A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, February
3, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle,
Behold I am with you. [Ge 28:15]
I will be with you. [Ge 31:3]
The God of my father has been with me. [Ge 31:5]
Behold, I die: but God shall be with you. [Ge 48:21]
1. My discourse this evening will scarcely be a sermon — it will be expository rather of the life and experience of Jacob upon one point. In order to bring it out I shall need four texts, but lest you should let any one of them slip, I will give them to you one at a time.
2. I. First, turn to the twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis, and read of PRESENT BLESSING. The Lord said to his servant Jacob, — “Behold, I am with you.” [Ge 28:15]
3. Jacob was the heir of a great blessing from his forefathers, for this sentence was spoken in connection with the following words, “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac.” It is an inexpressible privilege, dear friends, to be able to look back to father and grandfather, and perhaps further still, and to say, “We come from a house which has served the Lord as far back as history can inform us.” Descended from Christians, we have a greater honour than being descended from princes. There is no heraldry like the heraldry of the saints. Jacob might be very thankful that, just as God had blessed Abraham and had blessed Isaac, so he blessed him in the same way, speaking to him in the same terms as he had spoken to them, for he had expressly said to each of them, “I am with you.” Are any of you the children of godly parents, and has the Lord called you by his grace? Then bless his name, and take heed that you do nothing to dishonour an estate so honourable. Try and maintain, as long as you live, the good reputation which in infinite love God has put upon your household. Are you, however, a child of godly parents and not yet converted? I would warn you against putting the slightest reliance upon your birth; for, remember, if Isaac was the child of Abraham, so also was Ishmael, but no blessing came to Ishmael of a spiritual kind. It is in vain to be born by blood, or by the will of the flesh; we must be born again from above. God is a sovereign, he is not bound to dispense his favours from father to son: and when he does so, we are to admire his grace. Do not imagine that there is such a thing as hereditary piety; it must be created in each individual by the very same Spirit. Still, it is one of the highest privileges that God has ever been pleased to grant to me that I can rejoice in a father and a grandfather who trained me in the fear of God; and I congratulate every young person who has such a pedigree. May God bless you. Do not be satisfied unless you yourself obtain such mercy as God gave to your ancestors, and hear the Lord saying, “I am with you.”
4. This mercy was brought home to Jacob at a time when he greatly needed it. He had just left his father’s house, and he felt himself all alone. He was coming into special trial, and then it was that he received a fuller understanding of the privilege which God had in store for him. Let me read the words to you, — “I am with you.” I have tried to think them out so that I might speak concerning them to you; but they are too full. I defy anyone to measure their height and depth, their length and breadth. That God should give to Jacob food to eat and clothing to put on was much, but it is nothing compared with “I am with you.” That God should send his angel with Jacob to protect him would have been much; but it is nothing compared with, “I am with you.” This includes countless blessings, but it is in itself a great deal more than all the blessings we can conceive of. There are many fruits that come from it, but the tree that yields them is better than the fruit. “I am with you.” Will God in very deed dwell with men upon the earth? Will God walk with a man, and speak with him? “Lord, what is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man, that you visit him?” And yet he says, “I am with you.” You are in your courts above, and you make heaven by your presence, and yet you say, “I am with you.” What more could you say to a seraph than this — “I am with you?”
5. Why, when God is with a man there is a familiarity of condescension that is altogether unspeakable: it ensures an infinite love. “I am with you.” God will not dwell with those he hates. He puts away the wicked of the earth like dross. He says to them, “Depart, I never knew you”; but to each one of his people he says, “I know you by your name; you are mine. And, more than that, I am with you.” Just as a man delights to be with a friend, so are the delights of Christ with the sons of men, whom he has chosen and redeemed with blood.
