3010. Jacob’s Model Prayer

by Charles H. Spurgeon on June 22, 2020

No. 3010-52:505. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, June 16, 1867, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, October 18, 1906.

And Jacob said, “Oh God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country, and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant, for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and strike me, and the mother with the children. And you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” {Ge 32:9-12}

For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1787, “Humility the Friend of Prayer1788}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3010, “Jacob’s Model Prayer” 3011}

   Exposition on Ge 32:1-33:12 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2739, “‘I Have Enough.’” 2740 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Ge 32; Ps 119:33-40 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2979, “Our Banner2980 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Ge 32 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2817, “Jacob’s Fear and Faith2818 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Ge 32 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3010, “Jacob’s Model Prayer” 3011 @@ "Exposition"}

   {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Ge 32:11"}

   {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Ge 32:12"}

1. You must have noticed, dear friends, how very frequently God makes the life of a man to be the reflection of his character. There is an echo, in the outward experience, to the inward character of the man.

2. Look at the life of Abraham. He trusted God in a very eminent degree; shall I be incorrect if I say that God also eminently trusted him? The Lord spoke with Abraham as a man speaks with his friend; and when he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” And since Abraham had trusted God in so notable a manner, the Lord entrusted his seed with the oracles of God, and with the outward forms of religious worship, so that it was through the seed of Abraham that the truth was handed down, from generation to generation, until the days of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Then, next, in contrast to the life of Abraham, take the case of Jacob. He begins life by cheating his brother; and, however that cheating may have been overruled so as to fulfil the purposes of God, it was altogether unjustifiable. Now, just as he had begun with Esau in that way, so he had it returned into his own bosom. When he was with Laban, he was cheated again and again, — cheated even in the wife who was given or sold to him. He was a great bargainer, shrewd, crafty, not overly scrupulous, — the typical father of the Jews; yet you know how he was continually being outsmarted by Laban, who could also bargain on his own account. What a bargaining life it was all through, and what a life of sorrow, although he was still favoured by God. His outward experience was the echo of his inward character. Just as he had done to others, so it was done to him, and in him was fulfilled our Lord’s declaration, which had not then been uttered, “With what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again.”

4. Look also at Moses, practically renouncing the throne of Egypt by refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt; yet what did he later become? Was he not king in Jeshurun, with a strange and marvellous power over the hosts of the Lord, and with a greater kingdom under him, according to the judgment of all who are able to weigh things properly, than he could ever have had if he had become the ruler of Egypt, and the son of Pharaoh’s daughter?

5. I might give you other illustrations of this fact; but I want, rather, to draw your attention to the better side of Jacob’s character as we have it revealed in the prayer which I have selected for our meditation on this occasion.

6. The chapter, from which our text is taken, informs us concerning the circumstances of Jacob’s case at the time that he offered this prayer. He had just escaped from his trouble with Laban when he received the inexpressible honour of being met by “the angels of God.” But, lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations which they made to him, a second trouble followed closely on the heels of the first. He was soon to meet his brother Esau; and then, the great sin of his earlier years would be brought home to him. He had deceived his old father Isaac, and had gained the birthright blessing by utterly unjustifiable subtlety; and he might reasonably expect that he was about to reap the due reward of his evil deeds.

7. With true oriental craft, and also with a considerable amount of common sense, he has various plans for appeasing the wrath of his brother; and then, when he had done what he thought to be wise, he betook himself to prayer. Brethren, let us learn, from Jacob’s experience, to expect troubles, especially if we have acted so as to bring trouble on ourselves; but let us also learn, from Jacob’s action, that, while planning is good enough when kept within its proper bounds, prayer is much more important. We may easily go to excess in our planning; we may depend so much on an arm of flesh, and on our own wisdom and prudence, and have such confidence in our own scheming that it may, after all, turn out to be utter folly. The staff, on which we lean, may turn out to be, at best, only a broken reed; perhaps even a spear which shall pierce and wound us. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man”; or to have confidence in ourselves; for, even if we had all the wisdom that it is possible for man to attain, it would be only created wisdom; whereas, if we go at once to the Lord our God, we shall go to infinite wisdom, and we may expect to be guided properly through all the difficulties of the way.

