Deliver me, I pray you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me…
The possession of a God, or the non-possession of a God, makes the greatest possible difference between man and man. Esau is a princely being, but he is "a profane person." Jacob is a weak, fallible, frail creature, but he has a God. Have you not heard of "the mighty God of Jacob"? My dear hearers, you can divide yourselves without difficulty by this rule: have you a God, or have you none? If you have no God, what have you? If you have no God, what good have you to expect? What, indeed, can be good to you? If you have no God, how can you face the past, the present, or the future? But if you have God for your portion, your whole history is covered. The God of the past has blotted out your sin, the God of the present makes all things work for your good, the God of the future will never leave you nor forsake you. In God you are prepared for every emergency. He shall guard thee from all evil; the Lord shall preserve thy soul.
1. Because Jacob had a God, therefore he went to Him in the hour of his trouble. As well have no God, as have an unreal God, who cannot be found in the midnight of our need. But what a blessing it is to be able to go to our God at all times, and pour out our hearts before Him; for our God will be our Helper, and that right early! He is our near and dear Friend, in joy and in sorrow.
2. Make thou good use of thy God, and especially gain the fullest advantage from Him by pleading with Him in prayer. In troublous times, our best communion with God will be carried on by supplication. Tell Him thy case; search out His promise, and then plead it with holy boldness. This is the best, the surest, the speediest way of relief.
3. Beloved, we see that Jacob had a God, and that he made use of Him in prayer; but the point I want to call your attention to at this time is, that the stress, the force, the very sinew of Jacob's prayer consisted in his pleading the promise of God with God. When he came to real wrestling with the Lord, then he cried, "Thou saidst." That is the way to lay a hold upon the covenant angel — "Thou saidst." The art of wrestling lies much in a proper use of "Thou saidst." Jacob, with all his mistakes, was a master of the art of prayer: we justly call him "wrestling Jacob." He said, "I will not let Thee go." He gets grip for his hands out of this "Thou saidst." In handling my text, which was Jacob's prayer, I shall notice —
I. First, it ought to be OUR MEMORIAL. I mean that we ought to recollect much more than we do what God has said. We should lay up His word in our hearts as men lay up gold and gems in their caskets: it should be as dear to us as life itself. My heart stands in awe of God's word, and I am sorrowful because so many trifle with it. No good can come of irreverence towards Scripture; we ought to cherish it in our heart of hearts.
1. We ought to do this, first, with regard to what God hath said. You notice that Jacob puts it, "Thou saidst," and then he quotes the words — "Surely I will do thee good." It is an essential part of the education of a Christian to learn the promises.
2. Moreover, Jacob also knew when God had spoken a promise, for he quotes twice the fact that God had spoken to him, and said so-and-so. It is clear that he knew when the promise was spoken. I have often found peculiar comfort, not only in a promise, but in noticing the occasion for its being made.
3. There is another matter which it is important for us to know, namely, to whom God made the promise. Jacob knew to whom it was spoken. He tells us in a previous verse that God had spoken a certain promise to himself. "Which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee." A promise that was made to another man will be of no service to me until I can discover that I, being in the same condition as that other man, and being of like character to that other man, and exercising like faith to that other man, do stand before God in the same position as he did, and therefore the word addressed to him is spoken also to me. Brethren, I entreat you continually to study God's word to see whether the promise is made to your character and condition, and so is made to yourself, as much as if your name were written upon it.
II. Secondly, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good" this is GOD'S BOND. Nothing holds a man like his word, and nothing so fully fixes the course of action of the Lord our God as His own promise. From the necessity of His nature He will be faithful. What a mighty thing, then, is a promise, since it is a bond which holds God Himself! How does it do so?
1. I answer, it holds Him, first, by His truth. If a man says, "I will," it is not in his power, without a breach of truth, to refuse to make good his word. If a promise be made by one man to another, it is considered to be a matter of honour to fulfil it. Unless a man is willing to tarnish his honour, and disgrace his truthfulness, he will certainly do as he has solemnly promised to do. Alas! many persons think lightly of truthfulness: they even dare to swear lightly; but what do we think of such people? To utter solemn promises, and then to disown them, is not the way to be esteemed and honoured. It can never be so with God. None can impeach His veracity. None shall ever be able to do so.
2. But, next, he who enters into an engagement is bound to keep his word, or he is considered to be vacillating and changeable: the Lord is, therefore, held by His immutability. He is God, and changes not.
3. But sometimes men make a promise, and they are unable to fulfil it from want of power. Many a time it has cost honest minds great grief to feel that, though they are willing enough to do what they have engaged to do, yet they have lost their ability to perform their word. This is a grave sorrow to a sincere mind. This can never happen to the Almighty God. He fainteth not, neither is weary. To Him there is no feebleness of decline, or failure of decay. God All-sufficient is still His name.
4. Once more, the Lord's wisdom also holds Him to His promise. Men make engagements thoughtlessly, and before long they realize that it would he ruinous to keep them. It is foolish to keep a foolish promise. Yet because wisdom is not in us we make mistakes, and find ourselves in serious difficulties. It may so happen that a person may feel compelled to say, "I promised to do that which, upon nacre careful consideration, I find it would be wicked and unjust for me to do. My promise was void from the beginning, for no man has a right to promise to do wrong." Whatever justification an erring man can find in his folly to excuse him from fulfilling his rash promise, nothing of the kind can occur with God. He never speaks without knowledge, for He sees the end from the beginning, and He is infallibly good and wise.
5. I should not complete my statement if I did not add that to go to God through Jesus Christ, is to use the best and most powerful of pleas.
III. So then, last of all, this may be, and this ought to be, in prayer OUR PLEA, as it was Jacob's plea — even this "Thou saidst."
1. We may urge the gracious promise of the Lord as pleading against our own unworthiness. This must win the suit. If a man has made me a promise, he cannot refuse to keep it on the ground that I am unworthy; because it is his own character that is at stake, not mine. However unworthy I am, he must not prove himself to be unworthy by failing to keep his word.
2. This is also good pleading as against our present danger. See how Jacob puts it with regard to his own peril. He sets out his very natural fear from his brother's anger: the mother, the children, everybody would be smitten by fierce Esau; and to save himself from this threatened horror Jacob lifts the shield of the promise, and as good as says to the Lord his God, "If this calamity should happen, how can Thy promise be kept? Thou saidst, 'Surely I will do thee good'; but, Lord, it is not good for Esau's sword to shed our blood! If Thou permit his anger to slay us, where is Thine engagement to do good unto Thy servant?" This reminds one of the plea of Moses, when he asked, "What will the Egyptions say?" If Israel were destroyed in the wilderness, what would Jehovah do for His great name? This is a prevalent argument.
3. Once more, as to future blessedness. Jacob used this argument, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good," as to all his future hopes, for he went on to say, "Thou saidst, I will make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." Not as much as he should, but still in a measure Jacob lived in the future. He lived under the influence and expectation of the covenant blessing. Now, brethren, what hope have you and I of getting to heaven? None, except that the Lord has said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish." I shall never perish, for Jesus says I never shall. He has also said, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be." Therefore I shall be in the glory with Him, and that is enough for me.
(C. H. Spurgeon).
Parallel VersesKJV: Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.