•  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
In Jacob we find family dealings characterized by God's mercy to him, in spite of all his trickery and artful ways. There is contention in the flesh for the things God had promised. In spite of all, God makes good all blessing connected with Christ. With Christians now God has to break down the flesh, and then what can they do? Nothing but cry to God. What marked Esau is what so often marks believers now-flesh, which only cares for the gifts of God so far as they minister to the flesh; or, like Jacob, they value God's gifts, but seek to take them in their own way. In due time we see God leaves the empty professor, and takes up the younger, the one on whom He had set His eye, and brings him back to the father's house. We see the sovereignty of God's love in all that. Again, God shows His sovereignty in the choice He made of Moses and Aaron to their specific services. The honor was put upon Moses altogether at first, but he breaks down; and then we see that his special service was that of mediator, Aaron that of high priest. God settles whose name shall be written in the book of life; but there is a specialty of place which He settles also. God ordered that Isaac should have the place of being the expression of the Son in communion with the family as head upon earth. In Isaac's personal history we find he fails as to his children. " Isaac loved Esau, Rebecca loved Jacob;" and there was want of fellowship between Isaac and Rebecca. This want of fellowship is almost always productive of a split in families. If the child sees partiality in parents, all confidence in their love is gone. There is nothing more important than for children to see perfect oneness of mind in the parents as to putting their will in its place. The end of Isaac's course was a quiet one, and very blessed.
In the case of Jacob we have the channel of testimony brought out. Here are the two natures-the world acting on his heart, the flesh, and that which corresponds with the Spirit in us; not, however, in the same way in which we have since the revelation of Christ. The conflict between the two natures then was the result of the supplanting of the first Adam by God.
It was difficult for a Jew to understand the conflict which was going on. God begins with us in seating us in Christ in heaven. In Jacob there is the old nature at work continually. God met with him outside, and brought him in; but still he went on as before. When on his way back to the land he ought to have had full rest of soul; but we find him arranging all in his mind, as if he had no God of resurrection as his God. Why thus? Because he was acting from the old nature; and hence it is that there must necessarily be a pulling down from us which there would not if walking in the Spirit. If God had permitted Jacob to go on, it would have been putting His sanction on those ways; but Jacob finds, after all, that what was in his own heart was not enough for himself. God pulls him to pieces, and makes him to know that with all his arrangements he cannot tranquilize his own poor timid heart. When he really got close to God, it was quite another thing. Then he learned what he was; before it was all his family circumstances, &c.,—that occupied him. Just as it constantly is with us when we are out of God's presence, planning, scheming, &c., God lets us down into ourselves just to show us what we are; and when we get to our wits' end, what do we find there? Nicely ordered plans? No; we have found, utter weakness; but we have found God there. There is the " brook," and we do not know how to get over it. But we have found God meeting us there, and carrying us over to the other side; but it has been like Jacob halting upon the thigh. If you have learned the gospel, you know God is now measuring Christ, not man. But still the old nature is always showing itself, especially if there is any energy of character; and God cannot give the blessing till He has broken down the flesh, and made you go crippled all your days. One cannot carry one's vessel full of grace, unless one has been content to be accounted by one's neighbors the chief of sinners.
When I look upon young Christians I feel for them exceedingly. I know that they must learn this lesson as to the flesh, but I do not know how God will teach it them. Young Christians have not learned experimentally that the flesh is a bad thing. They have not been in prominent places, set upon a pinnacle, and the flesh, they may argue, has not come out in them as in Peter, in David, and others. If wise, they may learn what they are in the presence of God from the testimony of the word, from looking into the wounds of Jesus. It is learning it inside the sanctuary, otherwise you must learn it outside. As for aged saints, and those who are established, I know that I find it uncommon hard, when perhaps I have been in communion with God, to have to say, Well! must I then go on still with this horrid heart of mine 2 Yes; and as one goes on, the worse one finds the flesh to be. Jacob had to learn what halting flesh was all his days, even when he went before the king. You must learn more and more of the evil of your flesh, as you learn more and more your portion in Christ.
In connection with these four characters we learn that every one has his especial time of trouble. Lot had his first wrench out of the world in being sent from his country; but he found that he had got under the government of God-of Him who would not allow him to go on quietly, and sitting down to rest where he chose. (The flesh is always inclined to sit down in the wrong place.) God was going to destroy that place, and Lot must be roused out of it. Abraham has two troubles-his wrench out of his country (and it is not pleasant to leave all); and then, through going down into Egypt, he had one experience of the same kind that Lot always had-he sold his wife, and lost his honor. (If God says "Give," and you say " Take," there is unbounded joy, as Abraham found it at mount Moriah. If God lays His hand upon the vine, and the fig tree, and the flocks, and asks if you are satisfied to have it so, and you reply, " Yes;" then you rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of your salvation.) Both these troubles of Abraham were at the beginning of his course, both the wrench from the world, and the bitter experience he had as to the flesh. With Jacob they came at the end of his course. In all this there is the moral sovereignty of God seen in His making the vessels. There may be many ships leaving the port, and perhaps only one out of the many reaches the harbor without damage. One comes in at one time, another after a storm which may overtake it at any part of the voyage. It seems as if a soul must be left to itself, "alone " with God, to show just what it is, and to be weaned from everything but God. God there communicates to the soul from Himself what he would not get elsewhere; and all this is connected with God's forming a vessel for Himself. God not only puts you in Christ, and purges you that you may bear more fruit, but He also has to form your character. A parent might witness in his children improvement in certain ways that had been unpleasant, and yet see that the spring in the character was untouched; another time he may be able to get at the root of those things which grieve him. This is what God does; He at last met Jacob in himself, then the springs are touched, the flesh is crippled. I may be at the close of my pilgrimage, and I may have been brought through the process, and still God may have to retouch the vessel in some points. There is great joy in seeing that, little as we are, we have a connection with all His plans in His eternal counsels from the beginning, and with all His glory hereafter. There is not a single minute thing which touches any one of us, which is not thus connected with Him. There is rest of heart in seeing Him thus above, below, around; God is never taken by surprise, never taken aback, never startled. He counter-works. He brings out blessing according to His own counsels, notwithstanding all the horrible way in which Satan works things around us.