"He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has He seen perverseness in Israel--the Lord his God is with him."--Numbers 23:21.

"And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of My mountains; and My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there."--Isaiah 65:9.

"The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I will give it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will cover the land from east to west and from north to south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants." Genesis 28:13-14

The voice of Jehovah having been heard at the summit of the bright stairs, announcing His Name as the God of faithful Abraham, we wonder what will form the tone and subject of further communication! It cannot surely be, that language of unqualified encouragement and heart-cheer is to be addressed to one, whose past life has so abundantly evidenced that neither natural nobility of character, nor spiritual grace are hereditary; on the contrary, who has proved himself all unworthy of his illustrious pedigree. Can these words of the Almighty fail to be mingled at least, with merited reproof, answering and echoing the thoughts and accusings which must have haunted the dreamer himself, when he laid his head on his pillow? Indeed, could we be greatly astonished, (after the tale of previous falsehood and treachery, plotting and counterplotting) had the Being he had dishonored now been heard canceling, by one righteous sentence, every covenant blessing hitherto promised; reversing the oracle of the younger son's predicted greatness, and reinstating the wronged and injured Esau in his right of first-born?

"I am the Lord, I change not, therefore (JACOB and) you sons of Jacob are not consumed!" (Mal. 3:6.) "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Is. 46:10). "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15). All the unworthy past of that unpromising, and unlovable wayfarer is to be consigned to oblivion; and without a word of reproach he is to be reclaimed, strengthened, cheered, comforted. The words of the Prophet, descriptive elsewhere of the retributive dealings of Jehovah, are in his case reversed--"For all this, His anger" is turned away, "and His hand (of mercy and loving-kindness) is stretched out still!"

Although the lesson has run, like a golden thread, throughout the whole preceding narrative; this may be a befitting place for us to pause, and more specially to admire and magnify the Sovereignty of God's Grace.

Many other sleepers there were that night in the Holy Land, who could have asserted a better claim on the divine regard than the wanderer from a home which he had embittered and disgraced--a home in which, as we now know well, he had left passions smouldering, which deceit and treachery had kindled, along with stifled purposes of revenge. We might have expected, therefore, the Keeper of Israel, in His universal watch, to have piled the Angelic stair over some worthier recipient alike of His temporal and spiritual blessings--leaving the wayward fugitive of Beersheba--(the "Underminer" as his name has been literally rendered)--to be haunted in the night with visions of anguish and terror; in which, prominent would be, a duped father, an incensed brother, and, worse than all, the alienated face of the Infinite Being he had offended.

But here, as in manifold other cases, the Lord would show that the divine and the human methods are often in conflict. "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God who shows mercy." The Patriarch dreamer's is the old, old story, that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." At that hour, this man of like passions is pronounced, by the lips of Jehovah Himself, to be the chosen recipient and inheritor of honors such as no mortal ever shared before or since. We have vividly recalled to us the story of the erring sheep in the New Testament parable. Instead of that truant of the fold being left to its own estrangement, to plunge ever deeper into the thorny thicket of its wanderings, the unwearying shepherd follows after it "until he finds it;" and, "when he has found it," there is no anger in his look, no displeasure in his voice. In silent love "he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing." Such, in the later Gospel delineation, was a picture of God's present dealings with this exile on the bleak wilds of Bethel. He rehearses nothing in his ear, but the wondrous favors he had for him in future possession and enjoyment; anew proclaiming that he was the appointed heir to the Abrahamic covenant; recognized as the representative of the chosen seed--above all, that he was the selected ancestor of the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of mankind. The promise itself is so far couched in the same terms previously employed to Abraham and Isaac. But it embraces also a wider sweep. It tells of the cosmopolitan character of the wondrous race that was to spring from his loins, as stretching "westward, and eastward, and northward, and southward."

Strange destiny, for that lonely wanderer on that lonely moorland! to be father of the multitudinous people, who, in addition to past annals of peerless interest, are at this hour found by the banks of every river, and within the walls of every city in either hemisphere; unmingled and unassimilated with Gentile blood and Gentile customs, and with a proud and noble destiny still to be unfolded for their children's children. "The land you are lying on belongs to you. I will give it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will cover the land from east to west and from north to south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants." (Gen. 28:13, 14).

