Grace and glory are God's gifts. "Jehovah," said the psalmist, "will give grace and glory." Being now saved by grace, through faith, we wait for glory; for Jesus said, "The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them." Now God is sending forth the gospel of His grace, by which He calls those who believe unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus; and when we are in the glory, we shall ever be to the praise of the glory of His grace.
It is because we are objects of His abundant grace, and soon to be partakers of the glory, that we are necessarily objects of His government and care. If an ancient prophet said, "The Lord will judge His people," an inspired apostle also enquires, "What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?" An earthly father does not discipline other people's children, but he does his own, and because they are his own. So, because we are now by grace children of God, and predestined to be thus before Him in love in eternal glory, He does of necessity exercise parental discipline and correction, and that because we are His. It is well, then, to be instructed in the Lord's mind about these things, otherwise we shall be ignorant of His ways, and have hard thoughts of God at the time we ought to be giving thanks, when, by some humbling process, He is either preparing us for the reception of further blessing, or delivering us from false refuges and carnal confidence. By such wrong thoughts the Lord is dishonoured, His Spirit grieved, and our souls damaged, because we judge of the Lord's dealings with us according to sense, instead of by the light of His own revelation of Himself and His ways in the Scriptures. When rightly occupied with Him in time of trial, we may say with another —
"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
With blessings on your head.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace:
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face."
The history of Jacob furnishes us with remarkable illustrations of the three subjects we propose now to consider — Grace, Government, and Glory. The illustrations may be feeble, but they seem clear enough to set forth the importance of giving to each of them its distinctive place; for if this be not the case, we shall be mixing up in our minds present circumstances with our hope of glory, and allowing feelings and desires to decide for us, instead of God's infallible word, whether we are objects of divine favour or not. Yet, all through Scripture, few subjects are more frequently or more distinctly brought out than Grace, Government, and Glory. May the Lord help us to consider, with reverence and godly fear, what His own word of eternal truth teaches about these things!
1. GRACE. — The apostle Paul informs us that he owed all his blessings to divine grace. "By the grace of God I am what I am;" and he also says, "The grace of God bringeth salvation." It therefore seeks lost, helpless, and sinful ones to display itself upon; and it brings salvation, nothing less than present and eternal salvation — salvation from sins, death, judgment, Satan, and the world; and unto eternal glory, the redemption even of our bodies when Jesus comes. Such is grace. It makes no conditions, it brings everything, demands nothing, gives freely, suitably, everlastingly, thus securing endless praise and glory to God. We shall find this in its measure illustrated in Genesis 28. Jacob had proved himself to be a liar, deceiver, supplanter; and, as the fruit of his evil doings, he was now a fugitive, fleeing for his life from his brother Esau when God met with him. He was therefore justly exposed to severe punishment from the hand of God. Alone in his unhappy flight, stretched on the cold ground beneath the starry canopy of heaven, sleeping soundly on his stony pillows, with everything to condemn, and nothing to recommend him, God appeared to him in a dream. Without one upbraiding word, or asking a question of this sinful fugitive, He reveals Himself, in connection with the future glories of the kingdom, as the God of Abraham and of Isaac, and at once tells him how richly and abundantly He will bless him. He is assured not only that the vast blessings promised to Abraham and Isaac shall be continued to him, but it is added, Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." (v. 15.) This is grace. It is God lovingly revealing Himself to one wholly undeserving of any good thing, and giving freely and abundantly according to the good pleasure of His will; and, not only pouring out blessings, but making Jacob, the utterly unworthy receiver, personally an object of divine love and constant care. The secret of this way of blessing is no doubt found in the thrice-repeated words connected with the announcement of this grace, "Thy seed;" for the way of divine grace must always be through the "seed" — Christ. Hence we read that "grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:21.) God is never gracious at the expense of truth or righteousness, therefore in the cross of Christ we see both the exceeding riches of His grace to us, and His unsparing righteous judgment of our sins. In this way, God was glorified in justly condemning our sin, and is also glorified in saving us; for in the cross He was both just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Grace flows freely to us, therefore, through Him who thus suffered for sins to bring us to God. Every claim of divine righteousness and holiness having been thus answered for by Christ on the cross, God is now faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let us on no account forget the thrice-repeated "thy seed" in connection with Jacob's blessing.