8. Prayer, my brethren, must be our first resource; or if it is also the last, let it be the first as well. Let us not merely go to God’s door because we have tried everyone else, and failed. Let us not go to the fountain simply because the cisterns are exhausted; but let us go to our God first and foremost; and let us say, “Even if earth’s cisterns did contain water, we would not forsake our God for them; and if all the forces of our fellow creatures were as real and powerful as they profess to be, we would still lean on the arm that bears up the whole universe, — the unseen arm of the faithful Creator.”

9. I selected this subject for our meditations, on this occasion, because it appears to me to give us a kind of model of what prayer should be. We shall view it first in that light; and when we have done so, I shall have a little to say about Jacob’s last plea, for it is most suggestive; and then I shall close with a word or two on the answer to this model prayer of the patriarch.

10. I. First, then, concerning JACOB’S MODEL PRAYER, which is one of the earliest that is recorded in Holy Scripture; at least, in such detail.

11. I commend it for your imitation, my dear friends, first, because of the plainness of its subject-matter. Jacob does not come before God with a long roundabout story, telling in general terms the fact that he was in some kind of trouble, out of which he wished to be divinely helped; but he distinctly mentions the perilous circumstances in which he found himself. He says, “Oh God, … please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau.” Of course, God knew that the name of Jacob’s brother was Esau; yet Jacob thought it was necessary to mention his brother’s name in order that his prayer should be definite and clear. So he pleaded, “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and strike me, and the mother with the children.” He was probably then alluding to his dearly beloved Rachel and her son Joseph, though he may also have referred to the other mothers in the company, for he was a tender father, and cared for his children, and he mentioned them as being very near to his heart, and especially needing divine protection. So you see that Jacob is very clear concerning what he asks from God; and I urge you, my brethren, to imitate him in this respect.

12. When we pray, we sometimes use very roundabout expressions; we do not come straight to the point; we seem to imagine that a kind of religious etiquette forbids us from speaking plainly at the throne of grace. I am persuaded that this notion is altogether wrong; and instead of God approving this mode of speaking to him in prayer, he would much rather have us speak to him as a child speaks to his earthly father, — respectfully, reverently, remembering that he is in heaven, and we are on earth, yet simply and plainly, for our Heavenly Father needs no garnishing of our speech; and the poor tawdry flowers of eloquence, with which some of our brethren at times adorn their prayers, must be displeasing to God rather than acceptable to him. Especially must you unconverted ones imitate Jacob in this matter of plainness of speech; when you pray, never mind about the mode of your expression, but come to the main point at once. Tell the Lord that you have grievously offended him; and mention your sins to him in private, by name. If your great sin has been drunkenness, call it by that name; if it has been uncleanness, call it by that name. Do not endeavour to be vague before the Lord, or to cloak your sin before the all-seeing Jehovah. You need not reach down a Prayer-Book to see how the bishops would have you pray, nor borrow someone’s Morning Devotions to see how a certain eminent divine prayed; but go straight to God, and say, “Oh Lord, you know what I need! I am a poor guilty sinner, and I cannot express myself in such a way as to please my fellow creatures; but you know what I am, and what I need. Will you graciously give me the pardon of my sin, oh you who alone can forgive the guilty? Will you receive me to your bosom, you blessed Saviour of the lost?” Come to the point with God, dear friends; be explicit with him; let it be seen that you are not praying for the mere sake of performing a certain religious ceremony, but that you have real business to transact with the Most High. You know what your request is, and you do not intend to leave the mercy seat until your request is granted.

