Their father Jacob said to them, "You have deprived me of my sons. Joseph is gone and Simeon is no more. Now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is going against me!"
I. The first step is CONSCIOUSNESS OF FAMINE; that a man's life is more than meat; more than a supply of bodily wants. It is realizing that he has wants beyond the present life; that in living for time he has been following a shadow. This knowledge is not natural to us. Bodily hunger soon makes itself felt, but the soul's need does not; and until it is known, the man may be "poor and blind and naked," and yet suppose that he is "rich and increased with goods."
II. WE CANNOT OF OURSELVES SUPPLY THAT WANT. Gradually we learn how great it is. We want to still the accusing voice of conscience; to find a plea that shall avail in judgment; to see clearly the way of life that we may not err therein. In vain we look one on another, seeking comfort in the good opinion of men, in their testimony to our upright life. In vain we try to satisfy ourselves, by promises to do better, or by offerings of our substance or of our work. In vain is it to seek rest in unbelief, or in the persuasion that in some way all will be right. The soul cannot thus find peace. There is a voice which at times will make itself heard - "all have sinned" - thou hast sinned.
III. GOD HAS PROVIDED BREAD. "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt" (cf. Romans 10:18), answers to the gospel telling of the bread of life. As to this we mark -
1. It was provided before the want arose (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The gospel tells us of what has already been done, not of a gift to come into existence on certain conditions. The ransom of our souls has been paid. We have to believe and take (Revelation 22:17).
2. How faith works. They must go for that food which was ready for them. To take the bread of life must be a real earnest act, not a listless assent. The manna which was to be gathered, the brazen serpent to which the sick were to look, the command to the impotent "Rise, take up thy bed and walk," all show that it is not enough merely to wish, there must be the effort of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a law of the spiritual kingdom. As natural laws regulate results within their, domain, so spiritual results must be sought in accordance with spiritual laws.
3. It is our Brother who has made provision for us. This is our confidence. He waits to reveal himself when in humility and emptiness we come to him, and to give us plenty (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). - M.
All these things are against me.
I. In Jacob is prefigured the Christian. What he said in dejection of mind, the Christian must say, not in dejection, not in complaint or impatience, but calmly, as if confessing a doctrine — "'All these things are against me,' but it is my portion; they are against me, that I may fight with and overcome them." If there were no enemy, there could be no conflict; were there no trouble, there could be no faith; were there no trial, there could be no love; were there no fear, there could be no hope.
II. To passages like these it is natural to object, that they do not belong to the present time, that so far from Christians being in trouble because they are Christians, it is those who are not Christians who are under persecution. The answer is that affliction, hardship and distress are the Christian's portion, both promised and bestowed, though at first sight they seem not to be. If Christians are in prosperity, not in adversity, it is because, by disobedience, they have forfeited the promise and privilege of affliction.
III. Take up thy portion then, Christian soul, and weigh it well, and learn to love it.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)
1. The strange perplexity into which his sons had been brought.
2. The opening again of an old wound (ver. 32).
3. The loss of all earthly hope.
II. THE WEAKNESSES IN JACOB'S CHARACTER WHICH THEY REVEL.
1. Querulousness and despondency.
2. Want of strong faith in God.
(T. H. Leale.)
I. A NATURAL EXCLAMATION.
1. Human nature in similar circumstances is continually making it. I might go further, and say that human nature, even after it has been strengthened and elevated by Christianity, is still continually prone to pass this judgment upon the providence of God. When lately the edifice of fortune, which perhaps long years of energy and honesty had piled, was in an instant stricken as by a bolt from heaven, and fell crumbling around you, leaving you all unsheltered in a cold, unpitying world, could you see a proof of infinite tenderness, a sign of happiness, in the smoking ruins at your feet?
