“And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.”
OUR greatest victories are wrought out through pain, and purchased at the cost of the humbling of the flesh. Jacob learned that the secret of prevailing with God and man was not in the strength, but in the weakness and suffering of the flesh. It must ever be so. The victor Lamb bears still the scars of Calvary, and appears as one who had been slain.
Had Laban met Jacob that morning, he would have pointed to that limp as an indication of God’s wrath and displeasure; but if he had looked into his face, he would have seen all its hardness and cunning gone, and would have been arrested by the unwonted tenderness in his voice.
The shrunken sinew counteracts pride. — So high a spiritual achievement as to prevail with God might have tempted Jacob to arrogance and self-esteem. But God anticipated the possible temptation by this physical infirmity, which was constantly present to Jacob’s consciousness.
The shrunken sinew was the secret of victory. — Had it not been shriveled by the angel’s touch, Jacob would have continued to resist in the pride of his strength, and would never have clung convulsively to the angel, crying, “I will not let thee go.” It was only in that act that he became Israel, the Prince.
The shrunken sinew makes us think little of this world and much of the next. — From this moment Jacob takes up more of the pilgrim attitude. He finds that for him, at least, the pace will have to be slower; but it is well, for he relaxes his hold on the seen to entwine more tenaciously about the unseen. “The days of the years of my pilgrimage” — such is his epitome of his life.
“Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.”
THIS was rather unworthy of the man who, the night before, had seen the face of God, and learned to prevail. The man who had seen God, and prevailed, was doubtful of his newly-given blessing!
He did not realize that it would carry him through the difficulty that threatened him. He had not as yet learned to apply it to every emergency. It is a solemn lesson to those who have passed through some rapturous experience.
After blessing, often trial. — When the fair colors have been laid on, the vessel is plunged into the furnace, that they may be burnt in.
The trial frequently presents itself in the home or ordinary life. — Some are led into the wilderness to be tempted; but more often it is the contact with our Esaus that furnishes us with the supreme test of the worth of what we have received.
Failure comes from not reckoning on God. — Jacob looked at Esau’s four hundred armed men, and compared his own following with despair. So Peter looked at the winds and waves. At such times we must fail, if we rely on schemes or plans, instead of saying, God is.
Oh for the peace that floweth as a river, Making life’s desert places bloom and smile; Oh for the faith to grasp Heaven’s bright “for ever” And the shadow of earth’s “little while.”
We must act in faith. — If Jacob had refused to use this subterfuge, and had spoken simply and manfully, he would have found that Esau would have acquiesced and left him. The angels who had gone forward to deal with him (Genesis 32:2) had done their work effectively, and God had changed his purpose.
“And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.”
THE Bible does not hesitate to hold the mirror up to our fallen nature, or show us what we are. Here is Israel, the prince with God, who had power with man, in a very sorry plight. His children had involved him in it; but first, he had involved them.
Dinah. — Little did she realize all the evil which that visit of hers would bring on her people and on those whose guest she was. What took her there? Had her upbringing been unnecessarily strict, and did she want a little more freedom? There is an inevitable rebound with young people to the other extreme, if needless severity has been brought to bear on them in their early days.
The probability, however, is that the laxity of her father’s home, and the effect of her mother’s gods, had made the line of separation a very faint one, and she felt no difficulty in overstepping it.
Simeon and Levi. — “Ye have made me to stink.” On his dying bed Jacob remembered this treacherous cruelty and pronounced their scattering in Israel; though Levi undid the effect of that bitter curse by his obedience and devotion. In after days it was said, “My covenant was with him of life and peace,” and though scattered, he was as salt. In Simeon’s case the curse was not cancelled by any subsequent manifestation of obedience and devotion, and ran out its course. There is encouragement and warning here.
Jacob. — The real mistake of it all was that Jacob bought that land, and settled too near the city (Genesis 33:18). As a pilgrim he had no right to do this. If Christian parents will settle down in fellowship with the world, they have themselves to thank for all the misery which accrues to themselves and children, and the dishonor to God.
“And 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.”
GOD had set His hand to make Jacob a saint. He had given him a glimpse of his ideal at the Jabbok ford, but his nature was not then capable of taking in the Divine conception; and, as we have seen, both in his subterfuge to Esau and his settling outside Shechem, he had fallen back into the schemer and money-maker. In this chapter God uses several methods of awakening and renewal.
The Divine summons. — “Arise, go up to Bethel.” He had been in the lowlands too long: too long had he “lain among the pots.”
The voice of God spoke words of resurrection life into his grave, as afterwards into that of Lazarus.
The power of old association. — What memories clustered around that name and place of Bethel! It recalled his distress and fear; the angel-ladder, and the comforting assurance which had inspired him with new hope. Directly he heard it, he seemed to have felt the incongruity of the life that was being lived in his camp, and he said to his people, “Put away the strange gods ... Arise, let us go up to Bethel, and I will make there an altar unto God.”
A fresh revelation. — God appeared to him again. For long there had been no vision of God; but now that the idols were put away, his eyes were opened to see Him who had been beside him amid all his backslidings.
Death. — Deborah, the beloved Rachel, the old father — one after another were taken from him; and there came the far-away look into his eyes which showed that he had imbibed the pilgrim-spirit and had become Israel the Prince. So God stripped him that he might be better able to run the race set before him.