It has been well noted, God accommodates the very words in which the promise is couched to the condition of His servant. Not only does He say, 'I will give you the land;' but, "The land you are lying on." 'The land, all of which you can tonight claim as your own, is the stony pillow on which your head reclines--this land, as far as eye can reach, is your predestined and covenanted heritage. That stone you are about to leave behind you will remain a pledge of My word--"I am the Shepherd of the stone of Israel!"' In the words of Matthew Henry, "He seemed to be plucked off as a withered branch, yet he is to become a flourishing tree that shall send out his boughs unto the sea." "Who can count the dust of JACOB?" (Num. 23:10.)

On leaving the Beersheba tent, his own father had pronounced on him a similar blessing, almost indeed in identical words (Gen. 28:3, 4). It is now endorsed by his father's God, and has put upon it the sign and signature of Heaven. Although, therefore, he had neither by priority of birth nor elevation of character any title to so magnificent a spiritual possession, yet Jehovah seems literally to address to him the after-words of the Great Prophet--"But now thus says the Lord that created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel, Fear not--for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine" (Isa. 43:1). And well might he have responded in the words used by himself at a later period--"I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which You have showed unto your servant" (Gen. 32:10).

It is specially deserving of still farther note, that whatever were the vicissitudes and trials of his subsequent life--the name of this erring fugitive, far more frequently than in the case even of the nobler and saintlier Abraham, is identified with that of Jehovah--"the God of Jacob"--"the mighty God of Jacob." He lives, through long subsequent years, the chartered inheritor of unparalleled blessings. He dies, at last, "the Soldier of God." This was the distinctive name by which the Jewish nation were to be known--"You seed of Israel His servant, you children of JACOB, His chosen" (1 Chron. 16:13). "All you seed of JACOB glorify Him and fear Him" (Ps. 22:23). The beatitude, not of the Hebrew people alone, but of 'the Church throughout all the world,' runs thus--"Happy is he that has the God of JACOB for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Ps. 146:5).

How continually in the inspired pages are we reminded of God's absolute sovereignty in the calling and election of His people--a truth so contrary and antagonistic to human dealings and experience! Limiting ourselves to New Testament examples, is it not the woman of Samaria, the despised tax-gatherer of Jericho, the fierce demoniac of Gadara, the felon on the cross, the fiery Cilician bigot and persecutor, who form the conspicuous trophies and monuments of the Redeemer's love and power and compassion? "The chief of sinners," they "obtained mercy."

Such, also, are God's dealings with multitudes still. "I loved Jacob" (Mal. 1:2), is the strange legend written under many a name conscious in itself of having forfeited all claim to the divine favor. Still He meets the exile in the far country--the prodigal at a distance from his Father's house, when character is blighted, principle shaken, purity lost--the soul apparently surrendered hopelessly to some demon power. Oh, even then, at times, a voice is heard amid the maddening hurricane of passion--it is the lullaby of Everlasting love--"Come unto Me, you weary and heavy-laden one, and I will give you rest!" The Lord above the ladder suddenly reveals Himself; the closed heavens seem mysteriously to open; the dreamer has suddenly flashed upon him the long-deadened--the almost extinguished sense of his high original destiny. He feels within him, in a moment, the yearnings after a nobler, truer, diviner life--wakes up to the consciousness of the irresistible presence of some divine Influence or Power hitherto evaded, fought against, resisted; which, as with the grasp of a giant, has now "apprehended him." It is the veritable touch of the Invisible God. The wandering star is reclaimed from its devious orbits, and set within the sphere of the divine regards. The loaded cloud breaks, not in storm, but in a shower of benedictions!

And what is the avowal and confession accompanying such visions of the Almighty? whether it be in rousing the sinner from his sleep of indifference and death, or awakening the backslider from his season of torpor and lethargy; when faith and hope have been burning with a feebler flame, and the consciousness of God's presence has been forfeited by indulged sin or omitted duty--whether, also, the means employed be by startling providences or by feeble instrumentalities? "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name we would give glory." "By the grace of God I am what I am." "So slow is He to anger," says an earnest believer of the past generation, in speaking of this wondrous theme--"so ready to forgive, that when His prophets lost all patience with the people so as to make intercession against them; yet even then, He could not be made to cast off His people whom He foreknew, for His great name's sake." (Lady Powerscourt's Letters.)

The beautiful words which inaugurated the Gospel era, may well be written as the motto and superscription over many a life-history from that of the Patriarch-dreamer to the present hour--"Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Day-Spring from on high has visited us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78, 79).

