And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me.
I. THE SOUL'S AGONY.
1. The soul is absorbed in the awful loneliness of its own thought. "Jacob was left alone." So is every one in similar experiences. In times of agony, friendly sympathy seems distant and ineffectual. We are even impatient with well-meant words of kindness. Then comes a sense of powerlessness. The afflicted one has done all he can, and now can only wait. At this juncture he begins to ask himself as to the cause of his misery. Why is he thus situated? Perhaps, like Jacob, he recognizes his sorrows as the lineal descendants of some former sin; or more likely, he now perceives, as never before, the general fact of his sinfulness, his imperfections as a Christian, and his failure to enjoy religious privileges.
2. Just here the soul is arrested by God's presence. Abstracted from the world, because grief has made him indifferent to worldly thoughts, the Christian can now see God and feel His power. We can imagine Jacob, in his conflict of emotion, standing in the darkness by the brook Jabbok, lost in thought, when suddenly a heavy hand is laid upon his shoulder. He turns to find a mysterious Presence of terrible reality and power. That Presence he speedily recognizes as God. So now every storm-racked heart is introduced by conscience to its God.
3. In such times of trial, the soul at first finds God a seeming foe. Jacob at first was obliged to defend himself against his mysterious adversary. Who can tell what fearful surmises came over him as he wrestled in the dark with his terrible opponent? Can this be Esau? No; this is a superhuman strength. Can this be God? It surely is none else; but why does He meet me thus? God hedges men in to bring them to His feet, to show them themselves, to prevent prosperity from injuring them, very likely to prepare them for it, to purify them from remaining sin, frequently to fit them for some great work. We must pass through the furnace before we are what we should be.
II. THE RELIEF OF THE SOUL.
1. The narrative discloses the human means of securing this relief, namely, prayer.
2. The narrative sets before us the Divine methods of giving relief to the soul.
(1) Development of character.
(2) Knowledge of God.
(3) Confidence in God.
3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle.
(A. P. Foster.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.