Jacob's night of anguish, when he wrestled in prayer for deliverance from
the hand of Esau (Genesis 32:24-30), represents the experience of God's
people in the time of trouble. Because of the deception practiced to
secure his father's blessing, intended for Esau, Jacob had fled for his
life, alarmed by his brother's deadly threats.
remaining for many years an exile, he had set out, at God's command, to
return with his wives and children, his flocks and herds, to his native
country. On reaching the borders of the land, he was filled with terror by
the tidings of Esau's approach at the head of a band of warriors,
doubtless bent upon revenge. Jacob's company, unarmed and defenseless,
seemed about to fall helpless victims of violence and slaughter. And to
the burden of anxiety and fear was added the crushing weight of
self-reproach, for it was his own sin that had brought this danger. His
only hope was in the mercy of God; his only defense must be prayer.
leaves nothing undone on his own part to atone for the wrong to his
brother and to avert the threatened danger. So should the followers of
Christ, as they approach the time of trouble, make every exertion to place
themselves in a proper light before the people, to disarm prejudice, and
to avert the danger which threatens liberty of conscience.
sent his family away, that they may not witness his distress, Jacob
remains alone to intercede with God. He confesses his sin and gratefully
acknowledges the mercy of God toward him while with deep humiliation he
pleads the covenant made with his fathers and the promises to himself in
the night vision at Bethel and in the land of his exile. The crisis in his
life has come; everything is at stake. In the darkness and solitude he
continues praying and humbling himself before God. Suddenly a hand is laid
upon his shoulder. He thinks that an enemy is seeking his life, and with
all the energy of despair he wrestles with his assailant.
day begins to break, the stranger puts forth his superhuman power; at his
touch the strong man seems paralyzed, and he falls, a helpless, weeping
suppliant, upon the neck of his mysterious antagonist. Jacob knows now
that it is the Angel of the covenant with whom he has been in conflict.
Though disabled and suffering the keenest pain, he does not relinquish his
purpose. Long has he endured perplexity, remorse, and trouble for his sin;
now he must have the assurance that it is pardoned.
divine visitant seems about to depart; but Jacob clings to Him, pleading
for a blessing. The Angel urges, "Let Me go, for the day breaketh;" but
the patriarch exclaims, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."
What confidence, what firmness and perseverance, are here displayed! Had
this been a boastful, presumptuous claim, Jacob would have been instantly
destroyed; but his was the assurance of one who confesses his weakness and
unworthiness, yet trusts the mercy of a covenant-keeping God.
power over the Angel, and prevailed." Hosea 12:4. Through humiliation,
repentance, and self-surrender, this sinful, erring mortal prevailed with
the Majesty of heaven. He had fastened his trembling grasp upon the
promises of God, and the heart of Infinite Love could not turn away the
sinner's plea. As an evidence of his triumph and an encouragement to
others to imitate his example, his name was changed from one which was a
reminder of his sin, to one that commemorated his victory. And the fact
that Jacob had prevailed with God was an assurance that he would prevail
with men. He no longer feared to encounter his brother's anger, for the
Lord was his defense.
had accused Jacob before the angels of God, claiming the right to destroy
him because of his sin; he had moved upon Esau to march against him; and
during the patriarch's long night of wrestling, Satan endeavored to force
upon him a sense of his guilt in order to discourage him and break his
hold upon God. Jacob was driven almost to despair; but he knew that
without help from heaven he must perish. He had sincerely repented of his
great sin, and he appealed to the mercy of God. He would not be turned
from his purpose, but held fast the Angel and urged his petition with
earnest, agonizing cries until he prevailed.
Satan influenced Esau to march against Jacob, so he will stir up the
wicked to destroy God's people in the time of trouble. And as he accused
Jacob, he will urge his accusations against the people of God. He numbers
the world as his subjects; but the little company who keep the
commandments of God are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them
from the earth, his triumph would be complete. He sees that holy angels
are guarding them, and he infers that their sins have been pardoned; but
he does not know that their cases have been decided in the sanctuary
an accurate knowledge of the sins which he has tempted them to commit, and
he presents these before God in the most exaggerated light, representing
this people to be just as deserving as himself of exclusion from the favor
of God. He declares that the Lord cannot in justice forgive their sins and
yet destroy him and his angels. He claims them as his prey and demands
that they be given into his hands to destroy.
Satan accuses the people of God on account of their sins, the Lord permits
him to try them to the uttermost. Their confidence in God, their faith and
firmness, will be severely tested. As they review the past, their hopes
sink; for in their whole lives they can see little good. They are fully
conscious of their weakness and unworthiness. Satan endeavors to terrify
them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of
their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes so to destroy their
faith that they will yield to his temptations and turn from their
allegiance to God.
God's people will be surrounded by enemies who are bent upon their
destruction, yet the anguish which they suffer is not a dread of
persecution for the truth's sake; they fear that every sin has not been
repented of, and that through some fault in themselves they will fail to
realize the fulfillment of the Saviour's promise: I "will keep thee from
the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world." Revelation
3:10. If they could have the assurance of pardon they would not shrink
from torture or death; but should they prove unworthy, and lose their
lives because of their own defects of character, then God's holy name
would be reproached.
every hand they hear the plottings of treason and see the active working
of rebellion; and there is aroused within them an intense desire, an
earnest yearning of soul, that this great apostasy may be terminated and
the wickedness of the wicked may come to an end. But while they plead with
God to stay the work of rebellion, it is with a keen sense of
self-reproach that they themselves have no more power to resist and urge
back the mighty tide of evil. They feel that had they always employed all
their ability in the service of Christ, going forward from strength to
strength, Satan's forces would have less power to prevail against them.
afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance of their
many sins, and pleading the Saviour's promise: "Let him take hold of My
strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with
Me." Isaiah 27:5. Their faith does not fail because their prayers are not
immediately answered. Though suffering the keenest anxiety, terror, and
distress, they do not cease their intercessions. They lay hold of the
strength of God as Jacob laid hold of the Angel; and the language of their
souls is: "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."
Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud,
God would not have heard his prayer and mercifully preserved his life. So,
in the time of trouble, if the people of God had unconfessed sins to
appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be
overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have
confidence to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep
sense of their unworthiness, they have no concealed wrongs to reveal.
Their sins have gone beforehand to judgment and have been blotted out, and
they cannot bring them to remembrance.