The Believer "Guiding his hands wittingly."

Genesis 48:14.

Have you put your hand on the head of the right man? Jacob, though a saint of God, only did so on his death-bed. To put the hand on the head means in Scripture identification. It is to say, "I identify myself with thee." It was done in the case of the burnt-offering. The offerer thus identified himself with the value of the sacrifice, with all therefore that Christ was to God in all the excellencies of His person. (Leviticus 1:4, 17.) In the sin-offering again, (Leviticus 4:4, 12, 15, 21, 27, 29, 33, etc.) Christ identifies Himself in grace with sin; that is, with all that is in us which is obnoxious to God. It is transferred to Him. The main part of Jacob's life, as we may see, was spent by him in putting his hand on the head of the wrong man. His life was mostly passed in planning, and plotting, and scheming for Jacob's advantage. For even in the Old Testament God continually showed that He could get no fruit from the fallen man; and faith owned it, although the second Man had not yet appeared. Although the full setting aside of the first man was not revealed till the cross, yet faith got God's judgment of it very early. We see this admitted by Job (chap. 42:5-6), and also taught to Abraham in type (Genesis 15:8-18) and to others. Fruit was ever only in new birth.

Our everyday-life, therefore, as Christians should become in all of us the "life of faith." We should put our hand on the head of the right man. If we do not do this we shall have to do it (as Jacob had to do it) at the close of our earthly history. God WILL have His way. This one act of Jacob's life is the only one recorded in Hebrews 11 as an act of faith on Jacob's part. "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph: and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." God's thought was made known to him at last, and faith triumphed. He said at the end what we all ought to say at the beginning, "Not this man, the man here, though the eldest born, and the first on the scene, but that Man is the man of God's counsel." Manasseh was the eldest born, but Ephraim, and not Manasseh, is the man of God's choice. (1 Cor. 15:46-47.) Jacob at last bowed to a truth which in his life he had practically refused. In faith now he guided his hands "wittingly," and laid his right hand on the head of the younger-born, on Ephraim. In faith Jacob is here beyond Joseph. Joseph was still occupied with nature and sight. But his first-born Manasseh (forgetfulness) is only negative, and in the man of God's choice there is God seeking positive delight to His own heart. Ephraim (fruitfulness) is what God desires to find, and He has found it in Christ, when the whole race of the first man was a moral ruin before Him. There is no fruit for God then in the daily path of any soul apart from Christ displayed in him.

In one way this final act of Jacob's is sad, although a triumph of God's grace. It is sad to see a saint of God, only when on his death-bed, owning the mistake of a whole lifetime, and such a case I think we have before us in Jacob. A believer now might, like Jacob, have faith in God for his salvation from hell, and yet not in his daily life be identifying himself with Christ and Christ's path through this world. He might be thus laying his hand practically (and not in faith) on the wrong man. On two occasions Jacob reviews his past life and gives us his own judgment of it. One is when he is overtaken by Laban, the other is when he stood before Pharaoh. If we read these two we shall see that, in the one case he reviews what his life had been when away, through his own self-will, from the place of testimony; in the other he contrasts his past life with the lives of his fathers (Abraham and Isaac), who had been preserved in faithfulness in the land, the true place of testimony. It is all a sad review. And when one asks, Is it the record of a life of faith? one turns from it with a sense of relief to read rather the review of a past life from the lips of another saint - the apostle Paul. He says, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." No regrets and no sorrow come into the apostle's contemplation here, and the "henceforth," the future prospect, is all bright. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." How completely does the end answer to the life! It is the record of a man who could say even when he lived here, "For to me to live is Christ." He was not merely a converted man, but he had identified himself on earth with the right MAN - the man of God's choice, and Saul was therefore refused.

How blessed is this knowledge of faith! Jacob "guided his hands wittingly," i.e. he knew, at last, the mind of God, and acted on it. But Scripture adds an important word to this account of Jacob's act. It tells us, he "worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." Where do you read of this word "worship" in any part of Jacob's former history? It is, as to him, an entirely new word. He had built altars, and erected pillars, but in all of them he himself figures largely, and enters into a kind of compact with God (see Genesis 28:20-22; 33:20; 35:3-7), and even in the last case (which is the best) this word "worship" is not found. What have we then, beyond them all, in this death-bed scene? I believe we have the paramount and eclipsing act of faith. No matter what you believe (for Jacob was a believer), it is valueless if you do not act upon it. And the actions are expressed in a man's everyday life. This last act of Jacob is therefore beyond every other, because in it he identifies himself with the right Man. Is worship hindered, then, if self intrude and is allowed? Or can anyone truly worship who is not living on earth that "life of faith" which says, "I am identified with Christ here"? Remember that on this occasion "the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not sec." No! The long day of sight was for ever gone for him, and' must now give place to the day of faith. And then it is that we read for the first time that Jacob "worshipped."

No doubt "sight" is the opposite of "faith," and belongs to the man that is here (2 Cor. 4:18; 10:7, 12), while faith closes the human and natural eye, and looks at things with God, having for its object the Man that is there. As I have already remarked, faith says, "Not this man, but THAT MAN;" but faith says this not only at the beginning, but all along the daily path - the "life of faith." (Heb. 11.)

It is now, not when we come to our deathbed (if we should have one), that we should be found, as believers. guiding our hands "wittingly." I close, then, these few remarks with the question which was pressed upon me to ask at the beginning, Have you, and have I, put our hands on the head of the right Man? And if so, does not the poor, feeble way in which it comes out in our everyday life humble us to the very dust? May God graciously grant us a reviving of the true testimony, that CHRIST may be seen in us. We are not left on earth to get on in business, or to "make us a name," but to display Christ, which the Spirit of God "forms" in the believer (Gal. 4:19) when he is subject to the Spirit, as clay in the hands of the potter. But I think that Christ must be thus first "formed" in us before He can be seen from us in our daily path. However much we support the man that is here in the activities of human will, God will NEVER change His judgment as to the Man of His counsel. (Phil. 2:9-11.) And at the last we must, and shall, come to the same judgment about it as God Himself has expressed. H. C. Anstey.