13. So I commend Jacob’s prayer to you because of the plainness of its speech.

14. Next, it is to be commended for the humility of its spirit. Notice especially these words of the patriarch, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.” If you even hint that there is any worthiness in yourself, the power of your prayer is at once destroyed; but if you plead your unworthiness, you will then be standing where the tax collector stood when he cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner”; and you know how “he went down to his house justified rather than the” Pharisee, who said that he fasted twice in the week, gave tithes of all he possessed, and was not like other men, especially that tax collector! In that way he destroyed any power that his prayer might otherwise have possessed. His self-conceit tore the chariot wheels from his prayer, so that it dragged heavily, and soon could not move even an inch. On the other hand, a deep sense of sin, a full consciousness of utter undeserving, will enable you, like Jacob, to wrestle with the great Angel of the covenant, and to prevail over him. Possibly, you have not succeeded with God because you have not sunk low enough before him. You unconverted ones especially, if you put your mouths in the very dust, that will be the best position for you to assume. If you still have some vestiges of strength, you will not receive divine strength. If there are some remnants of the pristine idea of human merit tolerated in your heart, the robe of Christ’s righteousness will not be wrapped around you. Ask the Lord to strip you of every rag of self-righteousness, to enable you to trust in Jesus alone, and to have no confidence in the flesh, either in the feelings which you experience or in the works which you do. Your time of uplifting will follow close on your time of falling down flat on your face. The dawn of day succeeds the darkest hour of the night, so ask God to bring you down to that dark hour in which the night covers every hope that is born from human confidence, for then the Lord will appear to you in his brightness. So, imitate the prayer of Jacob in its humility of spirit.

15. The third point in which I would have you copy Jacob’s model prayer is in the arguments to be used. The whole prayer is full of strong arguments. If some of the prayers I have heard at prayer meetings, — though I must say that the fault is less in this place than in most others with which I have become acquainted, — if some of the prayers at certain prayer meetings were less doctrinal, less practical, and more argumentative with God, they would be more like true prayer should be, for true prayer is just pleading with the Most High, spreading our case before him, and then pressing our suit with all the arguments we can muster.

16. In this short prayer of the patriarch, no less than four arguments are used. The first is the argument from the covenant: “Oh God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father Isaac.” God had entered into covenant relationship with Abraham, and made solemn promises to him and to his seed, so Jacob prays, “Oh Lord, you have pledged yourself to be the God of the seed of Abraham, whose grandson I am, and of the seed of Isaac, whose son I am, — now, therefore, by your faithfulness to your covenant promise, help me in this dark hour of my life!” Beloved friends, this is the kind of plea that we can use with the Lord: “Oh God, have you not made a covenant with the Lord Jesus by which you have promised that you will save all those who trust in him? Have you not said, ‘I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people’? Then, Lord, though guilty, I trust in the merits of your dear Son, and I ask to be absolved by virtue of his great atoning sacrifice. Behold, just as the clay vessel hangs on the nail, so I hang on him, and on him alone. Now, by the covenant of your grace, which is ordered in all things and sure, I beseech you to reveal your love to me.” If you use such gracious pleading as that with the Lord, you will surely prevail with him. And I urge you also, children of God, to do the same, for the everlasting covenant is a mighty plea with God, — 

   In every dark distressful hour,

   When sin and Satan join their power.

17. Then we pass on to the next use which Jacob makes of the promise which God had given him: “You said to me, ‘Return to your country, and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you.’” If you and I know that we are walking in the path of duty, if we are in the place where the Lord has told us to go, we can always claim the divine promise. The Lord is bound to protect his servants when they are in the path of obedience to his command. If you follow your own counsel, you must manage to take care of yourselves; but if you go where the Bible and the clear indications of divine providence guide you, you may always think that the Master who sent you will protect his obedient servants, let the dangers of the way be whatever they may. If God should command you to go to the utmost verge of this green earth, to rivers unknown to song, or if he should tell you to travel through distant deserts, as Mungo Park {a} journeyed through the midst of Africa, yet he could preserve your life there as well as here in England; and being there, sent by him, you may rest assured that you shall hear the sound of your Master’s feet behind you, or have other unmistakable evidences of his presence with you.

