And Jacob their father said to them, Me have you bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not…
1. The great object of religious discipline in this world is to prepare for the perfect happiness of a future existence. This is a fact too much lost sight of. Many, and especially young and inexperienced Christians, expect that the commencement of a religious life is to be a deliverance from those cares and sorrows, by the pressure of which they were perhaps first drawn to seek the Lord. Rut the great object of religion is to fit a guilty, polluted, lost creature, for the presence of God in a world of eternal happiness. But as the gift of inspired religion is rather a means of preparing the soul for the future life, than a provision of comfort for this, we remark —
2. Religion does not prevent the occurrence of those afflictions which are the common lot of mankind.
3. That if religion, or a real and religious connection with God, increases our afflictions, it sanctifies them. Though deeper afflictions do come upon the child of God, they are not the capricious severities of a hard master.
(1) They are sanctified by our Divine Master to the increase of faith.
(2) Again, the afflictions of the saints are appointed as a means of setting their affections on the things above.
(3) God sanctifies affliction to the increase of obedience. Entire submission to God is a difficult lesson.
(4) But observe that the years of later life are often more especially marked by correction and afflictive discipline. It is partly owing to natural causes. The natural progress of events and relationships serves for a time to increase our hold upon this present scene, and to open to us new sources of earthly enjoyment. But though we conceive that these things are adding to our happiness, and are consequently anxious to increase them, they are so many additional points at which we are accessible to affliction; and then, at last, the time comes, when we feel that schemes and plans will fail, and unexpected misfortunes will arise. The happiness on which we calculated ends in disappointment, Life is, in this respect, like a tree, which in its progress to maturity sustains, and soon recovers an injury, by the energy of the vegetative principle; but after it has spread to its widest extent, both in the root and the branch, and the day of maturity is gone by, it is more widely exposed to injuries than ever — and every day less fitted to repair them. But it is of Divine appointment also that afflictions crowd upon the decline of life. We see it in the history of the saints — in Jacob and Eli and David. We see it every day around us. There is much to be done in the heart, which remains long undone; and life glides away, and grey hairs are upon us, before we are prepared to submit to the needful discipline. And yet the work must be done. God therefore hastens His work of sanctification, and often, very often, sustains and sanctifies the soul of His faithful pilgrim under an accumulation of suffering, which once would have appeared absolutely insupportable: "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and Rachel is not, and ye will take Benjamin away."(5) But observe, the believer sometimes, in the crisis of affliction, loses sight of the great object of afflictive discipline, and receives it in a wrong spirit. The spirit of resistance shown strongly in the case of Jacob. In the bitterness of his sorrow, he exclaimed, "All these things are against me." It was the language of passion, of momentary rebellion. In these few words Jacob was guilty of a forgetfulness of the former faithfulness and love of his Almighty Friend — "All these things are against me." Jacob was guilty of an aggravation of the causes of his sorrow. It is difficult in the time of recent affliction to take a deliberate view of the afflictive circumstances; but it is unwarrantable in a complaining spirit to exaggerate them. "Simeon is not." Why should Jacob suppose so? Jacob was guilty here also of a premature decision of the whole case, without reference to the Divine power. He had seen his former trials terminating to the welfare of his own soul, and to the glory of God. Jacob was guilty of a decline from the practical conviction of his unworthiness, which formerly he strongly felt.
(6) But observe, such afflictive dispensations issue in the vindication of God's dealings with His people, and in their advancement in grace and holiness. But see how the development of the dispensation vindicates the gracious providence of God. Of the three sons who were the subject of the Patriarch's grief, Joseph was already exalted to an honourable station, Simeon was safe under his brother's roof, and Benjamin was in this very matter the object of his brother's peculiar solicitude; and the whole family bad been so specially the object of Divine protection. Such visitations issue in the superior sanctification of God's people. We must not look at the fretful repining of Jacob, without noticing the settled composure with which he meets the severity of the trial when it must be endured. Nothing can be more interesting than the spirit of submission with which he addresses himself at last to this distressing sacrifice, "If it must be so now, do this. Take of the best fruits of the land, and carry down the man a present." Certainly, Christians in general must not expect a conclusion to their trials so marvellous as this; but, at the same time, God is infinitely wise in the choice of the facts by which our faith is to be strengthened and encouraged; and He would not have put upon the record a history so remarkable, if He did not mean us to gather from it how much we may expect from His gracious providence, as the issue of those trials in which we bend with meekness to His will.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.