Yes, here is the only possible solution and explanation of these mysteries of grace in the case of each individual soul--"The Lord has appeared of old unto me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love--therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you" (Jer. 31:3). Listen to one, not of life's dreamers, but of her noblest workers, when laid indeed on his pillow of outward darkness, but irradiated and encircled with a diviner light than the constellations above the Bethel Pilgrim--"The text, 'God is love,' has kept me thinking for the last twenty-four hours; and the more I think of it the more wondrous and marvelous it grows. In some of our clear northern nights, the heavens above sparkle with countless numbers of bright and beautiful stars. The pages of the Bible sparkle with countless numbers of bright and beautiful texts. But I fancy, for the future, I shall deem the text "God is Love" as the greatest and grandest in the great and grand skies of texts; a kind of pole-star, around which, as around the pole star in our heavens, the other starry messengers and sayings of the Bible revolve." (Sir James Simpson's Life, p. 416.)

The Hebrew of future ages, in bringing to the Tabernacle or Temple his offering of first-fruits, was to accompany the dedication with words which kept in perpetual remembrance the sovereign grace of Jehovah to Jacob--"You must then say in the presence of the Lord your God, 'My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live in Egypt. His family was few in number, but in Egypt they became a mighty and numerous nation.'" (Deut. 26:5). How many, in bringing their eternal thank-offering into the heavenly Temple above, will accompany it with the confession and ascription--"Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence." "I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify Your name for evermore; for great is Your mercy toward me; and You have delivered my soul from the lowest hell" (Ps. 86:12, 13).

The magnificent promise God here given to the Patriarch, is delivered in a grander and more enduring form to us. There is a better Canaan in reserve for those who are spiritually "the seed of Jacob." As believers in Christ, we have already partaken of the closing portion of the Bethel blessing, the blessing promised through the Divine Messiah to all earth's families; and with this in present possession, we have the other in future promise.

There is a solemn exhortation addressed, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to "look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God." And the special example of warning is taken from another member of the Beersheba tent with whose name we are already familiar. It is the case of one who made light of temporal advantages, and suffered by their rejection irremediable and irreparable loss. Let us see to it that ours be not the self-forfeiture of Esau. His is the picture of those who dally and trifle with their soul's best interests--who, in the absorbing love of the present, are willing to barter their immortal felicity, for a bowl of earthly pottage; degraded votaries of the Epicurean creed, "Who snatch the pleasures of the passing hour."

How vividly are such characters reflected, in the brief but most graphic delineation of the elder brother, by the inspired pen--"Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate and drank and went on about his business, indifferent to the fact that he had given up his birthright!" Genesis 25:34

Young pilgrims on the way to Zion! seek to be ready with the reply to all earthly solicitations, "If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Heb. 11:15, 16). As from this outset hour at Bethel, onwards through the future years of his pilgrimage, the promised birthright blessings are ever before the mind of Jacob, stimulating him in all his efforts, raising him superior to his sorrows, cheering him in his exile, sustaining him in his bereavements, softening the harshness of his character, bracing him to noble endurance--So be it with you. Take, as your watchword and motto, "We look for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God;" remembering that "what He has spoken He is able also to perform."

And, whether young or old, let us ever seek joyfully to recall and rehearse the ground of our title-deed to "the Better Country"--"the smiling fields" beyond Jordan. It is ours alone through Him who is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." "If you be Christ's (if you have found the true antitypical ladder of the Patriarch, by which you can to the Gates of the city) then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal.3:29). Striking and beautiful are the words of the psalmist as he invokes the blessing of "the God of Jacob," and names Him as such. On what does he found and urge his plea at the mercy-seat? He supplicates that the eye of the great Jehovah, averted and repelled by his unworthiness, may rest on the alone All-worthy ONE. "O Lord God of Hosts, hear my prayer--give ear, O God of JACOB. Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of Your Anointed" (Ps. 84:8, 9).

As we hear the God of the Patriarch saying from the ladder-summit, "To you will I give it," let us lay hold of the promise in all the grandeur and magnificence of its spiritual meaning. Be it ours as the children of Jacob (the inheritors of that great covenant of grace ratified on the heights of Bethel), in reverent faith to say, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak--for He will speak peace unto His people and to His saints" (Ps. 85:8).

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