2. Human nature cannot by itself do otherwise than give this answer. There is, and can be found, no comfort, no strengthening, for man in mere nature, and man himself has an instinctive consciousness of this. The highest effort of philosophy, strictly so called, was simply to harden man — to cure his wounded sensibilities by first destroying them. Christianity alone can lay open to man's tearful gaze the vision of two worlds, and, pouring its sustaining, enlightening influences into his soul, enable him to apprehend the truth that "the sufferings," &c. (Romans 8:18).
II. AIDS TO FAITH FURNISHED BY REASON AND EXPERIENCE. Are there not considerations furnished to us from these sources which should lead us to regard all God's dealings with us, even those which seem to us the heaviest and darkest, as not really against us, but for us?
1. We should be led to this conclusion by the consideration of God's character. "God is love," and "I, the Lord, change not."
2. We should be led to this conclusion by the consideration of our own present ignorance in all things. What can we see of the outgoings of the All-wise and the All-good other than the veriest hem of His garment? We see a few isolated facts, but the hidden connections, the far reaching purposes, the eternal consequences of the mighty plan are entirely covered up from our eyes. You have sometimes seen from a hill-side, a valley over the undulating floor of which there has been laid out a heavy mantle of mist. The spires of the churches rise above it. Here and there you seem to catch the glistening of a roof or of a vane. Here and there a higher house, or some little eminence, or some tree-tops islanded in vapour, are beheld. But the lower and connecting objects — the linking line of the roads, the plan and foundation of the whole — are completely hidden from our gaze. And this is just the view which is permitted to us of the providence of God. We see a few isolated facts, and that is all. How absurd then, in reason, to attempt to determine the character of the Divine dealings with us upon such a view! How unjust are we when we do so to our God!
3. We should be led to a patient submission to God's will, and a belief that even His severest visitations are the effects and evidences of His love, from a consideration of the present moral effects of trial and suffering manifested to us by experience.(1) This discipline is generally necessary to break off our connections with this world and to fix them on heaven. We should want no better rest if all were peace here. We should want no deeper joy if no blackness of affliction ever rested on our earthly path.(2) Only thus can the highest style of character be formed. Affliction gives balance to the character, softens the asperities of nature, gives tone and depth to all our emotions, and places us nearer to the Son of Man, who was also the Son of God.Concluding lessons:
1. Contentment. This a day of great hopes, desires, endeavours, and disappointments.
2. Trust in God (Job 13:15).
(W. Rudder, D. D.)I. ATHEISTIC. He makes no mention of God. For the moment he has forgotten how the Lord had led him at first to Laban's house, and had given him prosperity during his twenty-one years' sojourn in Padan-aram; how He had cared for him when he left his father-in-law; how He had mollified for him the anger of Esau; how He had blessed him at Penuel after the night-long wrestling; and how He had protected him at the time when the violence of some of his sons might have drawn upon him the vengeance of the Shechemites. Now God was in this new trial as much and as really as He was in these old ones, and if Jacob had remembered that, he would not have spoken as he did. We shall see, indeed, that after a while, when his sons were bidding him farewell on their departure for Egypt for ore food, he came back to his old trustfulness, and offered for them this prayer: "God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." But at the first, when the full shadow of his trouble passed over him, God was to him, for the moment, eclipsed, and that only made his trial heavier.
II. UNTRUE. All these things were not against him. They were really working together for his good. They were onward steps in that process by which he was to recover his long-lost won, and was to have conferred upon him those years of happiness that, as we read the history, seem to us to be like the Sabbath of his early life, which, after the labour and sorrow of the week, he was enabled to spend in rest, in thankfulness, and in joy. How he would blame himself for these hasty words in those latter days, when he went to see Joseph in his palace, and took his grandsons between his knees; and I can imagine him saying to the God of his fathers, after all the riddle of his life had been unfolded to him, "Now I know the thoughts of Thy heart towards me, and I bless Thee that they were thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give me this delightful end."