Still the way of God with Jacob, blessed as it was, and serving to illustrate our subject, falls far short of the grace that has come to us. Not only were we practically wicked, opposed to God, and dead in trespasses and sins, when divine grace met us, but it brought us life, resurrection-life in Christ; so that we were quickened together, raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Besides this, we are united to Him by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, made sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, who is in us the hope of glory. This is grace indeed. It is not only that Christ has freed us from sin and guilt, but He has also brought us into partnership with Himself in all that He is and has. No marvel, then, it is said that the grace of God bringeth salvation; for it is indeed a great salvation, bringing us present remission of sins, justification from all things, sanctification, new and eternal relationships, all through that one offering by which we have been perfected for ever; so that with fullest confidence we may wait and look for the Saviour. It is divine grace; all is of God; it is His grace to us, free, unconditional, and eternal.
The effects of grace may also be noticed here. We read: "Jacob awaked out of his sleep. He said, Surely the Lord is in this place. . . . This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. . . . Jacob rose up early, took his stony pillow, set it up for a pillar, poured oil upon it, called the name of that place Beth-el" (house of God), "and said, This stone which I have set up for a pillar shall be God's house." (vv. 16-22.) And so with us, divine grace brings such vast and eternal blessings, and so wholly undeserved, that it awakens hearts, makes us know that we are in the presence of God, exercises the conscience, and draws out our souls in worship. It brings us peace, comforts us with the sweet assurance that God is for us and not against us, and subdues and moulds us to His own mind and will. It rouses our affections, quickens us into activity in His service, sets us in the posture of dependence, and bows us before God with adoring gratitude and praise. Oh, yes! —
"Grace taught our wandering feet
To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour we meet,
While travelling home to God.
"'Twas Grace that wrote each name
In Life's eternal book;
'Twas Grace that gave us to the Lamb,
Who all our sorrows took.
"Grace all the work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise."
The grace of God to us in Christ, when received into the heart, must produce mighty effects. It cannot but attract us to Him who has so loved us, while it constrains us to do those things which are pleasing in His sight. As the apostle, by the Holy Ghost, so forcibly puts it, "It teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us," etc. If then there be a question in the soul as to the true ground of peace, eternal salvation, or present power for service and walk, the grace of God to us in Christ is the answer; and being now so fully blessed in Christ risen and ascended, what could such marvellous grace teach us to look for, and wait for, but God's Son from heaven? Well may we sing —
"Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily we're constrained to be;
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind our wandering hearts to Thee!"
Jacob then, as we have noticed, was blessed of God at Bethel through His abundant grace; and in after years the patriarch needed to be reminded of this, and made again and again to feel the reality of his having been so blessed of God. When Laban dealt hardly with him, the angel of God said to him in a dream, "I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto Me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred." (Gen. 31:12, 13.) On another occasion, when his heart had been well-nigh overwhelmed with family sorrow and humiliation, "God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother." (Gen. 35:1.) Thus he was directed to Bethel, and then, having erected an altar to God, to ponder His ways of grace toward Him. The children of Israel too were often reminded of how mercifully Jehovah had brought them out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And so we are frequently instructed to consider Him, and to remember Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood; and, like the patriarch, to consider that the God of Bethel is our God, and that Bethel is the place we should visit, and consider His marvellous grace, and how richly and fully we are blessed. It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, so that we may be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus; and no doubt one of the most blessed offices of the Holy Ghost is thus to minister Christ, and testify of Him to our hearts. How sweet then are those precious instructions of God to His servant Jacob — "I am the God of Bethel;" and, "Arise, and go up to Bethel, and build there an altar," etc. When we think of Jacob's course, and of the untiring mercy and goodness of God to him, is it any marvel that it is said, "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help"? (Ps. 146:5.)