18. And, sinner, this is a good plea for you to use. You can say, “Lord, you told me to believe in Jesus Christ, your Son; then, will you not accept me, for his sake, for I have done what you told me to do? You have said, ‘Call on me in the day of trouble’; Lord, this is a day of trouble with me, and I do call on you; so will you not answer me?” If you argue with the Lord in such a way as this, you will find that this kind of pleading is potent with him who is omnipotent.

19. Then, further, Jacob argued with God from his past history. He said that he was not worthy of the least of God’s mercies, yet he had received many of them. Though he went over the Jordan River, when he left his home, a sad and solitary man, with nothing but his walking staff in his hand, yet, he had come back with wives and children, and so great a number of servants, and cattle, and camels, and goats, and sheep, and donkeys that he had become like two bands. “Now, Lord,” he says, “after all your past mercies to me, I beseech you: do not leave me now. Have you blessed your servant up to this moment, and can you leave him now?” I cannot tell you how often I have been comforted by the truth implied in John Newton’s words, — 

   Determined to save, he watch’d o’er my path

   When, Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death:

   And can he have taught me to trust in his name,

   And thus far have brought me to put me to shame?

   His love in time past forbids me to think

   He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink,

   Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,

   Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through.

20. So Jacob prayed, in effect, “Lord, you have often been my Helper in the past; so now please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau.” You, my unconverted friend, may even adopt this form of pleading, for you can say, “Lord, you have spared my life many a time when I have provoked you. Let your longsuffering, which now leads me to repentance, also move you to forgive my sin. I remember what you did on Calvary for sinners in ages long past. Did you give your well-beloved and only-begotten Son to die for sinners, and will you not now accept every trembling sinner who seeks your favour?” This also shall prove to be the kind of pleading that will cause the gates of God’s grace to open.

21. The fourth argument that Jacob used was perhaps the best of all: “You said, ‘I will surely do you good,’” and so on. Ah, that was the master-stroke; and, in the same way, if you would succeed at the mercy seat, you must bring down the hammer of the promise on the head of the nail of prayer, and then clinch it, as Jacob did, by saying to the Lord, “You said,” such and such, and such and such. David once said to God in prayer, “Do as you have said.” When a man has promised you something that you really need, you take him by the button-hole, and you say to him, “Now, you promised to give me that”; and if he is an honest man, you can hold him to his own word; and shall the God of truth ever fail to perform his promise? No, that is one of the things that God cannot do; he cannot lie, and yet cannot renege on his promise, nor does he want to do so. Oh Christian, if you would get anything from God, find a promise of it in his Word, and then you may count on the thing as good as received. When a man of means gives you his cheque, you consider it just as good as hard cash; and God’s promises are even better than cheques or bank-notes. We only have to take them, and plead them before him, and we may rest assured that he will honour them.

22. II. So I have tried to place before you the points in which Jacob’s prayer is worthy of both commendation and imitation; and now I want to say something concerning our LAST PLEA, which seems to me to be very suggestive: “You said.”

23. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, I need not say more to you on this matter, for you know the value of the promises of God, and you know how to use them. But to those who are not converted, I may perhaps speak a few words suggested by Jacob’s last plea: “You said, ‘I will surely do you good.’” Sinner, lay hold, as firm as you can, on the promise of God, and then plead it with him. For this purpose, I would say to every unconverted one here who desires to obtain the priceless blessing of salvation, — Study the Word of God very diligently, and always read it with the view of finding a promise that may suit your special case; and when you read it, study it with the firm conviction that it is God’s Word, and that, in each promise, God is as truly speaking to you as though he had sent an angel to apply that promise personally to you. Take a text which you find to be applicable to yourself, and say, “This is what the Lord says to me as certainly as though he now spoke it in my ear.”

