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MATTHEW 13:44


CHAPTER VII

    As Jacob neared the borders of Palestine he must have been reminded of the circumstances which caused him to leave that land twenty years before. Surely he was filled with misgivings. He had just parted from one foe, Laban, and now was to face a more formidable one, Esau. In his dealings with Laban, Jacob could plead justice and point to the selfishness of his former employer; but what could he say to Esau concerning the past? Did Esau still harbor thoughts of revenge for what had happened twenty years before?

    Yahweh had instructed Jacob to return to the land of his fathers (Genesis 31:3,13), and he couldn't very well go back to Haran after his break with Laban: there was nothing left to do but trust Yahweh. Jacob recalled how twenty years before as he passed that way he had seen a vision of Angels ascending and descending, which seemed to signify direct Communication, blessing, and protection from Heaven. In that same vision Yahweh, Himself had confirmed to him the birthright and the blessing.

    Now, returning " —Jacob went on his way and the Angels of Elohim met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is Elohim's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim." (Genesis 32:1-2). At Bethel he had seen the Angels in a dream; but he now sees them while awake. This experience reassured him and infused him with new courage, and he dared to hope for a reconciliation with his brother.

    With this thought in mind he sent ahead a gift of goats, camels, cattle, and asses to Esau. But his messenger returned without a reply. This news must have alarmed Jacob and have shaken his faith. Jacob considered that he had always been able by his own devices to overcome the obstacles and dangers he had encountered, but now he felt absolutely helpless in the face of an enemy who had sworn to kill him.

"Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and the camels into two bands." (Genesis 32:7)

Then he went to pray and called upon Yahweh for the protection He had promised him (Refer to Genesis 32:912). Jacob confessed his unworthiness, reminded Yahweh of the gracious promises, and pleaded for deliverance from the vengeance of his brother. Jacob begins to realize that he must trust Yahweh and not depend on his own efforts to obtain the promises which Yahweh had covenanted to give him.

    During the night he arose and sent his wives and sons and stock across the brook, Jabok. Jacob himself remained on the north side of the brook.

"And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the break of day." (Genesis 22:34)

As Jacob stood alone watching his loved ones and his possessions depart, he went through the experience that so many believers have had: in spite of his belief in Yahweh and in the promises made to his forefathers, he had not yet fully integrated his avowed beliefs with his emotions. He did not yet really know Yahweh. For he was still Jacob, the self-helper, the supplanter, who always took things in his own hands. Now he had come to the end of his resources and his own resourcefulness left him in solitude. Until a man realizes his own inadequacy and fully faces the fact of his dependency, he is incapable of living a life of faith. Jacob needed a new birth and a new outlook. He had to learn that the greatest victories are won not by one's own resources but by the power of Yahweh. The man who came to wrestle with Jacob was the Angel of Yahweh

"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." (Genesis 32:25)

The longer one strives to maintain the illusion of self sufficiency the longer he is actually striving against Yahweh. The longer one struggles against Yahweh or His plan, the longer he keeps himself from having the blessings that He wants to give us.

    As Jacob wrestled in a losing struggle with the Angel, he became conscious that his way of life was a futile struggle against Yahweh — and stopped contending. Not only that, but he reversed his attitude and took a firm hold and refused to let go of the Angel who said, "Let me go, for the day breaketh." But Jacob said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." Jacob's outlook appeared to him so hopeless that he knew he could not continue in his own strength so he asked a blessing that he might prevail.

    We should not miss the significance of the Angel's question. A full blessing was not possible until Jacob confessed his own sinful condition. The Angel drew from Jacob this confession when he asked, "What is thy name (character) ? And he said, Jacob (the cunning, self-helper, supplanter). And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel (a prince of El): for as a prince thou hast power with Elohim and with men and hast prevailed." (Genesis 32 :26-28) . Jacob's new name was characteristic of his new life in which victory came not through cunning or physical power but by prayer. As the dawn burst over the horizon, Jacob was aware of the change that had taken place within him, for this was the greatest victory of his life — victory over self. And he marked the place, naming it, "Peniel" (face of El) for he said, "I have seen Elohim face to face and my life is preserved." (Genesis 32 :30)

    Jacob had been the believing heir of the promises but all his life he had hindered Yahweh's fulfillment of these promises, in that he sought success by his own devices and by his own strength. Seeming to contend with men, he was in reality contending with Elohim until at last it became necessary for Yahweh Himself to disable him so that he could no longer help himself. As soon as he learned to depend upon Elohim he found he no longer feared his encounter with Esau.

    Israel met Esau and they fell upon one another's necks and kissed and wept. For Yahweh had neutralized Esau's vengeful intentions.

    After the encounter, Israel went on to Succoth, built himself a house and booths for his stock, and bought a parcel of land where he had spread his tents. Instead of going to his kindred where he had been instructed to go he remained in this place, and it proved to be a new source of trial to him. It was here that his only daughter, Dinah, went to visit the daughters of the land. The historian, Flavius Josephus, tells us that she went to take part in a Shechemite festival, that is, an unholy, idolatrous celebration, where she was seduced by Shechem, the son of Hamor. This disgrace was more than her brothers, Simeon and Levi could endure and they took revenge upon the Shechemites. It was a bloody purge in which the entire male population of Shechem was exterminated. This brutality made their father, Israel, recoil with the reproach,

"Ye have troubled me to make me stink among the inhabitants of the land and among the Canaanites and Perizites: 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." (Genesis 34:30)

    However, Yahweh did not abandon Israel to His enemies but caused the occasion to bring about a further blessing. For it was clear after what had happened, that he could no longer stay here.

"And Elohim said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto Elohim that appeared unto thee when thou fledest from the face of Esau thy brother." (Genesis 35:1)

About ten years had elapsed since he had returned from Mesopotamia and yet Jacob had not fulfilled the vows to Yahweh which he had made. (Genesis 28:20-22).

    In the second verse of the 35th Chapter of Genesis we learn the reason for this delay. Jacob's family was steeped in idolatry. Before his experience at Peniel Jacob had been too weak spiritually to insist on absolute holiness for his household. Now, because of the idolatry in Dinah's own home she had been easily mislead by the idolatrous worship of the people of Shechem. In such a state Jacob found it morally impossible to return to Bethel but fear of his neighbors rising up against him and his own inability to resist attack from their superior force made him realize that deliverance must come from Yahweh. Jacob knew that neither he nor his family was spiritually fit to seek communion with Yahweh. There was but one thing to do and he quickly called a family council:

"Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be cleansed and change your garments: And let us arise, and go to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto the Elohim, who answered me in the day of my distress and was with me in the way which I went." (Genesis 35:2-3)

    What depth of meaning these words contain ! Jacob at last has found the clue to full salvation: Repent from the idolatrous and sinful ways in which you are now living and be cleansed (baptized) in the Name of Yahweh Elohim and exchange your garments — your righteousness is as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6 — for the gifts of the Holy Spirit which brings in the righteousness of Yahweh. Then let us arise and go to Beth-EI (the House of El) and consecrate our lives unto Yahweh, who answers in the day of distress.

    The same conditions are required of us today: to give up our idols and our sins and to take all the superfluities of this world and bury them so deep that we will never wish to dig them up again: to be baptized in His Name and to put on the white linen of righteousness. (Rev. 19:8).

CHAPTER VIII


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