Jacob, however, left Bethel, and went on his journey to the people of the east. Yet, on starting on his pilgrimage, so confident was he in his own resources, that he voluntarily determined to give to God a tenth, if only God would be as good as His word. A poor beginning indeed; and, if such self-confidence be fostered, must sooner or later call for governmental interference. Still he manages for himself for many years; only it may be that he hindered his own blessing by his habit of bargaining and contriving, instead of simply trusting in his God. Yet amidst all, God, faithful to His own word, was remarkably with him in all the places he went.
After twenty years, however, tidings suddenly reached Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him, and four hundred men with him. All along this period we have no record that Jacob had judged himself, and humbled himself before God, on account of his sin in regard to Esau. The consequence was, that, being conscience-stricken with the report of Esau's approach, he was "greatly afraid and distressed." This was a searching moment. God knew how to reach the sore spot. It put Jacob fairly to the test, and was enough to make him manifest to himself and to others. Now let us look at this man of faith, so blessed of God, and yet so full of stratagem. What will he do? Observe his prayer. He cries to God about it, takes a low place before the God of Abraham and of Isaac, who had also spoken to and blessed him, and entreats Him to fulfil His own word in delivering him from Esau. Very good. What can be better? No doubt, if he had begun and ended here, his whole soul thus stayed upon God, all would have been well. But it was not so. He has such confidence in his own competency to manage the matter, that before he prayed unto God he resorted to a delivering contrivance of his own; and also, after his brief but orthodox prayer, lie at once fled to his own inventions again. Before prayer, he divided the people with him, and the flocks, and herds, and camels, into two bands, and said, "If Esau come to the one company and smite it, then the other company shall escape." This was his stratagem before prayer. It was the first thing he did. He tried to deliver himself without God; but thinking it might possibly fail, he made God his refuge too. Again, after his prayer, we are told that he took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals." Then he arranged them to proceed in separate droves, with "a space betwixt drove and drove," and commanded the foremost of his servants, when he met Esau, to say, "They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us." He commanded the second and third servant, and all that followed the droves, to speak to Esau in the same manner. Jacob also said, "I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me." He appears greatly pleased with these carnal contrivances; and to complete the scheme, he sends his two wives, and two women servants, and eleven sons across the brook, and he himself tarries behind. (Gen. 32:6-22.) Thus the state of Jacob's heart is fully manifested. He is a double-minded man, trusting in God in some sense, and relying on his own plodding and contrivances as well; and this was a time when God's governmental dealing was called into action to deliver His servant from these pernicious ways, and to make him somewhat sensible of the dignity and blessing into which God in His grace had brought him.
And here let us, dear Christian brethren, solemnly and unsparingly deal with ourselves as regards our own actings; for the day of trial will make manifest the crooked workings of carnal confidence, and the infidelity of carnal stratagems, if we are bringing them into requisition, instead of simply and only relying on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be assured God loves us too well to encourage us in a course so destructive to our own real blessing, as alike dishonouring to Him. The bane of the present day is, that policy, even among Christians, is ranked side by side with faith. It was a saying of a godly young man, "Policy I hate; but faithfulness to God I love." Surely nothing is more clearly expressed in Scripture than that "without faith it is impossible to please God." But this mixture of faith and contrivance is what is now before us, and which the truth so forcibly enjoins us to judge ourselves about. Being careful for nothing, and praying about everything, exercising faith in our gracious God who has raised up Christ from among the dead, is what He looks for, and that we should have no confidence in the flesh, its ability, resources, or righteousness. When this is the case we shall be single-eyed, and the language of our hearts will be, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him." (Ps. 62:5.)