24. Next, I beseech you to remember that God’s Word is absolutely true. Fix that fact in your memory, and then say to yourself that the promise, being true, must be fulfilled. Next to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great object of faith is the promise of God; and if we were more familiar with his promises, we should more speedily get out of that Slough of Despond in which so many of us flounder for so long. Bunyan says that “there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps, placed even through the very midst of this Slough; … but these steps are hardly seen; or if they are, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step beside them, and then they are bemired on purpose, notwithstanding that the steps are there.” Look out for these steps of promise, my friend. There is, in the Bible, a promise just exactly suited to your case, take care that you find it. Did you never send for a locksmith to open a drawer because you had lost the key, and could not open it? He comes with a great bunch of rusty keys, — very like God’s promises which you have allowed to get rusty through not using them, — and first he tries one key, and then another, and another, until, at last, he gets the right one, and the treasures in your drawers are spread open before you. It is just so with the treasures of God’s mercy. There is one special promise in Scripture which will fit the tumblers of the lock of your experience; and you must try promise after promise until, at last, you get the right one, and then you can say to the Lord, as Jacob did, “You said,” That is the main matter, what God has said. Never mind what I say; that does not matter a bit except so far as I say what God says. Never mind what anyone else has said; but let your one concern be to know what God says.

25. Good Mr. William Jay, of Bath, writing on this passage, “You said, ‘I will surely do you good,’” makes four observations which I commend to both saints and sinners. The first is, God has the ability to do you good. Whatever good it is that you need, God can give it to you. Pardon of sin, help in trouble, comfort in distress, whatever it is that you really need, God has the ability to give it to you, and hence to do you good. In the second place, God has the inclination to do you good. You need not speak to him as if he were unwilling to bless you; it is according to his nature to be gracious. Love is one of his chief attributes, and his lovingkindness and tender mercies greatly abound. He as much delights to show kindness to the needy as a generous man delights to relieve the needs of the poor. In the next place, God is under an engagement to do you good. “You said, ‘Surely I will do you good.’” God has given a promise to seeking sinners, that he will be found by them; to repentant sinners, that he will pardon them; to believing sinners, that they shall find eternal life. And then, the fourth thing is, God has already done good to you. This fact ought to strengthen your faith. The Lord has the ability, and the inclination, and he is under engagement to do you good, and he has already begun to do it. I may say to you, my hearers, that the Lord has done you some good in bringing you here to listen to the gospel, and in making that gospel so sweet and so generous a gospel as it is, — a gospel for those who labour, and are heavy laden, and who can find no rest anywhere else, — a gospel for the very chief of sinners, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” I put into your hands this plea of Jacob, “You said, ‘I will surely do you good.’” Go and plead it, and may the Lord do to you according to your faith!

26. III. My last words — which must be very few, — concern THE ANSWER WHICH JACOB’S PRAYER RECEIVED.

27. His prayer was answered, but it was not answered in the way he expected it would be. When he had finished praying, he found that all his plans had been knocked on the head; so you need not wonder if you find the same thing happen to you when you have finished praying. Do not be astonished, my dear hearers, if, when you have gone to God in prayer, you should seem to feel worse than you did before. There is a young friend, — I daresay he is here now, — who told me that he came to hear me for many months, that he became outwardly reformed, and was, as he thought, getting along well, until there came, one Lord’s day morning, a sermon about the corruption of the human heart which knocked all to pieces his pretty castle in the air, upset all his hopes, and utterly destroyed his self-confidence. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 732, “The Heart — A Den of Evil” 723} I am very glad it did, for his hopes and trust were all false; and, afterwards, by God’s grace, he began to build on a far firmer foundation. Sometimes, when you have been praying for salvation, God answers you by destroying all your hopes. You asked him to save you, and you thought he would do it in a way that would make you happy; but, instead of that, he pulled up all your fine plants by the roots, and turned your pretty garden into a desert, because he knew that the flowers you were growing were all poisonous, and must be cleared away before he could plant there the plants which would be of his right-hand planting.

