So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.…
"Jacob" is dead; " Israel" still lives. I want now to pronounce the obituary of "Jacob." There are just two classes of lessons to be learned from the story of Bethel and Penuel, for there were just two persons in contact and conflict in this thirty years' war. The type of all is found in the early vision of the ladder. At the foot of it lay Jacob on his pillow of stone: "And behold, the Lord stood above it." Hence one class of lessons will instruct us concerning God, and one concerning man. One touches on doctrine, the other on duty. So everywhere " The Scriptures principally teach what we are to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man."
I. We begin with the lessons of DOCTRINE. The same Divine Being, with all attributes and characteristics unchanged, rules to-day as then. It is wisely worth our while to note how He is wont to deal with a free-willed human creature, and how He manages a world of such.
1. Mark, for one thing, how independent God is in choosing His especial agents. He chooses whom He will for His purposes; and He chose this man Jacob.
2. Now let us learn a second lesson, and possibly we shall derive some slight help before we get through with that. See how wise God is in discriminating character. Why did God choose Jacob rather than Esau? Because he was the more serviceable man of the two. The long run in those days was a more desirable thing than the short cut. Patient steadiness was more serviceable for the Divine ends than mere executive rush. James would have been better than Peter to go on Old Testament errands.
3. But we pass on to a third lesson: indeed, we feel the need of it. Mark here how persistent God is in preparing men for a better life by means of His choice. Just tell over the old fable as you used to tell it to your little children, for there is an illustration of Divine truth in it; I mean that about the coward whose cure was effected by an enchanted sword put in his hand. He was timid enough, but the trusty blade was of itself belligerent. He could not drop it, for it clung to his hand. He could not run to the rear, for the sword remained steadily at the head of the attack. He could not surrender, for the moment he got his foolish lips ready to cry for quarter, the weapon had already leapt from the scabbard and was fighting like a thing of life. So at last he began to understand it, then he began to obey it, then he began to watch it, then he began to trust it; and then he began to be a new man under its working. And home from the campaign he came, the welkin ringing with praises of his prowess. There is fine truth in that little tale. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It converts the man who carries it. And before you go any further in commenting on the singular choice God made of Jacob, thoughtfully consider that the choice was the exact force which made Jacob Israel.
4. One more lesson under this head; see here how perfectly satisfied God seems to be with the result of His election.
II. Lessons of DUTY.
1. One is concerning the recognition of God in even the personal biographies of men.
2. Another lesson is concerning what are sometimes called hard cases. "All the wood-carvings in God's temple have been made out of knots!"
3. A third lesson is concerning the value of even one high attainment of grace. You see in some true Christians the glory of superior meekness; in others the beauty of unusual zeal. So on: these excellencies are costly. They are rare; they have used up labour; they have been found with pain; but they transform and transfigure the whole character. The little child asked its aged grandparent. as it laid its tiny finger in the furrow of his forehead, "What made that wrinkle?" He might well ask, for an artist would have said it alone was the old man's feature of beauty. But what made it? An early sorrow first cut it, deep, sharp, painful. Then a time of generous success rounded its edges somewhat. Then a loss went over the line and made it plainer. As life rolled on, that wrinkle became one of the permanent institutions of the countenance, so that things gladdening and things saddening all went into it. And by-and-by there came to be fixed this quiet, resigned, gentle line in the face, to give it all its character. The Italians call Time "an inaudible file." It took fifty years to smooth and fashion that one exquisite expression. So there are lines on the soul which do not come at conversion or grow in an hour. It is better to begin early to work for such. Any one may miss his chance by being careless and getting behindhand.
4. Our final lesson is concerning the folly of losing thirty years of time.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.