2. GOVERNMENT. Jacob had carried out all his contrivances, and was alone. We therefore read that "Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." (Gen. 32:24.) Here we see the governmental dealing of God with His double-minded servant. Observe, Jacob was left ALONE, and then the wrestling began. It was not, as many say, Jacob wrestling with God in order to obtain a blessing by his persevering efforts; but it is rather God wrestling with him, in order to teach Jacob that he is not so good and clever as he supposes himself to be. He was resisting God, and needed a mighty power to be put forth to subdue him. Therefore it was that Jacob's unyielding spirit needed that "the hollow of his thigh should be touched, and put out of joint, as he wrestled with him." (v. 25.) We often hear Christians say God is greatly trying them, whereas the truth is that they are trying to God, resisting His guidance, and insubject to His will; and, like Jacob, at length need to be overcome by divine power.
Jacob is now fairly broken down. He is made to feel his thorough helplessness and entire dependence. His weakness now compels him to cling to the strong for strength, and he cleaves to the Blesser for blessing; so that when the mighty Wrestler said, "Let me go, for the day breaketh; he said unto him, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." It is no longer his own competency that fills Jacob's mind, but the resources of God; and what a vast change is produced! He now takes the place of a receiver instead of a contriver, and of drawing his blessings from another in the consciousness that he had no resources in himself. With thigh out of joint, he is made to feel his own real weakness, and so entirely dependent, that he only looks for blessing from another on the ground of his own helplessness, and not by his own planning.
But further. He learns also in the school of God his own vileness. Job, when brought into the presence of God, had to learn to abhor himself, Isaiah that he was undone and unclean, and Daniel that all his comeliness had turned to corruption. And the moment this mighty Wrestler enquired of Jacob, "What is thy name?" it touched the deepest springs of his heart, reached the secret workings of conscience, so that he was obliged to reply, "My name is Jacob," or supplanter; as much as to say, "I am vile, for I am a supplanter." Thus he learns during one night another salutary lesson. And all now who are under divine teaching, also learn that in the flesh is nothing good, but all manner of evil, and that it cannot be trusted. These things Jacob learns, as I have said, in the presence of God; for though the Wrestler appeared to him in the similitude of "a man," he afterwards owns that he is God; for he says, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (v. 30); for surely none else could have so taught him that he was perfectly weak and thoroughly vile. In the sequel, he proved experimentally how entirely useless all his plans and stratagems were for appeasing Esau, and trying to escape his supposed anger, by taking up his own position in the rear of his long droves of cattle, his wives and children. The truth is that he had a bad conscience about Esau, and it happened to him according to the Scripture, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth."
But profit is always the end of God's discipline. He not only delivers from evil by exposing it to our view, and bowing our hearts before Him because of it, but He also in result gives positive blessing. It was so with Jacob. When he humbled himself as a supplanter, (owning, as we judge it did, his previous wrong toward Esau,) God exalted him. When he clung in perfect weakness to the Blesser, he obtained blessing. "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." Thus, in helplessness and self-abasement, vile in his own eyes, a supplanter, he was a prince in God's account, and in the place of power and blessing; prevailing with God in obtaining from Him, and prevailing too in divine strength (not by human contrivances) over men, whether Esau or others.
