Gen. 32:24-32; Gen. 35:1-14.
J. N. Darby.
(Words in Season, Vol. 2, 1888, page 208.)
Here Jacob was on his return from Padan-aram. He was a saint of God, and valued the promises, but the means he used were reprehensible in every way. There was real faith in his heart; he was willing to yield (though it were only a mess of pottage) to get them; but there was no uprightness in him at all. It is true that he was not going with his own wretched will, like Esau, but still he was not going with God. There was value of the things of God, but no practical faith with God, and for twenty-one years God was chastening him, though giving him what he valued. God protects him from Laban, and will not let Esau touch him. He was a believer that valued the promises, but did not walk by faith.
You see grace in it; but at the end of his life he says, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." God's patient love had taken care of him, and he could speak of "the angel that redeemed him from all evil." It was exceeding sad. It was not unbelief, but he was a believer not walking by faith. You get his character portrayed, and even in the end how the poorest believer is better than the world. He blessed Pharaoh; "and without all contradiction the less is blessed of the greater." He has got God's blessing, and he can bless Pharaoh; when it comes to the world, he is the great man.
We get God's dealings with him, chastening, &c.; but there is more than that. We see how terribly there is the want of uprightness with God where the believer is not walking with Him. It was not Jacob wrestling with God, but God with him. He would not allow Esau to touch him, for He was preserving and caring for him; but He takes him in hand to deal with him, and makes him limp all his life. He got the blessing, but through this struggling, God giving him strength to do it, showing the astonishing patience of God: grace it was, of course.
Acceptance is a settled thing, but the state of my soul is not a settled thing. Supposing I had a child, it is and always will be my child; but is it no matter how it goes on? That is the very thing that makes it matter. I encourage it or chasten it; I deal with it. God withdraws not His eyes from the righteous. It is my righteousness that is settled, and does not depend on what I am. I ought to have a peaceable spirit, and that depends on what I am. God wrestles with Jacob. There had been chastening, but Jacob needed to be brought into direct contact with God. He makes him discover his weakness, and what he is, and have the remembrance of it all through his life. If people belong to Him, and are walking without Him, He finds them out, but alone.
"Jacob was left alone." God is wise, and holy, and love in His dealings. Jacob had the consciousness that the Lord had blessed him, still He must have Jacob discover where he was. No prosperity, no children could be any comfort to him, if he had not peace with God practically. God has a controversy with the soul if it is not walking with Him. If I am walking up to the light I have, and not with a bad conscience, He has no controversy with me. You never hear of God wrestling with Abraham; he intercedes for others. It is the dealing of God with a person who is not walking simply and practically by faith.
He touches the hollow of Jacob's thigh. The Lord breaks him down. If He is to bless, He must give an abiding discovery of what he is, and he carries it with him all along. It was grace and mercy. He was a halting Jacob all through, because he was halting in his walk with God. He says, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me." It was right in its place, but it was not happy intercourse; it was forcing blessing out of God, as it were. He will not tell Jacob His name; there was the victory of faith to get the blessing; but there was no revelation of God. (The fullest blessing is His full, perfect, infinite love. He loves us as He loves Jesus, and we call Him Abba, Father; that is revealing His name - that is revealed in Jesus - but whatever the Name is, it is God revealed.) Here He did hide Himself. He came to give blessing, but He does not reveal Himself; and that is the effect of not walking with God. He does give blessing, and needed blessing; but He does not reveal Himself, and if needed He makes him halt all his life. He gives him flocks and herds; but He says, "I must have you for Myself, I won't let you go on like that." He had been halting morally, and God makes him halt actually.
In the second part I read, you get another thing showing the exceeding riches of His grace. He is going back. He is away from God, though he was right to go to Laban, for his mother sent him; but all through he had been cheating his father, and in the interval he had shown the same spirit. He told Esau he would meet him at Seir, and he had no intention of going to Seir; he had no idea of his strangership and pilgrimship, and he settled. Then he had to go and sell his land and be off. He settled before he got back to the point he started from; and we must always get back.
Even in Abraham, he had to get back to the place of the altar he had at first, and he had no altar between. God took care of him, but that is not communion. God takes care of us, and gives us outward blessings and inward too, and chastening, but that is not communion with God, and that is what we have to look to. Abraham goes to Egypt, and gets into a scrape. God was with him, but he never was with God; and we cannot be with God without the life of faith. We must go back the way we came, back to the place where we departed from God. A man may own his actual sin; but to have the soul restored and get the blessing, he must go back to where his soul left God, and he can have no altar else.
Jacob is not a stranger and a pilgrim with God. Now God comes and says, Go up to Bethel, and make there an altar to God, etc. He is to come back to be with God. It was great blessing to be back, but it was all lost time between, except learning what he was. Mark what follows. There is meeting God; it is not God meeting us, wrestling with us chastening, or bringing the soul to its bearings. A man may be walking very fairly outwardly, and not know at all what it is to have to say to God; and in such a case some fall might come. He might like to pray and have communion with God, and finds it all dark, and no light of His countenance.
Jacob says to all that are with him, "Put away the strange gods." How came this? There were false gods, and he knew it all the while he was wrestling. He knew it as a fact; but when he went to meet God his conscience took note of it. I can't be in communion with God and have idols in the tent. Is there NO idol in our tent? Is there nothing that takes our hearts off from God, that possesses our hearts, - some closet in our hearts that we shut from God, or something we find shut when we go to God? The moment it comes to be an altar in God's house, all the strange gods come into his conscience and mind, and he must get rid of them. I discover all that is there that I knew when it comes to the altar, and that I do not think of if it does not shock my natural conscience. I can't bring them to the altar.
