants. The fervency of prayer should be regulated by our condition. It is evident that the secret of Jacob's importunity was the pressing circumstances in which he felt himself to be placed. His was a kind of desperation, inspired by the extremity of his danger.
2. The importance of the blessing. We plead not merely for well-being, we plead for life; life, not of the body, hut of the soul. If we do not prevail we are lost.
3. The absolute certainty of its prevalence. There will be timidity in asking, wherever there exists a doubt of obtaining. Thine own word is my warrant, when I answer, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."IN CONCLUSION, the subject is adapted to impress upon our minds these two points of instruction: the quality of prayer, and the power of prayer.
1. Boldness is an essential characteristic of prayer. This may be made clear by barely mentioning the defects and infirmities to which it is opposed. Can there be sincerity and acceptableness where there is a want of sensibility and zeal, where low views are entertained of the kindness and grace of God, and where the suppliant is ready to withdraw from the mercy-seat without the blessing, at the least discouragement or delay?
2. Observe exemplified the power of prayer. "I said not unto the seed of Jacob, seek ye Me in vain!"
1. That he had brought these difficulties upon himself. Conscience now accused him of his crime with the same vehemence as if it had been committed only yesterday. Ah! this is a solemn fact in connection with certain sins which we rashly perpetrate! Painful indeed was Jacob's reflection now upon the past. Had he conducted himself as a straightforward man in his youth, he might have avoided his present trouble. How he wished he could have commenced life again! Even in old age men are doomed to possess the sins of their youth, to reap the inevitable consequences of early aberrations.
2. That others beside himself shared in the impending danger. He is now the head of a family; he has wives and children whom he passionately loves; they are in danger of being put to death on the morrow by his furious brother; and his conscience reproaches him with being the cause of their misery. Surely this was the keenest pang of all — the bitterest ingredient in his cup of bitterness. Such is human life. Say not that children are never punished for the transgressions of their parents; reason not concerning the injustice of such an arrangement; the hard fact continually stares us in the face, and warns us at every step to beware, to take heed to ourselves, to be prudent in our conduct, not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of others, whom we may unwittingly injure. "And Jacob was left alone." It is when you are alone with the powers of nature-powers whose existence speaks of a higher Power, which sustains them all — that the light of Heaven is most likely to flash upon your soul. It was when banished to the isle of Patmos that John saw the glorious visions recorded in the Book of Revelation; it was when imprisoned in Bedford goal that Bunyan dreamed his Pilgrim's Progress; it was when shut up in total darkness that Milton sang his Paradise Lost. We are taught here that —
I. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF THE PRESENCE OF A PERSONAL GOD. It is stated that "there wrestled a man with Jacob until the breaking of the day." God is not an abstract idea of the mind; is not the natural powers by which we are surrounded; for He has a personal existence. God is a person, and as such, men in all ages have desired to know Him; to commune with Him, to call upon Him in distress. It is when we pray, however, that this fact forces itself most vividly upon our minds. It may be said, therefore, that true prayer can never be uttered where the presence of a personal God does not inspire the soul. You must feel, like Jacob, that there is a Parson with you, standing at your side, listening to your cry; for otherwise it will not be prayer, but a form — it will not be an outpouring of the heart, but a meaningless performance.
II. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF A STRUGGLE TO OVERCOME DIFFICULTIES. The experience of formidable opposition in drawing near to God is by no means uncommon. The repelling power with which Jacob struggled on this occasion, has been encountered by almost every suppliant at the throne of grace. Indeed, our Lord seemed anxious to prepare the minds of His disciples to expect it. "And He spake a parable unto them for this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint." But our Lord prepared His disciples to expect difficulties in prayer by other means than parables — by His dealings with some who sought temporal favours at His hands. While He sojourned in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, a woman of Canaan came to Him, crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." Passing on with perfect unconcern, He feigned not to hear her; for He answered her not a word. She then cried all the more, "Have mercy on me," so that His disciples felt annoyed, and besought Him to send her away. Thus when we encounter difficulties in prayer, when we feel as if God did not hear us, it is because God wishes to. test our faith, and by testing to strengthen it. Consequently, not only do we enjoy God's blessing with greater relish when it comes, but we are also made stronger for His service.
III. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF A CHANGE IN OURSELVES, AS A TOKEN OF SUCCESS. It may be that when we are apparently most unsuccessful, we are really most successful. We do not obtain the very thing we seek at the time, but the spiritual strength we acquire in the effort may be infinitely more important than the thing itself. It always happens thus when true, fervent, earnest prayer is sent up from the heart to God; when there is a mighty struggle to obtain a blessing from above, there comes over the soul a change for the better, a visible improvement, a closer resemblance to God's image. Jacob carried in his body ever after a memorial of the wrestling of that night; for "he halted on his thigh." We are reminded here of a beautiful story, told of the celebrated John Elias, the prince of Welsh orators. He addressed on one occasion a meeting presided over by the late Marquis of Anglesey. The marquis, as you know, was lame, having lost a limb in the famous battle of Waterloo. Referring, therefore, to that circumstance, the speaker thrilled his audience by this striking remark, "We have a president here this evening, whose very step as he walks reminds you of his bravery!" So Jacob "halted on his thigh." His limping gait kept in remembrance his wonderful victory with God. A man of prayer is well known as such; there are certain marks which reveal his character; his public performances bear the impress of his private wrestlings. In this transforming, elevating, and invigorating influence of prayer lies the secret of a godly man's strength.
(D. Rowlands, B. A.)
Luther was so earnest in his prayers that it used to be said, "He will not be denied." When Scotland was in danger of becoming Popish, John Knox prayed most mightily for its preservation in the true faith. "Give me Scotland," he pleaded, "or I die"; and his prayers have been answered. Epaphras "laboured fervently in prayer." Christ, "being in an agony, prayed the more fervently."