All this time, let us remember, Jacob is alone, learning salutary and lasting, though costly, lessons. His fancied comeliness had turned to corruption, and his competency had been proved to be capable only of insubjection to God. Instead of bowing at once to Him who wrestled with him, his persevering wilfulness during the night seemed to necessitate the painful process of having his thigh put out of joint, before he could take his true place of clinging to God for strength. But, when broken down and self-judged, it became at once the occasion for God to exalt His servant, and to encourage him in Himself. Blessed discipline! am somewhat illustrative of the apostle's words: "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." (Heb. 12:6-10.) This is the activity of divine love in governmental care so as to make us partakers of further blessing. These ways of God often produce much exercise of soul; and though not pleasant at the time, nevertheless afterward, to such as are bowed before the Lord, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Jacob learned lessons that night at Peniel which he never forgot, and, we may add, never lost the profit of. When he actually met Esau, it was only to prove the faithfulness of God to His own gracious word of promise, "I am with thee, and will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." Instead of Esau killing him, as he had feared, we are told that "Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept." (Chap. 33:4.) After this they met at Isaac's funeral; for we read that "his sons Esau and Jacob buried him." (Chap. 35:29.) Many a bitter trial Jacob had to pass through, and had need to think of Bethel, and the God of Bethel, and, halting on his thigh, he could never forget that night at Peniel. However, he was at length so conscious of his dignity and superiority, as being an object of God's gracious care and blessing, that he could courteously take the place of conferring blessing on the greatest potentate on earth, and of bowing himself out of his presence. "Jacob blessed Pharaoh." Instead of courting this royal person, or coveting anything from him, he now rightly felt his real superiority over those who know not God. When the king said unto Jacob, "How old art thou?" Jacob said unto Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." Again it is said, "And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh." (Chap. 47:7-10.) Jacob's conduct was certainly very different toward Pharaoh to what it was when expecting to meet Esau; and if the latter serves to illustrate the proverb, that "the wicked flee when no man pursueth," the former not less strikingly shows that "the righteous are bold as a lion."
3. A few words now on our third subject, GLORY. As we have seen, glory is a divine gift. "The glory which Thou gavest Me," said Jesus, "I have given them." God's government of us, as we have noticed, is because of relationship, and is connected with our state and walk, the object being our profit. Rewards in the glory will, no doubt, be according to our present faithfulness. But our being in the glory will be entirely because we have been objects of divine grace. Jesus said, "This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day." (John 6:40.) Jacob sadly failed, as we know. By nature and by practice a sinner; and after God had revealed Himself to him, and blessed him, his self-confidence and habit of contriving for his own ends, instead of walking with God in all simplicity, were very manifest. But with all the needed governmental discipline by the way, he was in the end in that circle of glory of which the one who was type of the true Messiah was the centre, into which he had been also most unexpectedly carried by the command and power of Him who had typically been dead and alive again, who came to meet him on the way.
Looking then at Joseph's exaltation and glory in Egypt as typical of the reign of Christ, we only now observe that the man of faith was there, and that it serves, though feebly, to illustrate the fact that those who are now the objects of God's gracious blessing, after all the vicissitudes of this present time, and all the changes of their earthly pilgrimage, are privileged to expect to be in glory with Christ, "caught up to meet the Lord in the air."
Joseph had been hated and sold by his brethren, put into a pit and dungeon, and taken out again. After rejection, deep humiliation, and affliction, he was at length exalted to be set over all the land of Egypt. In all this we cannot fail to see the rejected, crucified, risen, and glorified Son of God. But more than this. When manifested in glory, his Gentile bride shares his honour, and reigns with him; his brethren, the sons of Israel, are given the fattest of the land in subjection to him; while he is governor over all the Gentiles (Egyptians). Joseph being arrayed in fine linen, with a gold chain about his neck, riding in his chariot, and ruler over all the land of Egypt, they cried before him, "Bow the knee." Here again we see the various circles of glory, both terrestrial and celestial, drawn by a divine hand for our instruction. There Jacob saw Joseph's face; for "Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face." And is not this our highest and sweetest hope? for what else could really satisfy our hearts? It is not only that our blessed Lord will wear His many crowns, be King of Israel, and Governor among the nations, every knee in heaven, in earth, and under the earth bowing to Him; but the precious expectation held forth by the Holy Ghost for our hearts' joy is, that we shall be with Him and like Him. "They shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads." It is this surely that gives us to "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
"The bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze on glory,
But on the King of Grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel's land."
How sweet is the thought that "in the ages to come," after all His governmental ways with us through the wilderness are over, "He will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus!"