He says, God "was with me in the way that I went." Now he has the consciousness of God being with him, and sees the grace that was with him, saved him from Esau, and gave him abundance. Everything is blessing when we are with God, everything works together for good; and he had had plenty of trouble and fear on the way, but God had been with him. What a difference that is to wrestling with God to get the blessing out of Him! (He was right to do that when he was there.) Seeing God's hand, and eye, and power, and the light of His countenance, all the circumstances are gone, and the God who had been with him is there. He goes back into communion. "El Elohe Israel" was acknowledging he had got the blessing; but now I get the house of God - not God giving blessing unrevealed, but now I can raise my altar in peace to the God of the house of God; and God does reveal Himself. He appeared to Jacob, and there was no wrestling. He appeared to him and blessed him. It is all coming from God - God speaking freely and fully, not His saying, What is your name? He had called his name Israel before - it was part of the discipline and exercise, though giving him strength. He is now taking it into His own hands and giving it of Himself; it is not Jacob wrestling for the blessing; but he has not even to ask God His name. He says, "I am God Almighty," &c. What a difference between struggling with God and feeling we have to, as inconsistent creatures to get a blessing, and God revealing Himself of His own accord, where we feel it is all faith. Jacob puts away the strange gods, and God comes and reveals Himself and talks with him, and then he goes up in peace.
In Abraham, it is not coming back to get the blessing, but God coming and dining with him; and then He says, "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do?" and he was called the friend of God; he was walking with God. You never hear that of Jacob. He was faithful, and trusted Him. There was failure, of course, but God comes in in the most intimate way. With a person I have intercourse with, I do my business with him and go away - do him a kindness if he needs it - but if I have a friend, I tell him what is on my heart about others; I trust his heart, and communicate it to him. God says, "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing I do?" Was he struggling for blessing? He had got it! Was he seeking to have God revealed? He was there talking with him on the mountain! and he pleads with God for others. When God tells him what He is going to do, he says, "Wilt Thou spare the place for fifty righteous?" and God says, "I will." Then he says, "For forty-five?" and God says if there are forty-five He will not destroy it and Abraham is emboldened, and goes on till he is ashamed to trespass any more on God's power; and God does much more perfectly, for He separates the righteous apart as they were. He was walking in communion with God; his present relationship with God was settled and habitual. God can tell him His thoughts, and Abraham can intercede with God for others. That is more than Jacob at his best.
It is different to be at peace and to have that intercourse with God that gives me His mind. You get more experience of a certain kind in Jacob - chastening exercises and wrestlings; in faith too, and it is not insincerity. The power of the Spirit enables me to stand up in the conflict. God says, I can't give you up, and I can't allow it; you must bear the effect of your inconsistency for long, and sometimes for always. He suits His dealings to the need. That does not go to the detection of all that is in my heart. When it is a question of communion, I find out the idols. If I had looked at myself with God's eye, I should have found it before. I find the inconsistency of idols and detect them, then God reveals Himself in blessing. He could not be there on a par with idols in the heart. He will lead the soul on, and give it strength for conflict, but He could not go on with idols. Then there is communion, but only to make Jacob arrive at the blessing, and then He goes up.
Abraham was always walking in the consciousness of the blessing. It was altar and tent, and he builds it here and there. He lost it when he was inconsistent for a moment, and got it back; and he stands the expression of all His wonderful grace, and a bright example of faith, and God makes him the vessel of all this wonderful revelation. He was in spirit walking with God about God's affairs.
There has been inconsistency, and you have been away from God perhaps - had chastening to remind you of it. God must have you with Himself to bring out what is there. He will bring your own name up. You won't get Israel without being Jacob with God. If you think of the altar, are there no things that are dividing your heart with God? When God says, Come and meet Me, was there nothing you then thought of? Has nothing entered into our hearts - no thought in our mind (and allowed there), or doing, or walking, that does not suit the blood of Christ? That is an idol! Things that we are unconscious of, going on with habits and in unconsciousness that there is no Christ in such and such a thing. Is there love for that, clinging to that, and affection for that? Is it Christ? You can't say it is! God in blessing make us find it out, to lead us to communion.
Are you content to have blessing? There are two ways in which God gives a part with Himself. Joying in God when we are brought to Christ - that is the highest blessing. And there is another thing: He gives us a part in the activity of His love to other people, in gospel preaching, seeking souls, serving saints, services of love if it be but a cup of cold water; there I get God's thoughts of others. I must have His thoughts for that. I can't be His fellow workman if my soul is not with Him already. When the soul is walking with God and in His interests, there is the spirit of intercession, and that is immense blessing. God's love is there, shed abroad in one's heart, and it flows out to others; and it is an immense privilege to have identity of Christ's interests in the world. That can't be with idols. Could He treat you as His friend, give you His thoughts - not of yourself; infinitely precious that is. Has the heart that kind of confidence in God?
You need not fear want of lowliness in being near God; it is found in being away from Him. Paul was not proud when he was in the third heaven, but after he came down, then he needed the thorn in the flesh, lest he should say, "No one has been there but you, Paul."
Are the idols so gone that you are at rest with God, and He can talk with you? Can your hearts say they are free with God? God is thinking of us in that kind of way that He is trusting us with His thoughts. The Lord give us to know what it is to walk with Him so that we are free, and the freer we are the more humble we shall be. Walking with the Lord, we find our own nothingness. The Lord give us such nearness to God, that everything may be detected that does not suit that intercourse! J. N. D.