And He said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
I. His patience was a princely virtue. How patiently he bore the long delays in Laban's service I the plots of his sons, Simeon and Levi! We sometimes think of patience as the virtue of the weak, the sufferer, the inferior. Yet a great prime minister of England, when asked what was the most important virtue for a prime minister, gave this answer, "Patience is the first, patience is the second, patience is the third."
II. Hopefulness was another of Jacob's regal virtues. He looked forward with trust and confidence to the future; he believed firmly in God's promises. His was a religious spirit; the religious mind is sustained by hope. "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord," he says in his last address, when he summed up the purpose of his life. He had waited, but never ceased to hope; the Divine reward had always been before him.
III. But it was in prayer specially that Jacob showed his princely character. What a nobility is attributed to prayer in this episode of Jacob's life! What a description the text gives us of the royal attributes of prayer that it sets in motion the sovereign agency which settles all human events!
(J. B. Mozley, D. D.)
I. The very twofold name of Jacob and of Israel is but the symbol of the blending of contradictions in Jacob's character. A strange paradox — the hero of faith, and the quick, sharp-witted schemer.
II. The character of Jacob is a form which is to be found among the Gentiles no less than among the Jews. There are in our days prudential vices, marring what would otherwise be worthy of all praise. And that which makes them most formidable is that they are the cleaving, besetting temptations of the religious temperament.
1. Untruthfulness — the want of perfect sincerity and frankness.
2. Thinking much of ease and comfort, and shrinking from hardship and danger.
III. The religious temperament, with all its faults, may pass into the the matured holiness of him who is not religious only, but godly. How the work is to be clone "thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter," when thou too hast wrestled with the angel and hast become a prince with God.
I. EVERY SOUL NEEDS THE NEW NAME.
II. EVERYONE MAY HAVE THE NEW NAME.
III. EVERY ONE MUST SECURE THE NEW NAME AS JACOB HAD.
1. By repentance.
2. By faith.
(T. J. Holmes.)
I. THE SYMBOL OF THE NEW LIFE. He was no longer to be called Jacob, but Israel. In this change of name was intimated an entire change of character. He was sent back in recollection over the years to the time when he had been a wicked man; and then he was sent forward in anticipation across the years, under the command that he should begin a fresh career. From that night onward, he was to leave off his worldly cunning, and surrender his craft. He must become a new man, and, above all, a true man. His early and continuous sins might now be forgiven; but he must lead an altered life.
II. THE REACH TO WHICH THIS NEW LIFE EXTENDS.
1. When once a believer is truly in Christ, his standing with God is entirely changed. Every barrier is broken down. God's displeasure is over, and man's enmity is ended.
2. Not only in state but in character is the true believer a new man. If he be in Christ, he will grow assuredly to resemble Christ.
3. The new creation of a believer in Christ extends even to his experience, as well as to his state and character.
(1) (2) (3) (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(2) (3) (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(3) (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. THAT GOD MANIFESTS HIMSELF FOE THE COMFORT AND PROTECTION OF THOSE WHO TRUST IN HIM ACCORDING TO THEIR NEED (2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 46:1; Acts 27:23, 24).
II. WHAT COWARDS A GUILTY CONSCIENCE MAKES OF US ALL.
III. THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF PRAYER. Mark:
1. The kind forbearance and long-suffering patience of God.
2. The purpose of God concerning us.
(A. F. Joscelyne, B. A.)
I. WHAT THIS POWER CANNOT BE.
1. Cannot be physical force.
2. Cannot be mental energy.
3. Cannot be magical.
4. Cannot be meritorious.
5. Cannot be independent.
II. WHENCE THIS POWER PROCEEDS.
1. It arises from the Lord's nature. His goodness and tenderness are excited by the sight of our sorrow and weakness.
2. It comes out of God's promise (Isaiah 43:26).
3. It springs out of the relationships of grace.
4. It grows out of the Lord's previous acts. Each blessing draws on another, like links of a chain.
III. How CAN IT BE EXERCISED.
1. There must be a deep sense of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).
2. There must be simple faith in the goodness of the Lord (John 14:12).
3. There must be earnest obedience to His will (John 9:31).
4. There must be fixed resolve (ver. 26).
5. With this must be blended importunity (ver. 24).
6. The whole heart must be poured out (Hosea 12:4).
7. Increased weakness must not make us cease (Isaiah 33:23).
IV. To WHAT USE THIS POWER MAY BE TURNED.
1. For ourselves.
(1) (2) (3) 2. For others. Jacob's wives and children were preserved, and Esau's heart was softened. If we had more power with God, we should have a happier influence among our relatives. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(2) (3) 2. For others. Jacob's wives and children were preserved, and Esau's heart was softened. If we had more power with God, we should have a happier influence among our relatives. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(3) 2. For others. Jacob's wives and children were preserved, and Esau's heart was softened. If we had more power with God, we should have a happier influence among our relatives. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. How DID JACOB OBTAIN THIS KNOWLEDGE OF GOD? In two ways —
1. By the instrumentality of pious parents. Isaac and Rebecca were the most Godly couple of the Old Testament families. They taught Jacob the first principles of, and the parental character of God; His wisdom, love, and power.
2. By a direct revelation of God's loving kindness to him in a time of great distress.
II. POWER WITH GOD IS THE RIGHT APPLICATION OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IN CHRIST AT THE RIGHT TIME, IN THE USE OF RIGHT MEANS TO ACCOMPLISH THE RIGHT END.
1. A crisis in the life of Jacob had arrived. A fearful episode in his life is revealed in the words, "And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother," &c. (Genesis 32:3, 4, 5, 6). Jacob wisely flies to God in prayer. In this crisis he makes a right application of his knowledge.
2. Jacob uses successful means to appease his brother's wrath. Knowledge of God in the Covenant of Grace by Jesus Christ, contains the knowledge of man. The greater includes the less.
3. Jacob uses the right means to secure the blessing of God. Power with God is knowledge of God applied by faith until the end is accomplished.