1. Now, from this analysis of Jacob's experience, we may learn, in the first place, that God is in all the events of our lives. Many of us are ready enough to admit that He is in the prosperous things, but when trouble comes upon us we attribute that solely to others, and "n that way we lose the comfort which otherwise me might have enjoyed under its endurance. The mercies of a lifetime are often ignored by us under the bitterness of a single trial; and God, who has been our friend for years, is forgotten altogether, while we passionately condemn some others as the authors of our affliction. But we shall never find consolation that way. The first thing we ought to say regarding every trial is, "It is the Lord." If, instead of turning on his sons, Jacob had only turned to his God, he would have been sustained; and we may be sure of this, that trouble never yet overwhelmed a man so long as he could see God in it.
2. Then, again, from our analysis of Jacob's case, we ought to learn to pass no sentence of condemnation on God's work until it is completed. "Judge nothing before the time." We must not argue, from the pain of a part of the process, that there is evil intended to us in the result of the whole. The surgeon has a stern aspect, and apparently an unfeeling hand, when he cuts into the diseased organ or amputates the broken limb, but he is working towards healing all the time. And so it is with God and the discipline of His children. Wait until He finish His work before you condemn it.
3. Finally, if these two things be true, that God is in our trials, and that the outcome of them all under His supervision will be good, we may surely stay ourselves in trouble by earnest prayer. "Is any among you afflicted, let him pray." We have to deal with no blind, remorseless law. The Lord Jesus has taught us to say, "Our Father," and when we enter fully into the meaning of these words, and recognize clearly that His providence is universal, we shall have no difficulty in saying "Thy will be done"; for the Father's will is always love to His own children. That will sustain us while we are on earth.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)I. WE HAVE UNQUALIFIED ASSURANCE THAT GOD IS THE FRIEND OF HIS PEOPLE; AND THAT HE IS DIRECTING AND CONTROLLING ALL THINGS FOR THEIR HIGHEST GOOD. Why, then, should we ever fall into despair?
II. WE HAVE THE EVIDENCE OF GOD'S LOVE TO US IN THE DEATH OF HIS SON ON OUR BEHALF. We may, therefore, rest satisfied that He will not harm us by any of the events of His providence. There are not TWO GODS, one of providence, and one of grace.
III. WE HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF MANY OF GOD'S PEOPLE TO THE FACT THAT THOSE THINGS WHICH WERE APPARENTLY HARDEST IN THEIR LOTS, WERE AFTER ALL MOST BLESSED TO THEM. It is easy to see how that was the case in the history of Jacob which has been before us. But it is equally conspicuous in the history of Abraham. But it has been the same with all God's saints. The head-waters which have fed the main tributaries to their character, have been away up in some lonely tam of trial among the mountains, where their souls were sore pressed by the affliction that came upon them.
IV. YOU MAY FIND FROM YOUR OWN PAST EXPERIENCE THAT YOUR TRIALS WILL END IN YOUR SPIRITUAL PROFIT. You are different from any disciples of Jesus whom I have ever known, if you be not ready to say that the greatest starts your spiritual growth has taken have been occasioned by trial. In the early spring-time, after the seed has been put into the ground, and has begun to sprout out of the earth, there come those cloudy, close, damp, steamy days, which we all know so well and dislike so much. The sun is rarely visible; the heat is more oppressive and relaxing than in the dog-days; and everybody is uncomfortable. We would rather have a pelting rain for a few hours and be done with it, or we would infinitely prefer the cloudless sky and blazing sun of midsummer. Yes, but then these are the "fine growing days" which the farmer loves, when things seem to be shooting up from the earth with such rapidity that you almost think you can see them moving. So, the "fine growing days" of the soul are not its most agreeable ones. They are the close, damp, depressing ones, in which, as with Paul and his fellow-passengers in the storm, no sun appears by day, and no star visible by night. Or, to illustrate it yet in another way: There is a shuddering dread comes over one as he sees the lightning leap from the cloud, and light up the midnight gloom with its glare; but if the flash reveal to us that we are standing on the edge of a precipice over which we are in danger of falling, we will welcome it in spite of our alarm, and thank God for the providence that sent it just then. Now, it is so sometimes that trial has come to us, and we have forgotten the forked fury of the flaming thunderbolt in our gratitude for the warning which it gave so timely. Who has not known of such times in his history? and with such experiences behind us, how can we permit ourselves to say of any circumstances, however untoward they may seem, "All these things are against us"? Take to yourselves the support which these considerations are fitted to supply. If I have spoken truly, then —
1. No matter what your trials may be, you may be at peace. You are in God's hands. Where could you be better? Where would you be rather?