28. When God answered Jacob, he met him, not as his Friend, but as his wrestling Opponent. Jacob had a fierce duel, which lasted all night long, by Jabbok’s brook; and if God really appears to you, I should not be surprised if he comes at first like an enemy; and if you should have to say to him as Job did, “You hunt me as a fierce lion.” God’s best mercies often come to us under the guise of adversities. God sends his love-letters to us in black-edged envelopes, and sometimes we are afraid to open them. If we would only do so, we should soon know the lovingkindness of the Lord. Jacob was to have an answer to his prayer; but, before the answer came, he had to wrestle; no, worse than that, before Jacob was fully delivered, he had to be made to limp, and all his life afterwards he went limping on his hip. You, poor sinner, may be made to feel your sinfulness so much that you will be driven almost to despair; and you, believer, will have to fight with Satan, possibly as long as you are in this body.

29. Although Jacob’s own plans were set aside, and God met him as though he were his enemy, and the poor patriarch went on limping when the sun rose over Penuel, yet, for all that, he did get his prayer answered. His brother “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” So, beloved, trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, and your enemies shall become your friends, your doubts shall end in joy, your tribulations shall melt away into glory, and you shall prove that “all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

30. Brethren, the pith of the whole matter is this, “Trust in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” As for you who do not know him, please trust in the sacrifice of his dear Son, Jesus Christ. Just as the doves hide themselves in the clefts of the rock, so hide yourselves in the wounds of Jesus by trusting in his atoning sacrifice. And as for you, the saints of the Lord, return to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you; therefore, “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” remembering that “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

31. May the Lord graciously give all of us his blessing and benediction, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

{a} Mungo Park (September 11, 1771-1806) was a Scottish explorer of the African continent. He was the first Westerner known to have travelled to the central portion of the Niger River. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mungo_Park_(explorer)"

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ge 32}

Jacob had just come out of a great trouble. God’s gracious intervention had delivered him out of the hand of the angry Laban, — Laban the churl, who cared for Jacob only for what he could get out of him.

1, 2. And 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 Mahanaim.

The angels of God are always all around his people. It was good for Jacob to be reminded of that fact, for he was about to pass into another trouble. John Bunyan truly says, — 

   A Christian man is seldom long at ease;

   When one trouble’s gone another doth him seize.

Certainly it was so with Jacob; for, after he had escaped from Laban, he knew that he had to meet his brother Esau, whom he had so greatly wronged so many years before. It was then that “the angels of God met him.” Go on your way in peace and safety, beloved believer, for God’s hosts are all around you. You do not go unattended at any single moment of your life. Better than squadrons of cavalry and regiments of foot-soldiers are the ministering spirits who are “sent out to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation.”

3-5. And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother to the land of Seer, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, “Thus shall you speak to my lord Esau; ‘Your servant Jacob says this, "I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: and I have oxen, and donkeys, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, so that I may find grace in your sight."’”

This was a wise and proper action on the part of Jacob, for he had grossly wronged his brother, and it was right for him to make advances towards a reconciliation. He prayed to God for help, but he also used such means as he could, — the means that ought always to be used when any of us realize that we have injured others. We should even be willing to humiliate ourselves in order to make peace.

I think that, when Christians differ from each other, there should be a holy rivalry between them as to who shall be the first to give way, and who will give way the more to the other. How many quarrels might soon be ended if there were this spirit of reconciliation among all professing Christians. I have heard of one, who had offended a brother Christian during the day; possibly, the brother Christian had offended him quite as much. But the first one saw that the sun was going down, so he turned to seek his friend, so that he might say to him, “Friend So-and-so, I was wrong in being angry today.” Halfway between their two houses, they met, and each of them said, “I was just coming to say that I was wrong.” There is no need of any arbitrator when each of the disputants is willing to say, “I was wrong”; and the trouble is soon over when that point is reached. In this case, it certainly was Jacob’s duty to make some amends to his brother, whether Esau accepted it or not.