I. THAT IT IS THE DESIGN OF PRAYER TO MOVE GOD TO BESTOW MERCY. This will appear if we consider —
1. That prayer properly and essentially consists in pleading. Though it may be divided into distinct parts or branches, yet all these ultimately unite and centre in supplication. In adoration, confession, petition, and thanksgiving, we ultimately plead for Divine mercy.
2. It appears from the prayers of good men, which are recorded in scripture, that they meant to move God to grant their petitions.
3. The friends of God are urged to pray with fervency and importunity, in order to make the Divine compassion.
4. That the prayers of good men have actually prevailed upon God to grant great and signal favours.
II. But now some may be ready to ask, How CAN THIS BE? How can prayer have the least influence to move the heart of God, who is of one mind, and with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning?
1. Here we ought to consider, in the first place, that the prayers of good men are proper reasons why an infinitely wise and good being should grant their requests.
2. We ought to consider, in the next place, that though God formed all his purposes from eternity, yet he formed them in the view of all the pious petitions which should ever be presented to Him, and gave to these petitions all the weight that they deserved, in fixing his determinations.
3. This leads us, in the last place, to consider pious prayers as the proper means of bringing about the events with which they are connected in the Divine purpose. Though God is able to work without means, yet He has been pleased to adopt means into His plan of operation.
1. If it be the design of prayer to move God to bestow temporal and spiritual favours, then there is a propriety in praying for others, as well as for ourselves.
2. We are led to conclude from what has been said upon this subject, that we have as fair an opportunity Of obtaining Divine favours, as if God were to form His determinations at the time we present our petitions. For God has determined, from eternity, to hear every prayer that ought to be heard.
3. We learn the propriety of praying for future, as well as for present blessings.
4. It appears from what has been said, that saints are in a safe and happy condition. They enjoy the benefit of the prayers of all the people of God.
5. This subject may remind sinners of what they haw to fear from the prayers of saints. Their united supplications for the honour of God, the accomplishment of His designs, and the overthrow of all His incorrigible enemies, forebode terrible and eternal evils to impenitent sinners.
6. Since prayer has such a prevailing influence upon the heart of the Deity, saints have great encouragement to abound in this duty. They are formed for this devout and holy exercise. Having become the children of God, they possess the spirit of adoption, which is the spirit of grace and supplication.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE EVENT. It will occur to our recollection that, after the intimation of Esau's approach, Jacob had almost immediately addressed himself to the duty of prayer, and that he had earnestly sought deliverance from the threatening danger; but he had as yet received no favourable answer. He remained still in suspense, and in the anxious exercise of faith upon the promise of his Divine protector. His previous experience seems to have consecrated to him the shades of night. It was during the night that God appeared to him at Bethel. It was in a dream at night that he received the instruction to depart from Syria. A degree of obscurity hangs over the passage, from the difficulty of affixing a meaning satisfactorily to the word which we translate wrestled, and which implies intense occupation and effort; yet upon the whole, the general statement seems to render it unequivocal, that on this occasion a bodily struggle did actually take place. It was, however, at the same time, a contest in which the chief interest lay in the spiritual blessing to be obtained. The external effort for victory was evidently in Jacob's mind intimately associated with the deliverance that he was then seeking by prayer. And with the external wrestling to detain this nocturnal visitant, Jacob still continued the ardent pleading of his soul for the indulgence of his request. Jacob evidently regarded them as being one and the same. And the prophet Hosea confirms this view of the case when he tells us (in chap. Hosea 12.) that "Jacob had power over the angel and prevailed"; that "he wept and made supplication unto him"; a passage which brings the spiritual object prominently forward, and excludes the idea of a contention of mere muscular strength. Probably the appearance of a human form, on these occasions of revelation, was at this time new to Jacob. It appears, however, to have given him a peculiar encouragement. Where was the created frame that would not instantly crumble into its original nothingness, if, for one instant, it was placed in the attitude of resistance against Him who is "a consuming fire?" But the terrors of the Godhead were veiled in humanity. It was a man that appeared to Jacob. The sequel of the history ascertains, beyond a doubt, the Divine character of the person who appeared to Jacob.
II. THE DOCTRINE WHICH WE MAY GATHER FROM IT. Viewed in this light, the doctrine which this event inculcates on the Church of God is — the permitted prevalency of the prayer of man with God, through the mystery of the incarnation of His eternal Son.
III. THE DUTIES WHICH THIS EVENT INCULCATES.
1. It teaches gratitude. It becomes us to be thankful. It is indeed an unspeakable mercy that God has vouchsafed to provide so graciously for the approach of our guilty race to Himself.
2. A second duty inculcated by this event is humility. If you know yourselves you will be ashamed of the history of your closets; and many an humbling memento will teach you that if ever you prevailed at the throne of God, it was not because you were worthy, but because that throne was the throne of grace.
3. Observe, thirdly, the duty which this passage inculcates of seeking God earnestly. It is vain to offer to God that listless, heartless service, which too frequently constitutes the whole of a Christian's devotions.
4. Learn, fourthly, the duty of persevering importunity in prayer.
5. But, lastly, a word is due to those who have never yet thought seriously of prayer. How energetically a case like this speaks to you.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Isaiah 41:14), yet in private prayer he is so potent that he overcomes the Omnipotent God; he is so mighty, that he overcomes the Almighty.
( Thomas Brooks..)
Mr. Finney), there had been no revival for many years; the church was nearly run out, the youth were all unconverted, and desolation reigned unbroken. There lived in a retired part of the town an aged man, a blacksmith by trade, and of so stammering a tongue that it was painful to hear him speak. On one Friday, as he was at work in his shop alone, his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the church, and of the impenitent. His agony became so great that he was induced to lay aside his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer. He prevailed, and on the Sabbath called in the minister and desired him to appoint a conference meeting. After some hesitation, the minister consented, observing, however, that he feared but few would attend. He appointed it the same evening, at a large private house. When evening came, more assembled than could be accommodated in the house. All were silent for a time, until one sinner broke out in tears, and said, if any one could pray, he begged him to pray for him. Another followed, and another, and still another, until it was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep convictions. And what was remarkable, was that they all dated their conviction at the hour when the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed. Then this old stammering man prevailed, and as a prince, had power with God.
