By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff.
I. THE TIME HAD COME WHEN LIFE NEEDED A STAFF. How strange it seems, when we can walk, leap, run, when the agile limbs can obey the swift behest of the will, to think that the time will come when these limbs will refuse their easy and familiar work. A staff! how much it suggests to us! Leaning. In many senses a staff seems to hurt our pride, and it is very natural not to like to take to spectacles, or to a staff' till we are quite obliged. Yet leaning is beautiful in many senses, as on the staff of Christian friendship, or the staff of God's precious promises. Yes I " Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." Say what we will, the Bible keeps its old place in this respect. You will lean on it, rest on it, and the staff will be all-sufficient for you as it has been for multitudes before you.
II. THE WORSHIPPING SPIRIT KNOWS NO SEASON OF DECLINE. It is most vigorous in age. Well has Montgomery said, "We enter heaven with prayer." Worship is the highest occupation of which our natures are capable. How it chastens the mind, cools the passions, awakens the memories of mercies past and inspires confidence for the time to come. When other occupations lose not only their interest, but are impossible to us — when we can no more journey, study, toil; in the truest sense, we can worship still. I see the grey-headed old man making an end of commanding his sons, about to yield up the ghost, not to perish, but to yield up the spirit. There is one thing he still can do: no longer can he put the lamb or the bullock on the altar — no longer can he offer the burnt-offering, but he can lift up his heart to God; the incense of prayer can go up to the open gate of the heaven he is so soon about to enter. And "Jacob worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
III. THE PRINCIPLE WHICH IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN UNDERLYING HIS WORSHIP. "By faith!" Yes! the faith which is older than the law shone forth in him. He takes his place in the list of God's heroes. By faith! And this is the essence of worship. Worship is not mysterious fear before an unknown Power. Worship is not a matter of form, it is a matter of faith. Places may help us by their solitude or silence. Associations may help us by ridding us of worldly influences, but they can do no more. Prayer is a matter of personal faith, and in this as in all else, without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith brings before us a God who is, and who is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Faith rests in the revelation of God's Fatherhood, and draws near to Him, through the way of His appointment — in Jacob's day by the foreshadowing sacrifice, and in these last days by Him who once in the end of the world has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. But faith feels worship to be real, intensely real,
IV. THE PERSONS HE IS SAID TO HAVE BLESSED. Not Joseph; but " both the sons of Joseph." It is exceedingly wonderful to see how tenderly grandchildren are treated. On a summer visit I felt very much touched by seeing hour after hour a grandfather leading a little blind grandchild about the garden lawn and through the fields. It seemed as though there was a wonderful confidence of love between the child and the old man. There is something marvellously wise in the ordination of family life. We cannot live in mere masses or organisations, we must take the God-way! It is a good thing for children to have incentives to courage, manliness, and success in this life as earnest citizens; but how much better it is to feel that they may be soldiers of the Cross, that the posts we have so poorly occupied they may fill, and that the blessing which has followed us all our days will be with them, making them rich indeed, and adding no sorrow. On our escutcheons men may read no connection with the Plantagenets, but they may read thereon: "Happy is the family that is in such a case. Yea, happy is that family whose God is the Lord."
V. THE LIFE HE WAS LEAVING BEHIND HIM. It is all very well, I hear some say, to give us this touching close to Jacob's life; but what about the phases of his history, weak, wicked, and contemptible. Think, men say; do not gloss over this history! True all you say is true. But this is also true, that blessings won by sin are miseries even here, so exquisitely is the world governed by moral law. And then because these were the sins of his youth, are we to deny him the honour of a noble fatherhood, or a beautiful old age? God forbid! where should we be if the critics were as severe on us? We too have erred, we have turned every one to his own way, and as the altars of Jacob prophesied of the Great Redemption, so now in the end of days Christ has borne the iniquities of us all.
VI. Some QUESTIONS NATURALLY SUGGEST THEMSELVES.
1. What is worship to us? Is it duty or delight? If earthly fellowship has in it some of the highest joys of which our nature is capable, shall not the heavenly fellowship immeasurably transcend these?
2. What hinders worship? Not want of time. No! Love never pleads this. Love is as swift to seize its opportunities as it is apt in making them.
3. What fosters worship? Ah! Trials foster a spirit of prayer. Would it not be well if we cultivated more of the spirit of worship in life's day-time?
(W. M. Statham, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.