2. You may see new reason for patience. "Judge nothing before the time." Let God finish His work, and when you can look back upon the beginning from the end, you will not need anyone to vindicate His ways to you.
3. You may surely stay yourselves by earnest prayer.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)I. A PRINCIPLE OR AFFECTION, WHICH IS IN ITSELF GOOD, WHEN ALLOWED TO OPERATE EITHER EXCESSIVELY OR PARTIALLY, MAY GIVE RISE TO SENTIMENTS AND FEELINGS, AS WELL AS TO WORDS AND ACTIONS, SUCH AS CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED. THE PRINCIPLE TO WHICH I NOW REFER, AS YOU WILL AT ONCE CONJECTURE, IS THAT OF PARENTAL AFFECTION. But in the instance before us, amiable as was the principle in itself, it led the aged patriarch to the feeling and the utterance of what could not be vindicated. For example —
1. His affection for Joseph and Benjamin made him unreasonable to his other sons.
2. Under the predominant influence of his parental solicitudes, Jacob forgot for the time the hand of his God. "Me have YE bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me." Things may often be set in a more striking light by means of contrast. And Jacob not only overlooked the hand of God; he manifested criminal distrust of the faithfulness and goodness of the God of the covenant; distrust of that word which he had never yet known to fail, and of that ever-watchful care to which heretofore he had been so deeply indebted: "All these things are against me." Many a time had the Lord appeared to Jacob. Many an assurance had He given him of His love and care.
II. THAT THERE IS GREAT DANGER, ON THE PART OF CREATURES, IN FORMING HASTY CONCLUSIONS RESPECTING ANY PARTS OF THE DIVINE ADMINISTRATION. How ignorant and short-sighted was the good old saint! He saw not — and who does? — "what a day was to bring forth." The mission of Benjamin was to be the release of Simeon. Benjamin was to be made happy in the meeting of his own maternal brother. And Jacob himself was to get tidings of his long-lost boy, that would be the renewing of the youth of his aged spirit.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
I. Our first text is THE EXCLAMATION OF UNBELIEF: "All these things are against me."
1. In Jacob's case it was a very plausible verdict. Yet plausible as was the old man's mournful conclusion, it was not correct; and hence let us learn to forbear rash judgment, and never in any case conclude against the faithfulness of the Lord.
2. Jacob's exclamation was most evidently exaggerated — exaggerated in the term he used, "All these things," for there were but three evils at the most; exaggerated, too, in most of the statements. You would suppose, from the patriarch's language, that beyond all doubt, Simeon had fallen a victim in Egypt, and that Benjamin was demanded with a view to his instant execution; but where was evidence to support this assertion? We frequently talk of our sorrows in language larger than the truth would warrant. We write ourselves down as peers in the realms of misery, whereas we do but bear the common burdens of ordinary men.
3. The exclamation of Jacob was also as bitter as it was exaggerated. It led him to make a speech which (however accidentally true), with his information as to his sons, was ungenerous, and even worse. He said, "Me ye have bereaved of my children." Now, if he really believed that Joseph was torn of beasts, as he appears to have done, he had no right to assail the brethren with a charge of murder; for it was little else. In the case of Simeon, the brethren were perfectly innocent; they had nothing whatever to do with Simeon's being bound, it was wrong to accuse them so harshly. In the taking away of Benjamin, though there may have been a jealousy against him as aforetime against Joseph, yet most certainly the brethren were not to blame.
