“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”
The life of Jacob is most interesting and instructive. His pathway, amidst the providences of his God, was a succession of changing scenes, wherein he proved the faithfulness and compassion of the Lord. The future scenes of our lives are hidden from our view. “We know not if the dark or bright shall be our lot; if that wherein our souls delight be best or not.” To-day our portion may be in paths of pleasantness, tomorrow the storm may overwhelm us. Says Job, “I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” – Job iii. 26. This was God sent trouble, else it never could have touched Job. All the vicissitudes of our lives are in the hands of our God, who apportions to each one according to the good pleasure of his will. This chapter from which our subject is taken gives us a glimpse of some of the varied scenes which God’s providence accomplished in the life of Jacob. Having parted with Laban, his father-in-law, “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanain.” This day had a gladsome beginning for Jacob, God’s host escorting him on his way. “Are not the angels all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?” – Heb. i. 14. “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth them.” Jacob forthwith sends messengers before him unto Esau his brother to acquaint him of his coming. “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.” The day dawned with every encouraging prospect, and now dense clouds are gathering, and before the night enfolds the earth in its dark mantle Jacob is in trouble indeed. He exhausts all his wits contriving for the safety of his family, but in all his trouble he is graciously helped to pour forth his distresses unto the Lord. “And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come, and smite me, and the mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”
“Jacob was left alone.” His family and all that he has have passed over the brook Jabbok, and now in the darkness of the night there remains the solitary one. I suppose he felt he could not pass over with the rest of the company, he could not lodge with them that night. In the deep distresses of his soul he chose to be separate from all earthly intercourse. It is not uncommon to those who fear the Lord to-day to feel that their peculiar case has separated them from their former companions, and beneath the chastenings of the Almighty the child of God “sitteth alone, and keepeth silence.” – Lam. iii. 28. He feels unlit to associate with the family of God. Isolated by temptations, distresses or guilt from all the kindred, he spends the night seasons in pensive disquietude. “I am like a pelican of the wilderness, I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop.” “Jacob was left alone.” There was no friendly .one to whom he could appeal for help, and like David when in the cave Adullum he could say, “I looked 011 my right hand and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed, his cogitations troubled him. How tossed to and fro was his soul! What will the morning bring forth? Truly we know not what shall be on the morrow. Will it be dark or bright! All now looks dark; Esau and four hundred men are coming to meet him. He remembers his brother’s threats to kill him. (Gen. xxvii. 41.) He remembers how because of Esau’s anger he fled from him to Padan Aram. His conscience accuses him of his guiltiness in supplanting his brother, and the deception he practiced upon his father Isaac, and now he cries out, “Deliver me I pray thee from the hand of my brother Esau: for I fear him.” It was night.
“‘Twas in the night when troubles came,
I sought my God for thee,
But found no refuge in that name
That once supported me.”
There was darkness without, of that Jacob was not afraid, for oftentimes in the darkness of the night he had kept watch over his flocks, and sleep departed from his eyes. (Gen. xxxi. 40.) But there was a night felt within. His soul was laid in darkness in the deeps. His fears and unbelief, the remembrance of his sins, the accusations of Satan all combined to make this night the hour of darkness to Jacob left alone. “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is oven the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” – Jer. xxx. 7. Was Jacob also for a little while left alone by the Lord? Did God hide his face from him? “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” Jacob was left alone, but not for long. In the shades of the night there cometh one that layeth his hands on the distressed solitary one, and or ever he is aware, Jacob is in his grasp, and this one begins to wrestle with him. “There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” Is it Esau that has stealthily approached in the darkness that now has Jacob in his grasp? Once he struggled with his brother, (Gen. xxv. 22, 23,) and Jacob was the stronger. No, it is not Esau, it is the angel of the Lord in human appearance. (Hosea xii. 4.) This was not as some have erroneously taught the preexisting manhood of the Son of God. For the manhood of Christ was of the seed of the woman, of the seed of Abraham, which when the fullness of the time was come (Gal. iv. 4,) was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, and she by the power of the Highest overshadowing her was the mother of the manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is far better to abide by the clear testimony of the Bible concerning the manhood of Christ than by a perversion of the Scriptures to build up a fanciful theory of an everlasting, pre-existing manhood. The angel said unto Mary, “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” The Virgin Mary was Christ’s mother according to the flesh. “He sucked the breasts of his mother.” (Psalm xxii. 9, 10.) When the fullness of the time was come God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, and this time was, “In those days that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when. Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” – Luke ii. 1, 2. How explicitly stated!
But let us return to the wrestlers. The man took hold of Jacob, then Jacob took hold of him. We never take hold of God, we never wrestle with the Lord until he takes hold of and wrestles with us. We never come to the Lord except he draws us. (John vi. 44.) We love him, but it is because he first loved us. (1 John iv. 19.) We are apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Phil. iii. 12.) Then we reach forth to apprehend the things which are eternal. We are arrested by the reigning grace of God, and the result of this grace working in us is that we lay hold on God, on Christ, on eternal life, and by a divine power we wrestle by faith and love, with prayers and tears until the blessedness of Christ is imparted to us. The Lord wrestles with his people to bring them down in the dust. He overthrows Jacob, and raises him up Israel. He is humbled in the dust, a poor, sinful, unworthy worm, but is so marvelously strengthened by the blessing of God who wrestled with him, that he arises strong in the Lord and in the power of his might as “a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth, to thresh the mountains and beat them small, and to make the hills as chaff.” “I was brought low, and he helped me.” There are times when the Lord has a controversy with his people. (Hosea xii. 2.) There are seasons for the trial of our faith; he pleads with his people. (Micah vi. 1, 2.) Yes, in various ways the Lord wrestles with his people; by his providence they find themselves in straits, in afflictions and temptations. The Scriptures afford us records of such wrestlings. Paul had such a wrestling. (2 Cor. xii. 1-10.) Moses also. What a wrestler he was for the tribes of Israel. (Exodus xxxii.) The Lord wrestled with Job, and as he approached him said, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” And when Job was abased and cast to the earth he answered the Lord, “Behold, I am vile: what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth.” Again the Lord challenged him, and took hold of him. (Job xl. 3-7.) And again Job is prostrated, and he answered the Lord and said, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge! Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” As the Lord wrestles with his people, bringing them low, they are enabled to lay hold upon his promises, to plead with the Lord his own immutability, and the honor of his name. This is a divine miracle, that a sinful creature should wrestle with the Lord, A miracle of God’s own invincible grace in the heart of a poor sinner. Draw near and look with sacred eyes at Jeremiah wrestling in prayer with God. “Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we look for peace, and there is no good; and for a time of healing, and behold trouble! We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have sinned against thee. Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.” – Jer. xiv. 19-21. When the Syro-phenician woman came unto Christ in behalf of her daughter, he wrestled with her, and she wrestled with him. First, he answered not a word, then again he answered, “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she clings yet more to him, and worshiped him, saying, “Lord help me.” But Jesus replied, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” Is ‘she not now cast from him, overthrown, a dog in the dust? But like Jacob she wrestles still, she clings to Jesus still, and her faith is saying, I will not let thee go except thou bless me, and she said, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the Master’s table.” She prevailed, and Jesus blessed her there, and said unto her, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt, and her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” – Matt. xv. 22.
“Wrestling prayer can wonders do,
Bring relief in deepest straits;
Prayer can force a passage through
Iron bars and brazen gates.”
(Concluded in next number.)
FRED W. KEENE
Signs Of The Times
Volume 70., No. 7.
APRIL 1, 1902.