PATRIARCHS AND PROPHETS # 17
Jacob's Flight and Exile
Threatened with death by the wrath of Esau, Jacob went out from his father's
home a fugitive; but he carried with him the father's blessing; Isaac had
renewed to him the covenant promise, and had bidden him, as its inheritor, to
seek a wife of his mother's family in Mesopotamia. Yet it was with a deeply
troubled heart that Jacob set out on his lonely journey. With only his staff
in his hand he must travel hundreds of miles through a country inhabited by
wild, roving tribes. In his remorse and timidity he sought to avoid men, lest
he should be traced by his angry brother. He feared that he had lost forever
the blessing that God had purposed to give him; and Satan was at hand to press
temptations upon him.
evening of the second day found him far away from his father's tents. He felt
that he was an outcast, and he knew that all this trouble had been brought
upon him by his own wrong course. The darkness of despair pressed upon his
soul, and he hardly dared to pray. But he was so utterly lonely that he felt
the need of protection from God as he had never felt it before. With weeping
and deep humiliation he confessed his sin, and entreated for some evidence
that he was not utterly forsaken. Still his burdened heart found no relief. He
had lost all confidence in himself, and he feared that the God of his fathers
had cast him off.
God did not forsake Jacob. His mercy was still extended to His erring,
distrustful servant. The Lord compassionately revealed just what Jacob
needed--a Saviour. He had sinned, but his heart was filled with gratitude as
he saw revealed a way by which he could be restored to the favor of God.
Wearied with his journey, the wanderer lay down upon the ground, with a stone
for his pillow. As he slept he beheld a ladder, bright and shining, whose base
rested upon the earth, while the top reached to heaven. Upon this ladder
angels were ascending and descending; above it was the Lord of glory, and from
the heavens His voice was heard: "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and
the God of Isaac." The land whereon he lay as an exile and fugitive was
promised to him and to his posterity, with the assurance, "In thee and in thy
seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." This promise had been
given to Abraham and to Isaac, and now it was renewed to Jacob. Then in
special regard to his present loneliness and distress, the words of comfort
and encouragement were spoken: "Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in
all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I
will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
Lord knew the evil influences that would surround Jacob, and the perils to
which he would be exposed. In mercy He opened up the future before the
repentant fugitive, that he might understand the divine purpose with reference
to himself, and be prepared to resist the temptations that would surely come
to him when alone amid idolaters and scheming men. There would be ever before
him the high standard at which he must aim; and the knowledge that through him
the purpose of God was reaching its accomplishment, would constantly prompt
him to faithfulness.
the vision the plan of redemption was presented to Jacob, not fully, but in
such parts as were essential to him at that time. The mystic ladder revealed
to him in his dream was the same to which Christ referred in His conversation
with Nathanael. Said He, "Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of man." John 1:51. Up to the time of
man's rebellion against the government of God, there had been free communion
between God and man. But the sin of Adam and Eve separated earth from heaven,
so that man could not have communion with his Maker. Yet the world was not
left in solitary hopelessness.
ladder represents Jesus, the appointed medium of communication. Had He not
with His own merits bridged the gulf that sin had made, the ministering angels
could have held no communion with fallen man. Christ connects man in his
weakness and helplessness with the source of infinite power. All this
was revealed to Jacob in his dream. Although his mind at once grasped a part
of the revelation, its great and mysterious truths were the study of his
lifetime, and unfolded to his understanding more and more.
Jacob awoke from his sleep in the deep stillness of night. The shining forms
of his vision had disappeared. Only the dim outline of the lonely hills, and
above them the heavens bright with stars, now met his gaze. But he had a
solemn sense that God was with him. An unseen presence filled the solitude.
"Surely the Lord is in this place," he said, "and I knew it not. . . . This is
none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his
pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it." In
accordance with the custom of commemorating important events, Jacob set up a
memorial of God's mercy, that whenever he should pass that way he might tarry
at this sacred spot to worship the Lord. And he called the place Bethel, or
the "house of God." With deep gratitude he repeated the promise that God's
presence would be with him; and then he made the solemn vow, "If God will be
with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to
eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in
peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a
pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely
give the tenth unto Thee."
Jacob was not here seeking to make terms with God. The Lord had already
promised him prosperity, and this vow was the outflow of a heart filled with
gratitude for the assurance of God's love and mercy. Jacob felt that God had
claims upon him which he must acknowledge, and that the special tokens of
divine favor granted him demanded a return. So does every blessing bestowed
upon us call for a response to the Author of all our mercies. The Christian
should often review his past life and recall with gratitude the precious
deliverances that God has wrought for him, supporting him in trial, opening
ways before him when all seemed dark and forbidding, refreshing him when ready
should recognize all of them as evidences of the watchcare of heavenly angels.
In view of these innumerable blessings he should often ask, with subdued and
grateful heart, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward
me?" Psalm 116:12.