6. And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and also he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him.”

He would not have minded Esau coming alone to meet him, but the thought of the four hundred rough men, who had gathered around this wild warrior of the desert, made him wonder what they might do, and what Esau might do with their help.

7, 8. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; and said, “If Esau comes to the one company, and strikes it, then the other company which is left shall escape.”

He used the means that he judged to be the best under the existing circumstances, and I believe that God intends us always to use our best wits and judgment, and then to fall back on him in confiding prayer just as if we had done nothing at all. Do everything as if God were not about to help you, and then trust in God as if you had done nothing at all. An Arab said to Mohammed, “I let my camel run loose, and trusted it to Providence,” but Mohammed replied, “You should have tied it up first, and then trusted it to Providence”; and Jacob was very much of that same mind and a very sensitive mind it was, not at all inconsistent with the very best of faith.

9-12. And Jacob said, “Oh God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country, and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and strike me, and the mother with the children. And you said, — 

That is always the most powerful plea when we can quote God’s own promise: “You said,” — 

12-19. ‘I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” After he lodged there that same night; and took of what came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; two hundred she-goats, and twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows, and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals. And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said to his servants, “Pass over before me, and put a space between drove and drove.” And he commanded the foremost, saying, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?’ then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent to my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.’” And so he commanded the second, and the third, and all who followed the drove, saying, “In this manner you shall speak to Esau, when you find him.

That was a very anxious night for Jacob; he was to have another night of even sterner work, but in doing as he did he acted wisely and rightly.

20. And you say moreover, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me and afterwards I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”

Depend on it, our sins will come home to us sooner or later. Jacob must have bitterly regretted that night, that he had ever wronged Esau.

There was a long interval between Jacob going away, and his coming back again, but his sin came home to him; and if you are a child of God and you do wrong, it is more certain to come home to you in this life, than if you were one of the ungodly. As for them, they are often left to be punished in another world; but if you are a child of God, you will be chastened here for your iniquity. Remember how earnestly David prayed about the sins of his youth, and his later transgressions too; and Jacob, in deep humility, must have most vividly remembered his sin against his brother.

21-24. So the present went over before him: and he lodged that night in the company. And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him there until the breaking of the day.

We know who that Divine Man was, the God who later actually became man, of whom it might even then be said that “His delights were with the sons of men.”

25. And when he saw that he did not prevail against him, he touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

For even with a dislocated hip Jacob would not give up wrestling; he meant to hold this wondrous Man until he got a blessing from him.

26-29. And he said, “Let me go, for the day breaks.” And he said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me!” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall be called Jacob no more, but Israel: for as a prince you have power with God and with men, and have prevailed.” And Jacob asked him, and said, “Please tell me your name.” And he said, “Why is it that you ask for my name?” And he blessed him there.

He would not gratify Jacob’s curiosity concerning his name, but he gave him the blessing that he craved. This was just as our divine Master acted when his disciples enquired of him concerning the times and seasons; he told them it was not for them to know what the Father had retained in his own power; but Christ added, what was much better for them, “You shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come over you.” He will not tell us all we want to know, but he will give us all we need to have. What a wise and prudent Lord is ours!

30, 31. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

He was lame, and probably remained lame for life.

32. Therefore the children of Israel do not eat the muscle which shrank which is on the hip socket, to this day: because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

Some touch of human weakness must always accompany the most divine strength that God may give to us. If we are allowed the high honour of carrying the untold treasure of the gospel, we must be reminded that “we have this treasure in clay vessels, so that the excellency of the power may be from God, and not from us.” Yet who would not be content to limp for life if he might only win such a victory as Jacob won on that memorable night by the brook Jabbok?