6. “I am with you,” — it means practical help. Whatever we undertake, God is with us in the undertaking; whatever we endure, God is with us in the enduring; wherever we wander, God is with us in our wandering. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” If God is with us, can we ever be exiled or banished? If God is with us, what can we not do? If God is with us, what can we not endure? Well said the apostle, as if answering that question, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “I am with you.” Come, brother or sister, if you wish to get the fulness of this privilege, believe that God is near you now, near to you as he who sits at your side; indeed, nearer; for he is so with you as to be in you. And do you know that his whole Godhead is with you? “I am with you”: as if there were not another, the whole Godhead is with you. You do not have to cry aloud like Baal’s priests, or cut yourself with knives, so that you may attract his attention; for he says, “I am with you.” He hears your sighs; he puts your tears into his bottle. “I am with you.” And you have not only his presence, but also his sympathy: he means, I am feeling with you, suffering with you. If there is a load, I bear it with you; if there is work to do, I will work with you. You are workers together with God. Beloved, did I not rightly say that I can never expound all this to you? Roll it under your tongue as a sweet morsel, and if it goes down into your inward parts it shall not be bitter there, but sweeter still. “I am with you.” Oh, the richness of this special blessing!
7. How precious it must have seemed as it came to Jacob in that den of a place, where he lay with the hedges for his curtains, the heavens for his canopy, the earth for his bed, stones for his pillow, and God for his companion. “I am with you. Tomorrow when you shall open your eyes you will look back to the west and say, ‘I have left my father’s house and my mother, Rebecca, behind me’; and the tears will be in your eyes; and you will look to the east and say, ‘I am going to the house of my mother’s kindred, and I do not know them, except that I have heard concerning uncle Laban that he is hard and grasping; and I do not know how he will receive me.’ ” But is that not a precious thing to start upon a journey with — “I am with you” — I, the ever-blessed? Though your mother is not with you, “I am with you.” Is any young friend here who is leaving home? Are you going away for the first time, and do you feel sad? Or are you about to emigrate to a distant country, and does your heart feel heavy? Do not go at all until you can get a hold of this, “I am with you.” Say to the Lord, “If your Spirit does not go with me, do not carry me up there.” Wait until he gives the answer, “My Spirit shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” This ought to be the blessing of your opening life, “I am with you.” Is God with you tonight? Can God be with you? Some come to service after having quarrelled with their wives and families; God is not with them. People who are following illicit trades, and living bad lives, and rejecting the gospel, God cannot be with them. “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” If you are a believer in Christ, and the Spirit of God has produced in you the true fruits of the Spirit, then you may say, “He is with me”; but not otherwise.
8. II. Now turn to the thirty-first chapter of Genesis, and read these words, — “I will be with you.” [Ge 31:3] We will call this FUTURE BLESSING.
It is almost unnecessary to take this second text; for if it is
written, “I am with you,” you may depend on it that he will
be with us, for God does not forsake his people. Some people
believe in a God who loves today and hates tomorrow; who pardons sin
and yet afterwards condemns. Such a God is not my God; for mine is
Whom once he loves he never leaves,
But loves them to the end.
“I am God; I do not change: therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
10. Poor Jacob had been living with Laban, and had passed through many messes and troubles, and it was time that he should receive the word of blessing over again. We read that, “Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not towards him as before.” He had begun to take root in the worldling’s portion, and was willing to stay away from the promised land, and build up a family among his worldly connections; but the Lord practically said to him, “This is not your rest.” Laban’s sons begin to growl as they see how their brother-in-law’s flocks have increased, and therefore the time has come for Jacob to go. Jacob does not like it, he never did like moving. Family connections, a host of children, and a huge herd of cattle, made moving a great undertaking. Then the Lord said to him, “I will be with you”; as much as to say, “I will be more with you in Canaan than I ever have been in this place, which is not the land of promise. I will give you my special presence if you will get away into the place of the separated life; and walk with me as your father Isaac did.” It was very sweet many years ago to some of us to hear the Lord say, “I am with you,” and to know that it was true; for “truly our fellowship was with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ”; but it may at this hour be very opportune if the Lord should renew his promise to us by saying, “I will be with you.” You are beginning a new form of life, you are entering on new trials, you are undertaking new duties, and now comes in the new promise, “I will be with you.” If those upon whom you had a right to rely have turned against you, if those who were really indebted to you have become envious of you — “yet, nevertheless,” says God, “I will be with you.”