4. Observe that this speech was rather carnal than spiritual. You see more of human affections than of grace-wrought faith; more of the calculator than the believer; more of Jacob than of Israel. Jacob is more the man and less the man of God than we might have expected him to have been. See how he dwells upon his bereavements 1 Notice, in the case before us, the patriarch's unbelieving observation was quite unwarranted by his past history. Could Jacob think of Bethel, and yet say, "All these things are against me"? Could he forget Penuel, and the place where he wrestled and prevailed at the brook Jabbok?
5. Still keeping to Jacob's exclamation, let me observe that it was altogether erroneous. Not a syllable that he spoke was absolutely true. "Joseph is not." And yet, poor Jacob, Joseph is. Thou thinkest the beasts have devoured him, but he is ruler over all the land of Egypt, and thou shalt kiss his cheeks ere long. "Simeon is not"; wrong again, good father, for Simeon is alive, though for his good, to cool his hot and headlong spirit, Joseph has laid him by the heels a little. And as to Benjamin, whom thou sayest they wish to take away, he is to go and see his brother Joseph, who longs to embrace him, and will return him to thee in peace. Not one of all these things is against thee. Our best days have been those which we thought our worst. Probably we are never so much in prosperity as when plunged in adversity. No summer days contribute so much to the healthy growth of our souls as those sharp wintry nights which are so trying to us. We fear that we are being destroyed, and our inner life is at that moment being most effectually preserved.
6. Being wrong in judgment, the good old man was led to unwise acting and speaking, for he said, "My son shall not go down with you." The unbelieving generally do stupid things. We conclude that God is against us, and then we act in such a way as to bring troubles upon ourselves which otherwise would not have come.
7. And notice, once more, that good old Jacob lived to find in actual experience that he had been wrong from beginning to end. We do not all live to see what fools we have been, but Jacob did.
II. Turn now to the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and the sixteenth verse, where you have THE PHILOSOPHY OF EXPERIENCE: "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." Unbelief saith, "All these things are against me"; enlightened experience saith, "In all these things is the life of my spirit." The passage is taken from the prayer of Hezekiah after he was raised from his sick bed.
1. Our spirits, under God, live by passing through the sorrows of the present; for first, let me remind you, that by these trials and afflictions we live, because they are medicinal. There are spiritual diseases which would corrupt our spirit if not checked, kept down, and destroyed as to their reigning power by the daily cross which the Lord lays upon our shoulders. Just as the fever must be held in check by the bitter draught of quinine, so must the bitter cup of affliction rebuke our rising pride and worldliness.
2. Afflictions, again, are stimulative. We are all apt to grow slothful. There is an old story in the Greek annals, of a soldier under Antigonus who had a disease about him, an extremely painful one, likely to bring him soon to the grave. Always first in the ranks was this soldier, and in the hottest part of the fray; he was always to be seen leading the van, the bravest of the brave, because his pain prompted him to fight that he might forget it; and he feared not death because he knew that in any case he had not long to live. Antigonus, who greatly admired the valour of his soldier, finding out that he suffered from a disease, had him cured by one of the most eminent physicians of the day, but alas! from that moment the warrior was absent from the front of the battle. He now sought his ease, for, as he remarked to his companions, he had something worth living for — health, home, family, and other comforts, and he would not risk his life now as aforetime. So when our troubles are many, we are made courageous in serving our God, we feel that we have nothing to live for in this world, and we are driven by hope of the world to come, to exhibit zeal, self-denial, and industry; but how often is it otherwise in better times? for then the joys and pleasures of this world make it hard for us to remember the world to come, and we sink into inglorious ease.