{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Covenant — The Covenant God Extolled” 229}

{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love — Begone, Unbelief” 734}

{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, In Heaven — ‘He Ever Liveth’” 326}

God the Father, Acts, Covenant

229 — The Covenant God Extolled <6.8.4.>

1 The God of Abraham praise

      Who reigns enthroned above,

   Ancient of everlasting days,

      And God of love!

      Jehovah, great I AM!

      By earth and heaven confest;

   I bow, and bless the sacred name,

      For ever blest!

2 The God of Abraham praise,

      At whose supreme command,

   From earth I rise, and seek the joys

      At his right hand:

      I all on earth forsake,

      Its wisdom, fame, and power;

   And him my only portion make,

      My shield and tower.

3 The God of Abraham praise,

      Whose all-sufficient grace

   Shall guide me all my happy days

      In all his ways:

      He calls a worm his friend,

      He calls himself my God!

   And he shall save me to the end,

      Through Jesus’ blood.

4 He by himself hath sworn,

      I on his oath depend;

   I shall, on eagles’ wings upborne,

      To heaven ascend:

      I shall behold his face,

      I shall his power adore,

   And sing the wonders of his grace

      For evermore.

            THE SECOND PART.

5 Though nature’s strength decay,

      And earth and hell withstand,

   To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way

      At his command:

      The watery deep I pass

      With Jesus in my view,

   And through the howling wilderness

      My way pursue.

6 The goodly land I see,

      With peace and plenty blest;

   A land of sacred liberty,

      And endless rest:

      There milk and honey flow

      And oil and wine abound,

   And trees of life for ever grow,

      With mercy crown’d.

7 There dwells the Lord our King,

      The Lord our righteousness!

   Triumphant o’er the world and sin,

      The Prince of Peace.

      On Sion’s sacred height,

      His kingdom still maintains;

   And glorious with his saints in light,

      For ever reigns.

8 The whole triumphant host

      Give thanks to God on high,

   “Hail Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”

      They ever cry:

      Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine!

      I join the heavenly lays;

   All might and majesty are Thine,

         And endless praise.

                     Thomas Olivers, 1772.

The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love

734 — Begone, Unbelief <>

1 Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near,

   And for my relief will surely appear;

   By prayer let me wrestle, and he will perform,

   With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

2 Though dark be my way, since he is my guide,

   ‘Tis mine to obey, ‘tis his to provide;

   Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail,

   The word he has spoken shall surely prevail.

3 His love in time past forbids me to think

   He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink;

   Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,

   Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through.

4 Determined to save, he watch’d o’er my path

   When, Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death:

   And can He have taught me to trust in his name,

   And thus far have brought me to put me to shame?

5 Why should I complain of want or distress,

   Temptation or pain? he told me no less;

   The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,

   Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.

6 How bitter that cup no heart can conceive,

   Which he drank quite up, that sinners might live!

   His way was much rougher and darker than mine;

   Did Christ, my Lord, suffer, and shall I repine?

7 Since all that I meet shall work for my good,

   The bitter is sweet, the medicine is food;

   Though painful at present ‘twill cease before long,

   And then, oh how pleasant, the conqueror’s song!

                        John Newton, 1779.

Jesus Christ, In Heaven

326 — “He Ever Liveth”

1 He lives, the great Redeemer lives,

   (What joy the blest assurance gives!)

   And now before his Father God,

   Pleads the full merit of his blood.

2 Repeated crimes awake our fears,

   And justice arm’d with frowns appears;

   But in the Saviour’s lovely face

   Sweet mercy smiles, and all is peace.

3 Hence, then, ye black despairing thoughts;

   Above our fears, above our faults,

   His powerful intercessions rise;

   And guilt recedes, and terror dies.

4 In every dark distressful hour,

   When sin and Satan join their power,

   Let this dear hope repel the dart,

   That Jesus bears us on his heart.

5 Great Advocate, Almighty Friend,

   On him our humble hopes depend:

   Our cause can never, never fail,

   For Jesus pleads, and must prevail.

                           Anne Steele, 1760.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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