11. Jacob’s journey was to be a very adventurous one. He knew that Laban would not like it, and, probably, would pursue him; but God says, “Go, and I will be with you.” He knew also that his brother Esau would be pretty sure to take vengeance upon him for the sorry trick he had played on him; and that touched his conscience, and he feared and trembled; but God said, “I will be with you.” The plainest road in the world is wrong if God does not tell us to take it; and the roughest and most unpromising way will turn out to be safe and right if God commands our journey. Jonah thought it was all right to go to Tarshish; but God was not with him, and he came back by a route which he never expected to follow. If you go your own road, I wish you may be fortunate enough to have as good a return conveyance as Jonah did, for you will certainly have to come back. But if the road is ever so rough, if it is God’s road, you shall run over it like a young roe; God will make your feet like hinds’ feet, and you shall tread upon your high places. “Your shoes shall be iron and bronze; and as your days, so shall your strength be.” Only, watch that you follow a road in which God can be with you; for there are some ways in which God will never be found. He cannot walk in the ways of sin, or worldliness, or self-seeking: if we choose these we must go alone.
12. See, then, the promised mercy, and rejoice in it. Go forward, dear child of God, if the pillar of cloud is moving, without the slightest hesitancy, and let this be your joy and comfort — “Certainly, I will be with you. In all places wherever you go I will be with you.”
13. III. I want to go a step further, and come, in the third place, to EXPERIENCED BLESSINGS.
14. Let us look at Jacob’s experience. Did Jacob find God to be with him? He had a long life and a tried one. He was a man who knew a great deal, and men who know a great deal are doubly likely to have great trouble. Cunning, wise, crafty, prudent, self-reliant people frequently flounder out of one slough into another. Above all things, I should dread being partner with a man that is overly wise, for such men either make fools of themselves, or else they have to sleep with one eye open. Jacob’s cunning was harmful to him in the long run. Abraham was simple as a child; he believed God, and never stooped to a trick: and therefore his life was a noble one. Jacob was a very wise person, the kind of gentleman to have made a financier, or the manager of a company. He was a rare man of business; in fact, he was the father of the Jews, and that is saying a great deal. Yet because of his sharpness he was often robbed, and through his cunning he was often outwitted; and he did not, after all, so much enjoy life, and was neither so rich nor so happy as his simple-minded grandfather, Abraham.
15. We will, however, hear what Jacob has to say about these two gracious words of God, “I am with you,” and “I will be with you.” Turn to the thirty-first chapter again, and read the fifth verse. Up to as far as the time that he was about to leave Laban, he says, — “The God of my father has been with me.” [Ge 31:5]
16. I have read that testimony with great joy. I thought of Jacob like this — Well, you certainly were not eminent for grace while you were with Laban. You were plotting and scheming — you against Laban and Laban against you; and yet your witness is, “The God of my father has been with me.” This is all the more encouraging as coming from you. Jacob seems to say of his God: “It was he who gave me my wife and my children; it was he who prospered me in the teeth of those who tried to rob me; the God of my father has been with me notwithstanding all my shortcomings.” I trust that some of you can bear the same witness. Though you have not been all that you could wish to be in the Christian life, yet you can say, “The God of my father has been with me.”
17. Now, we will look at him a little further on, in the thirty-fifth chapter: there we shall find him saying — “Let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” [Ge 35:3]
18. As I have already said, he left Laban’s house; and it was a very adventuresome journey, but God was with him: Jacob tells us that it was so. Poor Jacob was full of fear when he heard that Esau was coming to meet him. You can see that by the way in which he divided his flocks and his herds, and set apart so large a present for Esau. But God does not leave his people because of their fears. I am so thankful for that. If he were to cast us off because of our unbelief, is there one of us who would not have been cast off long ago? There was Peter walking on the waters with a brave faith: was not Christ with him? Yes, or else he could not have stood on the wave at all. Eventually his faith failed him, and down went Peter; but did Christ give him up and say, “You shall die: according to your unbelief so it shall be to you?” No, there is not such a word as that in the Bible; but it is written, “According to your faith it shall be to you.” Jesus stretched out his hand and grasped sinking Peter, saying, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” So, though you may grieve the Lord by doubting and fearing, and though you ought to be ashamed of yourself for doing so, yet, still, he will not forsake you. If there is faith in your heart, though it is only little, you shall have to say, despite your doubts and fears, “The Lord was with me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”
19. There was a night of wrestling with Jacob. His faith enabled him to draw near to God in mighty prayer, and his fear made him all the more desperate and importunate. He said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Although he had to be importunate, yet it was not because God was against him, but because God was with him; for he who can exercise importunate prayer proves that God is with him strengthening him to supplicate like this. His wrestlings ended in his victory.