(D. March, D. D.)
I. THE CONFLICT, AND —
II. ITS RESULT. "Thou hast power with God," said He who had wrestled the whole night with Jacob. Unequal conflict! God against man! Unheard of, incredible result! The man overcomes! Jacob now learnt with whom he had had to do — not with a foe, but with his best Friend. How is the soul astonished, when at the end of the darkest paths, in which it was inclined to think that God had in wrath forgotten to be merciful, and to say, "Is His mercy clean gone for ever?" it perceives in these very paths the most striking condescension of the Lord, and the greatest kindness in a guidance which seemed only to aim at its destruction. Then indeed a wonderful and glorious morning dawns. He wrestled with God. God, therefore, seemed in some respects not to be for him, but against him. God seemed not to be for him; for why was it otherwise with him with regard to Esau than it had been with regard to Laban? Why did fear obtain such possession of his mind without his being able to defend himself against it? Why did it not depart at his humble prayer and thanksgiving? If God intended to do him good, why did tie expose him to so much danger — and he at the same time so defenceless? If He loved him, why did He ask him to let Him go? And why did He put him so entirely to shame?. The Lord, however, seemed to be entirely against Jacob; against him with words; for He must have said bitter things to him, otherwise why did he weep, as Hosed informs us? He must have reproached, reproved, rejected, and threatened him; otherwise why did he entreat Him? It did not rest in mere words: actions are added to them. He increases Jacob's distress by wrestling with him, and that so violently that Jacob, according to the expression of Hosea, is obliged to resist with all his might. He chooses for this purpose the night, a season the most appalling of all; and the period when Jacob's distress had, besides that, reached a terrific height, and when his fear was great. By the dislocation of his thigh He deprived him of all strength, and rendered it impossible for him to continue the conflict, although the ceasing from it was equally impossible. He caused him pain. He casts him, as it were, defenceless before his enemy by making escape impracticable. Jacob therefore found it necessary to defend himself, and to strive against his adversary, be He who He might. And the Lord bears him witness that he had struggled with God and had prevailed. With God? How wonderful! What!-does God act in such a manner with men? Does He so degrade Himself as to wrestle with a man — as man against man? It is not credible! Not credible? Thou shalt see still greater and more unaccountable things than these. How wilt thou believe the latter if the former are incredible to thee? Go to Bethlehem; there thou wilt find Him lying in a manger as a little needy infant. Go to Jerusalem; there thou wilt see Him in the hands of the wicked, who nail Him to the cross; there thou wilt behold Him crucified between two malefactors, hear Him complain of being forsaken of God, see Him die, and witness His interment. What sayest thou to these astonishing mysteries? If thou canst not believe the less, how will it be with the greater? Jacob wrestled with God first with the exertion of all his powers, in the most determined struggle, as long as he felt any power in himself; but this only served to convince him that we do not gain the prize by our own efforts and that the kingdom of peace is not taken by violence. This mode of wrestling was rendered impracticable to him since he was deprived of the requisite power for it by the dislocation of his thigh. The conflict was now obliged to be continued in an entirely different manner — that is, by a passive conduct which the circumstances pointed out. The paralyzed combatant had no alternative than that of casting himself into the arms of Him who had thus disabled him, and, instead of exerting himself, to let himself be carried; in other words — instead of caring for himself, to cast his burden upon the Lord — to believe, and to turn from the law to the gospel. But why did God enter into such a conflict with Jacob?
1. Because it pleased Him.
2. To give a particular proof of His condescension, how minutely He concerns Himself about His people.
3. It serves also as a representation to others of the ways by which the Lord may lead them in a similar manner to Jacob. It is true the Lord will scarcely think it needful to enter into a bodily conflict with any one, although He is able, and really does, exercise His children by temporal occurrences. There are instances in which, from the time the individual was converted to God success no longer attends him, but sicknesses or misfortunes befal himself or his family; nay, it may even be the case that he himself is deprived of his natural ability to take charge of his affairs, and they fall into confusion, however much he may exert himself and however cautiously he may act, so that even in natural things he is put to shame. Generally speaking, those to whom the Lord is willing to manifest Himself more intimately, as He did to Jacob, experience many trials and much adversity for a period; and at length an Esau stands in their way who threatens them with destruction — nay, not only an Esau, but the Lord Himself. They are brought low in themselves that the Lord may be magnified. They desire to be holy, strong, righteous, wise, believing, and good; they pray and labour as much as possible; but instead of advancing forward they go back. They increasingly exert themselves like Jacob, but only dislocate their limbs the more. Whatever they lay hold of eludes their grasp; what they seek they do not obtain. Jesus makes sinners of them without mercy, and their sin appears extremely sinful to them by means of the commandment, however much they may moan and groan on account of it. At length their very hip is dislocated; they can no longer maintain their former footing, and nothing is left them but to yield themselves to the Son of God at discretion, and creep, as chickens, under His expanded wings. O glorious result, but highly disagreeable path to nature, to which nothing is left, and to which nothing ought to be left! Here it is manifest that the mystery of godliness is great. But what was the result of the conflict? It is described in the unparalleled words, "Thou hast had power with God, and hast prevailed." Jacob therefore, gained the victory over God; nay, he gained it of necessity. And why? God could not strive with him as the Almighty, or as the Holy One, because He had bound His own hands by His truth and by His promise, "I will do thee good." God had rendered it impossible for Him to strive with Jacob in such a manner as would have resulted in his ruin. This would have been at complete variance with His truth, the thoughts of peace He had towards him, and with the whole contents of the covenant of grace, as well as the spiritual espousals of the Lord with His Church. He could, therefore, only strive against him in love, and do him no further injury than the glory of God and Jacob's salvation necessarily required. Under these circumstances, therefore, Jacob could not fail to succeed. He saves sinners and justifies the ungodly. Now, since He has said this Himself, He cannot treat those who are sinners and ungodly in any other manner. "As a prince thou hast had power with God." Wherein consisted his princely conduct? He was sincere, and did not wish to appear before God better than he really was. He confessed his sins by frankly owning that he was afraid. He believed the word which the Lord had spoken.
