God's Dealings with Jacob.

Genesis 32.

[1882 1] Jacob showed that he was not profane like Esau. He made much of the divine promise and blessing; but, not resting on God for its accomplishment, he employed fleshly means to deceive Isaac.

God, when He takes the title of Father, does not lose His quality of righteousness. As God He acts righteously with regard to him in whom the flesh acts, not to condemn nor to cease loving. He cannot stop short of blessing, but He acts righteously, because He chastises every child that He owns. Because of this, we often bear the consequences of the action of the flesh.

Thus Jacob was obliged to quit his country and his family, to withdraw himself from the hatred of Esau. At his return the angels of God come before him; and when Jacob saw them, he called the place Mahanaim, that is, two hosts, or the hosts of God. Then he learns that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men, and he is afraid and greatly distressed. (Gen. 32:1-6.) Providences and visions do not take away terror, nor give confidence in God.

Jacob had not feared if he could have said with Elisha, "They that be with me are more than they that be with them." What about Esau and his four hundred men? The flesh had still the upper hand in him, even when God had just furnished a support to his faith by sending His angels to him. Jacob arranges his plans, though not without prayer (Gen. 32:7–12), and sends his presents (Gen. 32:13–23) to appease his brother whom God; had already appeased, since he was come in feelings of family love to meet Jacob. In his appeal to God he recalls His promises, for he had faith however feeble.

When Jacob was left alone (Gen. 32:24), there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day; not Jacob with God, but God with Jacob. God wrestles with us: the flesh must be mortified. God can have no communion with the flesh. We have combats outward and inward in which we are conquerors by the faith that God gives us. (Hosea xii. 4, 5.)

Every time that our heart truly rests on God, there is not wrestling, but victory. God, in undertaking to wrestle with us, strengthens us, without our being affrighted, to hold Him fast and not to let Him go. He would have us occupy ourselves with nothing less than Himself to bless us. (Gen. 32:25, 26.) Jacob is made to feel his weakness, he limps all his life. How many there are that remain thus halting all their days, preserving thus as it were a memorial that the flesh ought to have been humbled, even if there be also a memorial of the path of victory! For as a prince he is given to know that he has power with God and with men, and had prevailed. His name was to be no more Jacob, the supplanter, but Israel, a prince of God. But God did not reveal His name to Jacob, though he asked after it. (Gen. 32:27-29.) He was not allowed yet that communion in the revelation of El Shaddai that he afterwards enjoyed. (Gen. xxxv.) There was faith, but not fellowship; the blessing of God, but His name withheld. "Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name?"

What a difference between this scene in the chequered experience of Jacob, and the visit He paid to Abraham His friend in his peaceful tent of Mamre (Gen. xviii.) No wrestling of God there, but Abraham pleaded; and if he pleaded with God, it was not for himself but for Sodom, or at least for the righteous in Sodom, and really too for the glory of God concerned in the judgment that was coming which he knew beforehand. "That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" "And the LORD went his way as soon as he had left communing with Abraham." How beautifully simple! When He had done, He went His way.

Yet notwithstanding the great superiority of Abraham, notwithstanding all the miseries Jacob's unbelief brought on himself, we may remark, what has often had a notice and is worthy of it, that the weakest child of God is consciously greater than the greatest man of the world. When in presence of Pharaoh Jacob says, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been;" yet did he bless Pharaoh; and, as the apostle says, Without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. Be then encouraged ever to look to God, that you may find in Christ strength over the flesh in your nothingness. Never set flesh against flesh; but, distrusting self, confide simply and absolutely in Him.