20. On that day, too, I have no doubt, Jacob was very much cast down, because he remembered his sin. He knew he had badly treated Esau, and robbed him of the blessing; but, for all that, he came with a repentant heart to submit himself before his brother and to do what he could to please him. Because of this, God was with him. Oh, in that day, dear child of God, when you remember your faults, and your heart is heavy, do not think that the Lord has left you. It is one sign that he is with you that he makes you confess your sin, and humble yourself before him. Still believe in him; still hear his word; and you shall have to say, “He was with me in the way which I went.”
21. At the close of his life we find Jacob more fully than ever confessing that the presence of God had been with him. I read the passage for you where he wished that the God who had been with him might be with his grandsons in the very same way — the forty-eighth chapter, at the fifteenth and sixteenth verses. “He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who fed me all my lifelong to this day, the Angel who redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.’ ” [Ge 48:15,16] There is his last testimony to the faithfulness of God.
22. He had lost Rachel — oh, how it stung his heart; but he says, “God redeemed me from all evil.” There had come a great famine in the land; but he says that God had fed him all his lifelong. He had lost Joseph, and that had been a great sorrow; but now, in looking back, he sees that even then God was redeeming him from all evil. He said once, “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and you will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me”; but now he eats his words, and says, “The Lord has redeemed me from all evil.” He now believes that God had been always with him, had always fed him, and always redeemed him, and always blessed him.
23. Now, notice that if you trust in God, this shall be your verdict at the close of life. When you come to die you shall look back upon a life which has not been without its trials and its difficulties, but you shall bless God for it all: and if there is any one thing in life for which you will have to praise God more than for another, it will probably be that very event which seems darkest to you. Did God ever do a better thing for Jacob than when he took Joseph away and sent him to Egypt to preserve the whole family alive? It was the most severe trial of the poor old man’s career, and yet the brightest blessing after all. Can you not believe it? Inside that hard-shelled nut there is the sweetest kernel that you have ever tasted. Rest assured of that. Your Father’s rumbling wagons have awaken you out of sleep, and you are frightened by them; but they are loaded with ingots of gold. You never have been so rich as you will be after your great trouble shall have passed away.
24. IV. It is time for me to conclude, and I do so by bringing before you, in the fourth place, one more word of blessing. We have had present blessing: we have had future blessing: we have had experienced blessing three times over: and now we go to TRANSMITTED BLESSING; for we find Jacob transmitting the blessing to his son and to his grandson. We read in the forty-eighth chapter, — “Behold I die: but God shall be with you.” [Ge 48:21]
I began by noticing the blessing which passed on from Abraham to
Isaac: and now we see that Jacob hands it on to Joseph, to Manasseh,
and to Ephraim, — “I die: but God shall be with you.” Some of you
perhaps are thinking, “We are getting near the end of life; we have
children, but they are not all converted yet, and those who are, it
may be, are dependent upon us: what will become of them?” Do you
think God will leave your children? Can you not trust them with him?
What did your father do with his son? One after another the former
generations have passed away, and the Lord has been faithful to their
successors. Do you think he will not be faithful to those who come
next? You have brought up your children in his fear; you have rested
upon his name, and therefore you may say to them, “I die: but God
shall be with you.” The time will come when we who are ministers
shall be taken away from our beloved work on earth, and we cannot
help thinking about the dear friends who hang upon our every word and
depend upon our ministry. It is good for us to look a little ahead
and say, “I die: but God shall be with you.” My venerated
predecessor, Dr. Rippon, many a time prayed for his successor. I am
sure he did not know who his successor was to be, for I was born
about the time when he was dying; but, doubtless, I inherit that good
man’s prayers. I am sure I do. “I die,” the old man might have said,
“but God shall be with you.” The church at New Park Street thought it
an awful thing for the old gentleman to die; but he would have been
of no service to us if he had remained here for ever. And so it will
be eventually. People say, “What will the Tabernacle people do if
they lose their minister?” It will probably be the greatest of
blessings when it happens. Many good men have clung to their places
longer than they should have done, and have pulled down much that
they had built up. It is good when the Lord says to them, “Friend,
come up higher.” We may look forward each one to leaving our Sunday
School class, or to leaving the church over which we watch, or to
leaving the great work over which we preside and we may say, “I die:
but God shall be with you.” God is not limited to one minister or
fifty ministers. When we are gone, God will be with you. They used to
say of our dear friend, George Müller, “What will become of the
Orphanage when Mr. Müller is laid aside?” When I was speaking to him,
he said to me, “That was a question which I felt George Müller had
nothing to do with. God will use George Müller as long as he likes,
and when he chooses to set him aside, he will use someone else.” And