(D. C. Krummacher.)
I. Jacob had at Penuel the mystery of his past life interpreted to him. His miseries and hardships were in consequence of his mingling fraud and treachery with his Divinely-ordered destiny. Had he never fallen into crooked ways, he had never halted on his thigh.
II. Jacob had at Peniel the secret of true life interpreted to him. An attitude of supplication and submission, rather than resistance. Human ends are best achieved by Divine assistance.
III. Jacob at Penuel had the highest type of human life revealed to him. He feels himself brought into more immediate personal relations with God at Peniel, than when visited by the Angels of God at Bethel So higher subjects occupy his thoughts. And his desires are now elevated and enlarged.
1. It is a title implying the loftiest service. Some royal commissions are of doubtful dignity, but this is given by One "glorious in holiness."
2. It implies the loftiest communion. A prince has access to the throne at times when others are debarred. A "prince of God" is one who holds intimate fellowship with Jehovah.
3. It implies, also, the loftiest influence. All ranks look up to the prince. So, O Israel, shall all people look up to thee. And why this change? It was the reward of faith in God; "as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." The blessing Isaac gave him, he got by fraud; but this which God gives him, he got by faith. Brother, what is your first name? What does God call you in your unregenerate state? Names that you might well blush to bear; names that your natural pride can hardly tolerate to listen to; names which often perhaps awake your anger and your enmity! Listen! for it is God that speaks. He calls you names of complaint, of reproach, of threatening. He calls you unmindful, unjust, ungrateful; calls you foolish, depraved, corrupt; earthly, sensual, devilish; a child of wrath and heir of perdition. These, and such as these, are the names you bear. And, O my brother! these names are more than names — they denote facts; they express realities! What complacency can you have, then, in your degenerate state? how bear to reflect on the being that you arc? One might fancy that Jacob never thought on the meaning of his first name without being ashamed! and can you think of the names that belong to you without burning shame? But is it not possible to change your name? Must you always go about with the brand on your brow? Read this sacred book and see! Here I find the record of not a few whose names God changed. And the change — O how marvellous! They were sinners against God — now they are called Saints of God. They were condemned — but are now justified; pronounced guilty — but are now declared righteous. They were once rebels — they are now subjects, servants, friends. "They are called God's people, that were not God's people; and those beloved, that were not beloved." Nay, brethren, there are dearer titles still — titles which admit them into God's family, and permit them to share His glory. And it is no mockery to say that these are given to the same persons who once bore those hard and repellent names. The monarch's sword has been ]aid on the shoulder — or rather, instead of the sword, the "golden sceptre" of Divine favour; and the name has been declared changed. Down, child of wrath — Rise, child of God! Down, heir of perdition — Rise, heir of heaven! It is this that has moved the wonder and fired the praise of multitudes gone before us. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God." "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." How has this change been brought about? By faith in God! Taking Him at His word — meeting Him as He approaches — laying hold of His strength — and resolving not to let Him go until He bless you!
(F. Tucker, B. A.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(J. B. Gough.)
John Flavel too had wrestled with the angel; that he was a prince with God, and had prevailed. His prayers were a wall of defence round about those for whom he pleaded. Not a single sailor from Dartmouth was lost, though many of them were in the hottest of the fight. If the real history of many a soldier in our fearful civil war were written, it would doubtless be found that he came forth unscathed because defended by the believing prayers of a Christian wife, mother, or sister.
Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name.
I. It is a question worth the asking. There is a despair of religious knowledge in the world, as though in God's rich universe, theology, which is the science of God Himself, were the one field in which no harvest could be reaped, no service of sacred knowledge gained.
II. The knowledge of God is the one thing needful. He who seeks to do the work of a Paley in presenting Christian evidences in a sense conformable to the intellectual state of thoughtful men, as the shadows are folding themselves about this wearied century — above all, he who cultivates and disciplines his spirituality until it has become the central fact of his being — it is he who offers in a right and reverent spirit the prayer of Jacob at Penuel, "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name."
III. It is necessary not only to ask the great question of the Divine nature, but to ask it in a right spirit. Jacob acted as though there were no other way of asking the question aright than by prayer; he must also ask it at the cost of personal suffering.
IV. What is the answer when it comes? Jacob's question was asked, but was not answered; or, rather, it was answered not directly and in so many words, but effectually: "He blessed him there." It is not knowledge that God gives to striving souls, but blessing. He stills your doubtings; He helps you to trust Him. You go forth no longer as Jacob, the supplanter, mean, earthly, temporal, but in the power of a Divine enthusiasm, as an Israel, a prince with God.
(J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)
(D. C. Krumreacher.)
I. THE REQUEST here, as Jacob urges it, is this: "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name."
1. The manner is bold and abrupt. It appears strange, sometimes, as we note the real prayers on record in the Bible, to find them so short, so sharp, so resolute in utterance. "Master, carest Thou not that we perish!" — "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!" ..... Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" — "Lord, save me, I perish!" It is an old Reformer's saying: "Prayer is the Christian's gun-shot. As then the bullet out of a gun, so prayers out of the mouth, can go no further than they are carried. If they be put out faintly, they cannot fly far. If they be hollow-hearted, then they will not pierce much. Only the fervent, active devotion hits the mark, and pierceth the walls of heaven, though, like those of Gaza, made of brass and iron."