now, notice, George Müller is not at Bristol. I believe he is at this
present moment preaching in America. He has been all over Europe
preaching, and the Orphanage has had very little of his personal
presence, and yet it has gone on without George Müller, so far. Such
a fact tends to answer man’s idle questions. Blessed be the
everlasting God — if Abraham dies, there is Isaac; and if Isaac dies,
there is Jacob; and if Jacob dies, there is Joseph; and if Joseph
dies, Ephraim, and Manasseh survive. The Lord shall never lack a
champion to bear his standard high among the sons of men. Only let us
pray God to raise up more faithful ministers. That ought to be our
prayer day and night. We have plenty of a kind, but, oh, for more
that will weigh out sixteen ounces to the pound of gospel in such a
way that people will receive it. We have too much of fine language,
too much of florid eloquence, and too little full and plain gospel
preaching; but God will keep up the apostolic succession, never fear
for that. When Stephen is dying Paul is not far off. When Elijah is
taken up, he leaves his mantle behind him. “I die: but God shall be
with you.” Take comfort, dear friends, and may his Spirit be with
you, through Jesus Christ, his dear Son, whose name is Christ, his
dear Son, whose name is “Emmanuel” — God with us.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ge 28]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 23” 23 @@ "(Version 3)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — Christ Our Strength” 681]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love — The Firm Foundation” 732]
The Preacher has often been requested by his friends to report to
them during his absence, and he therefore wishes to say that he has
safely reached the south of France, and already feels refreshed by
change of scene, and by escaping the fog and frost into a balmy
summer air. If pain is avoided by this, the mind invigorated, and
life prolonged, the time is well spent. Our hope is in the great
“Preserver of men” that it will assuredly be so. The prayers of
loving friends are asked that in retirement nets may be mended in
which many afterwards are taken.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 23 (Version 1)
1 My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he mikes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
2 He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake his ways:
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
3 When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
4 Thy hand, in spite of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows;
Thine oil anoints my head.
5 The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
Oh may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!
6 There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, or a guest,
But like a child at home.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 23 (Version 2)
1 The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
2 My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.
3 Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
4 My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
5 Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house for ever more
My dwelling place shall be.
Scotch Version, 1641.
Psalm 23. (Version 3)
1 The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want beside?
2 He leads me to the place
Where heavenly pasture grows,
Where living waters gently pass,
And full salvation flows.
3 If e’er I go astray,
He doth my soul reclaim;
And guides me in his own right way,
For his most holy name.
4 While he affords his aid,
I cannot yield to fear;
Though I should walk through death’s dark shade,
My Shepherd’s with me there.
5 In spite of all my foes,
Thou dost my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
And joy exalts my head.
6 The bounties of thy love
Shall crown my following days;
Nor from thy house will I remove,
Nor cease to speak thy praise.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 23 (Version 4)
1 The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a Shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye;
My noonday walks he will attend,
And all my midnight hours defend.
2 Though in the paths of death I tread,
With gloomy horrors overspread,
My stedfast heart shall fear no ill,
For thou, Oh Lord! are with me still:
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid,
And guide me through the dreadful shade.
Joseph Addison, 1712.
The Christian, Courage and Confidence
681 — Christ Our Strength
1 Let me but hear my Saviour say,
Strength shall be equal to thy day!
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all sufficient grace.
2 I glory in infirmity,
That Christ’s own power may rest on me;
When I am weak, then am I strong,
Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.
3 I can do all things, or can bear
All sufferings, if my Lord be there:
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains,
While his left hand my head sustains.
4 But if the Lord be once withdrawn,
And we attempt the work alone,
When new temptations spring and rise,
We find how great our weakness is.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love
732 — The Firm Foundation <11s.>
1 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
2 In every condition — in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
“As thy days may demand shall thy strength ever be.”
3 “Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismay’d!
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.”
4 “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of grief shall not thee overflow:
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
5 “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
6 “E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”
7 “The soul that on Jesus hath lean’d for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
George Keith, 1787.