2. But what does this request of Jacob's mean? Indeed, it seems quite fair to retort the question of the angel. Jacob asked to know the name of the Being he had been wrestling with. Most surely, we are not left to imagine he still remained in ignorance who his antagonist was. You have already learned, from the change in Jacob's own name, that names in those days meant character — indicated personality. And when this wearied man girds up his remaining force for a new petition, he is simply pressing the old answerless question of the human soul: Who is God — and What is God?
3. The order of experience in this heart-history is of special value, and must be noted also. It follows success and not failure. It best becomes, therefore, the symbol of prayer founded on encouragement. It suggests to us a rewarded soul standing on the vantage-ground of a previous welcome, and stretching out its hand for a yet more advanced disclosure of love.
II. THE DENIAL. It seems to be the settled determination of the Divine will to hold in a holy and unbroken reserve the heights and depths of His character and being. Enough only is revealed for us to be sure He is our friend and our well-wisher. It cannot be called an unwholesome question, this in our text, even though it never meets an earthly answer. It stimulates the soul. Even a reverent curiosity about God is better than a dead apathy.
III. THE COMPENSATION. "And He blessed him there." There is something surpassingly beautiful in this quiet statement. The mystery remains unrelieved, but the affection pays for it. Just as a loving mother grants every wish of her little one, until a serious mistake is pressed as a petition. Then she declines with a smile, and compensates with a kiss, so that the child is glad to be disappointed. And that is exactly the delicate figure of the Scripture: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you," saith the Lord. But now you press the inquiry — Is there any answer to the old question — does not this same Being, who is to judge us at the last, as He made us in the beginning, elude our every search — oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat — has He no word to speak to me? Yes — I answer; there are two disclosures at least in this experience of compensation that give relief. They are always made. They are here, as elsewhere, in the story of Jacob. One of these is a clear revelation of the right of human petition. The other is a new repetition of Divine confidence.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. Jacob in that hour felt THE DARK SECRET AND MYSTERY OF EXISTENCE.
1. The contrast observable between this and a former revelation made to Jacob's soul. Twenty years before he had seen in vision a ladder reared against the sky, and angels ascending and descending on it. Exceedingly remarkable. Immediately after his transgression, when leaving his father's home, a banished man, to be a wanderer for many years, this first meeting took place. Fresh from his sin, God met him in tenderness and forgiveness. After twenty years God met him again; but this second intercourse was of a very different character. It was no longer God the Forgiver, God the Protector, God the covenanting Love, that met Jacob; but God the Awful, the Unnameable, whose breath blasts, at whose touch the flesh of the mortal shrinks and shrivels up.
2. Again I remark, that the end and aim of Jacob's struggle was to know the name of God. "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name." In the Hebrew history are discernible three periods distinctly marked, in which names and words bore very different characters. These three, it has been observed by acute philologists, correspond to the periods in which the nation bore the three different appellations of Hebrews, Israelites, Jews. In the first of these periods, names meant truths, and words were the symbols of realities. The characteristics of the names given then were simplicity and sincerity. They were drawn from a few simple sources: either from some characteristic of the individual, as Jacob, the supplanter, or Moses, drawn from the water; or from the idea of family, as Benjamin, the son of my right hand; or from the conception of the tribe or nation, then gradually consolidating itself; or, lastly, from the religious idea of God. But in this case not the highest notion of God — not Jah or Jehovah, but simply the safer and simpler idea of Deity. The second period begins about the time of the departure from Egypt, and it is characterized by unabated simplicity, with the addition of sublimer thought and feeling more intensely religious. The heart of the nation was big with mighty and new religious truth — and the feelings with which the national heart was swelling found vent in the names which were given abundantly. God, under His name Jah, the noblest assemblage of spiritual truths yet conceived, became the adjunct to names of places and persons. Oshea's name is changed into Jehoshua. The third period was at its zenith in the time of Christ — words had lost their meaning, and shared the hollow unreal state of all things. A man's name might be Judas, and still he might be a traitor. Yet in this period, exactly in proportion as the solemnity of the idea was gone, reverence was scrupulously paid to the corpse-like word which remained and had once enclosed it. In that hollow, artificial age, the Jew would wipe his pen before he ventured to write the Name — he would leave out the vowels of the sacred Jehovah, and substitute those of the less sacred Elohim. In that kind of age, too, men bow to the name of Jesus, often just in that proportion in which they have ceased to recognize His true grandeur and majesty of character. In such an age it would be indeed preposterous to spend the strength upon an inquiry such as this — "Tell me Thy name?" Jehovah, Jove, or Lord what matter? But Jacob did not live in this third period, when names meant nothing; nor did he live in the second, when words contained the deepest truth the nation is ever destined to receive. But he lived in the first age, when men are sincere, and truthful, and earnest, and names exhibit character. To tell Jacob the name of God was to reveal to him what God is and who.
3. This desire of Jacob was not the one we should naturally have expected on such an occasion. He is alone — his past fault is coming retributively on a guilty conscience — he dreads the meeting with his brother. His soul is agonized with that, and that we naturally expect will be the subject and the burden of his prayer. No such thing l Not a word about Esau — not a word about personal danger at all. All that is banished completely for the time, and deeper thoughts are grappling with his soul. To get safe through to-morrow? No, no, no! To be blessed by God — to know Him, and what He is — that is the battle of Jacob's soul from sunset till the dawn of day. And this is our struggle — the struggle.
II. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY.
1. It was revealed by awe. Very significantly are we told that the Divine antagonist seemed as it were anxious to depart as the day was about to dawn; and that Jacob held Him more convulsively fast, as if aware that the daylight was likely to rob him of his anticipated blessing; in which there seems concealed a very deep truth. God is approached more nearly in that which is indefinite than in that which is definite and distinct. He is felt in awe, and Wonder and worship, rather than in clear conceptions.
2. Again, this revelation was made in an unsyllabled blessing. Jacob requested two things. He asked for a blessing — and he prayed to know the name of God. God gave him the blessing. "He blessed him there," but refused to tell His name. "Wherefore dost thou ask after My name?" In this, too, seems to lie a most important truth. Names have a power, a strange power, of hiding God. Speech has been bitterly defined as the art of hiding thought. Well, that sarcastic definition has in it a truth. The Eternal Word is the revealer of God's thought; and every true word of man is originally the expression of a thought; but by degrees the word hides the thought. Language is valuable for the things of this life; but for the things of the other world, it is an encumbrance almost as much as an assistance. Lastly, the effect of this revelation was to change Jacob's character. His name was changed from Jacob to Israel, because himself was an altered man. Hitherto there had been something subtle in his character — a certain cunning and craft — a want of breadth, as if he had no firm footing upon reality. The forgiveness of God twenty years before had not altered this. He remained Jacob, the subtle supplanter still. For, indeed, a man whose religion is chiefly the sense of forgiveness, does not thereby rise into integrity or firmness of character — a certain tenderness of character may very easily go along with a great deal of subtlety. Jacob was tender and devout, and grateful for God's pardon, and only half honest still. But this half-insincere man is brought into contact with the awful God, and his subtlety falls from him. He becomes real at once. Every insincere habit of mind shrivels in the face of God. One clear, true glance into the depths of Being, and the whole man is altered. The name changes because the character has changed, No longer Jacob the supplanter, but Israel the Prince of God — the champion of the Lord, who had fought with God and conquered; and who, henceforth, will fight for God and be His true loyal soldier: a larger, more unselfish name — a larger and more unselfish man — honest and true at last. No man becomes honest till he has got face to face with God.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name? —
(A. G. Mercer, D. D.)
He blessed him there. —
1. Life being itself a blessing, and to one who believes in God and hopes from Him the greatest of all blessings, God makes it a yet greater blessing by ordaining for it a fixed plan.
2. God does not expect perfect characters to fulfil His purposes. He chooses the fittest instruments He can find for His purest purpose, and trains them and bears with them until their work is done.
3. God uses circumstances as His angels and voices to us, and He has special epochs and crises in which He visits our souls and lives.
4. The perfection of youth is eagerness without impetuosity; the perfection of old age is wisdom without cynicism, and a faith in the purpose of God which deepens and widens with the years.
1. Evil conduct will, sooner or later, bring trouble to those guilty of it.
2. We may meet with trouble in the way God bids us go.
3. The memory of former wrong-doing robs us of comfort and hope under new trials.
4. God will help us if we repent, confess, seek pardon, and call for His aid.
I. THERE IS A FULNESS OF BLESSING IN GOD TO MEET OUR NEEDS BEYOND ALL WE HAVE EVER REALIZED. We can have blessings spiritual, moral, mental, physical, secular, personal, family, national.
II. GOD IS WILLING AND WAITING TO BESTOW ALL WE NEED OUT OF THAT FULNESS. We see this from —
1. The nature of God. "God is love."
2. The promises.
3. Past dealings.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE BLESSING BECOMES OURS IS EARNEST, FERVENT PRAYER. This the key that opens the treasure, the channel that conducts the water to my soul, the hand that grasps the blessing.
(J. Marsden, B. A.)
I. WHAT WAS JACOB'S BLESSING IN THAT PLACE?
1. He was saved from a great peril — Esau's attack.
2. He was forgiven a great wrong — supplanting.
3. He was able to feel that a great breach was healed (Genesis 33:4).
4. He had won a new name and rank (ver. 28). He was knighted on the spot, made a prince on the field.
5. He was now under a fresh anointing: he was a superior man ever after. "The angel redeemed him from all evil" (Genesis 48:16).
II. WHAT WAS THE PLACE? "He blessed him there."
1. A place of great trial (vers. 6, 7).
2. A place of humble confession. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed to Thy servant" (ver. 10).
3. A place of pleading (vers. 11, 12). "There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (ver. 24).
4. A place of communion. "I have seen God face to face" (ver. 30).
5. A place of conscious weakness. "As he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh."
III. ARE THERE OTHER SUCH PLACES?
1. Before the earth was created the Lord blessed His chosen people in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3, 4).
2. At the Cross the tomb, and the throne of Jesus.
3. In the heavenly places.
4. At conversion (Psalm 32:1, 2).
5. In times of stripping, humbling, chastening, pleading, &c. (James 1:12).
6. In times of prompt obedience (Psalm 1:1).
IV. IS THIS SUCH A PLACE? Yes, if you are —
1. Willing to give up sin.
2. Willing to have Jesus for your all in all.
3. Willing to resign yourself to the Father's will.
4. Willing to serve God in His own way.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. God's blessing on His saints unites their hearts unto Him to seek His praise.
2. Saints ascribe all their blessings to the face or favour of God.
3. Gracious souls desire that exaltations of God be monumental and perpetual.
4. God's face-discoveries have been in measure to sight towards His saints of old.
5. God's sensible discoveries of Himself have been dangerous to the life of His saints (Daniel 8:27).
6. God's appearance, visible in grace, hath been to the preservation of humbled souls (ver. 30).
7. God giveth a pass to His servants in their way after He hath tried them.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Job 22:21). He knew that his power to prevail with Emmanuel Himself would fill him with power to prevail with Esau.
Arvine's Anecdotes.I have here (said Mr. Fuller) two religious characters, who were intimately acquainted in early life. Providence favoured one of them with a tide of prosperity. The other, fearing for his friend, lest his heart should be overcharged with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches, one day asked him if he did not find prosperity a snare to him. He paused and answered, "I am not conscious that I do, for I enjoy God in all things." Some years afterwards his affairs took another turn; he lost, if not the whole, yet the far greater part of what he had once gained, and by this disaster was greatly reduced. His old friend, being one day in his company, renewed his question, whether he did not find what had lately befallen him to be too much for him. Again he paused and answered," I am not conscious that I do, for now I enjoy all things in God." This was truly a life of faith. To him it was as true as to Jacob — "He blessed him there."
1. "I cannot serve God in this home," says one. If their parents and friends had been religious, if their training had been otherwise, it would have been otherwise with them. Now, believe it, God can bless and keep you there. There was " some good thing in the house of Jeroboam," the most unlikely house in Israel. Abijah was there, a God-fearing and a God-favoured youth. Some little while ago I noticed in a field quite a vast growth of fungi — yellow, purple, black, spotted, no end of toadstools and devil's snuff-boxes — and right in the middle of the ghastly, pestilent, poisonous growth there was a single mushroom, white and fragrant, a veritable pearl of the field. So Abijah stood in the house of Jeroboam.
2. "I cannot serve God in this neighbourhood," says another. Ours is a bad neighbourhood, say they, and nobody can live in it and be what they ought to be. Have you never thought how wonderfully God preserved the primitive Christians in such cities as Rome and Ephesus and Corinth, full of atheism, idolatry, sensuality, as they were?
3. "I cannot serve God in this calling," says another. They feel their business is unfriendly to religious life, that their business relations are so. The tailor says, We are a loose set; the shoemaker feels as if all his comrades were infidels; the horse-dealer wants to know how he is going to keep a conscience; the collier, the soldier, the sailor, feel how difficult it is with their vocation to serve God. Do not spend your life sighing for another and more helpful calling; God can bless you where you are; He can give you grace to resist the special temptations of your lot; m slippery places He can make you to stand, in dark places He can make you to shine.
4. "I cannot serve God in this situation," says another. The domestic servant feels this sometimes. She lives where there is not a thought of religion, and it seems incredible that she could keep her soul alive there. Seek God's blessing now. That was a strange place where Jacob wrestled with the angel, on the wild heath beneath the stars; but he was resolute for the blessing, and he got it. Are you earnest for the blessing as he was?
(W. L. Watkinson.)
The name of that place Peniel. —
(D. C. Krummacher.)
And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.I. FROM THE GREAT CONFLICT WITH SIN NONE COME OFF WITHOUT MANY A SCAR. We may wrestle and prevail, but there will be touches of the enemy, which will leave their long and bitter memories. The way to heaven is made of falling down and rising up again. The battle is no steady, onward fight, but rallies and retreats, retreats and rallies.
II. The reason of our defeats is that THE OLD SIN OF THE CHARACTER CONTINUES, AND CONTINUES WITH UNABATED FORCE, IN THE HEART OF A CHILD OF GOD. There are two ways in which sin breaks out and gains an advantage over a believer.
1. A new temptation suddenly presents itself.
2. The old habit of sin recurs — recurs, indeed, sevenfold, but still the same sin.
III. ALL SIN IN A BELIEVER MUST ARISE FROM A REDUCTION OF GRACE. This is the result of grieving the Holy Ghost by a careless omission of prayer or other means of grace. There was an inward defeat before there was an outward and apparent one.
IV. DEFEAT IS NOT FINAL. It is not the end of the campaign; it is but one event in the war. It may even be converted into a positive good to the soul, for God can and will overrule guilt to gain; he allows each defeat to teach us repentance and humility.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
1. The sun-rising may be in special mercy unto tempted persons, as well as good to all.
2. Holy conquerors in temptation may go out halters.
3. Halting is no evil while it tends to humbling Jacob and his seed (ver. 31).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. God's visible actions to his saints have been apt to be mistaken by men.
2. Jacob's children have been forward to turn God's spiritual intentions to carnal interpretations (ver. 32).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Bunyan tells us that Christian, despite of all he could do, was wounded in his head, his hand, and his foot. Few men there are, whose early life has been profligate, who do not even to this day bear in their persons most recognizable pains, and perplexing inabilities, and mortifying memorials of the sorrowful past. Repentance brings pardon, but never restores the ravages of sin. In the child's story, we were taught that it was easy to draw the nails that numbered our faults from the tree-trunk that recorded them; but the scars remained for ever. More often, however, this memorial of conflict takes the form of constitutional weakness, or besetting sin. An early inadvertence, a youthful vice, a wild habit, an impulsive act of criminal evil, from the guilt of which the penitent man has been restored by the pardoning mercy of God, has yet proved to be of sufficient moral force to leave behind it a permanent mark. The wound healed, but it is only cicatrized over; it can never be less than a centre of solicitude, tender and sensitive to exposure. Always after this that soul has one insecure, one vulnerable point to be watched. There are men to-day who, just because they once swore an oath, have to put up special guards against profanity. There are men who once read a page of a vile book that have never got over the tendency to impurity it bred in their souls. We may definitely conclude, from wide observation, that no wickedness has ever been committed which has, in the end, left the man where it found him. God may forgive much; but the devil's service fixes its own memorial on the soul. One of its natural sinews of strength has been shrunken, and now it betrays itself by the limp. Two lessons will follow just here. One is this: — Let every person, young and growing beware of all vice, and be on the alert against even early sin. You maybe called upon to carry its stigmas with you to the great day of your death. You may be a weaker man all the days and years you live afterwards, just because of one seemingly trifling indulgence. This body of ours is a wonderful thing. It is the most beautiful object in the world. When the artists searched the universe for the curve of absolute beauty, they found it in the maiden's shoulder; when they wanted the colour of absolute purity, they found it in the infant's cheek. But this body may be deformed, disfigured, ruined, by sin. Be careful about that! The other lesson is one of consideration for others. When we see a man with a personal mutilation, every instinct of courteous life bids us hesitate to causelessly wound his feelings. When the weakness is mental or moral, the appeal if yet more direct and overwhelming to our thoughtfulness and care. He who would heedlessly disregard a sign of weakness or old exposure like this is more unthinking and more ungenerous even than he who would drink wine in the presence of one who had been a drunkard, or rattle dice in a reformed gambler's ear. The silent plea of feebleness ought to be simply irresistible to every noble mind. It seems to say plaintively, like the suffering Job: "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me!" We must use our Christian freedom cautiously, lest with our indulgence we should injure one for whom Christ died.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(A. G. Mercer, D. D.).