3. Our troubles are a great educational process. We are at school now, and are not yet fully instructed.
4. So, too, trials and tribulations are the life of our spirit, because they are preparative for that higher life in which the spirit shall truly live. This is the place for washing our robes — yonder is the place for wearing them; this is the place for tuning our hearts, and discord is inevitable to that work; but yonder is the abode of unbroken harmony.
III. I close with my third text, and I think you may almost guess it, it tells of THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH. Turn now to the eighth chapter of Romans, and the thirty-seventh verse: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." "All these things are against us." Very well, we could not conquer them if they were not against us; but they are the life of our spirit — and as Samson found honey in the lion, so we, though these things roar upon us, shall find food within them. Trials threaten our death, but they promote our life. I want you to be sure to notice the uniform expression, "All these things are against me." "In all these things is the life of my spirit," and now, "In all these things we are more than conquerors." The list is just as comprehensive in the best text as in the worst. Nay, poor Jacob's "All these things" only referred to three; but look at Paul's list: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword — the list is longer, darker, blacker, fiercer, sterner, but still we triumph — "In all these things we are more than conquerors." Observe then, that the believing Christian enjoys present triumph over all his troubles. What does Paul mean by saying that believers are "more than conquerors"? Is it not this, that with the conqueror there is a time when his triumph is in jeopardy? But it is never so with the believer; he grasps the victory at once by an act of faith. No "ifs," "buts," "per-adventures," for him. He is conqueror at once, for God is on his side. But see how this last text of mine opens up the great source of comfort. "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." Did you notice, Jacob said nothing about Him that loved us? No, he could not have been unbelieving if he had thought of Him; and the life of our spirit in trouble very much lies in remembering Him that loved us. It is through Him we conquer because He has conquered.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE, EVEN WHEN HE IS WORKING THEIR DELIVERANCE, AND DESIGNING THEIR GOOD, ARE OFTEN DARK AND INTRICATE, SEEMING TO MAKE MORE AGAINST THEM THAN FOR THEM. Thus it was with Jacob now. God designed the preservation of him and his family in Egypt, by Joseph's advancement there; but how unlikely was the method He took in order to it?
II. WHENCE IT IS THAT A CHILD OF GOD MAY BE READY TO CONCLUDE THAT TO BE AGAINST HIM WHICH IS REALLY FOR HIM.
1. This proceeds from their weakness of faith, as to God's wisdom and power, faithfulness and love.
2. A saint is apt to say of what befalls him, all these things are against me, as looking to Providence, and judging by it abstracted from His promise.
3. A child of God may say of what befalls him, all these things are against me, judging by sense.
4. What a saint thus speaks, 'tis as looking down to the present world, and his interest in it.
5. Saints may say of God's dealings, they are against them, as speaking through rashness, and viewing only a part of his work, and not staying to the end.
6. Saints, under the trials they meet with, may be tempted to say, all these things are against us, as not duly attending to the method of God's dealing with His people, and their own and others' experience of the happy purposes He has served by it.
III. How MAY IT BE CONCLUDED, THAT WHAT THE PEOPLE OF GOD APPREHEND TO BE AGAINST THEM, SHALL IN THE ISSUE MAKE REALLY FOR THEE?
1. From God's relation to them. He is their God in covenant, their tender Father, and so in a peculiar manner concerned about them.
2. From His love to them.
3. From His express promises (Isaiah 43:1, 2).
IV. WHY GOD CHOOSES TO CARRY ON HIS PEOPLE'S GOOD BY WAYS, TO APPEARANCE, THE MOST DARK AND THREATENING.
1. For His own glory (John 11:4) In God's delivering us when we are at the end of our thoughts and hopes, and when ready to give up all for lost, then He appears in His glory, a God powerful, wise, merciful, and faithful indeed.
2. This God does, for the trial and discovery of His people.(1) In their corruption: that they may be more sensible of it, and humbled under it.(2) For the discovery of their graces: either as to their weakness, that they may be labouring after improvement; or as to their strength, that this may appear to His honour and their own comfort.(3) To quicken and make them the more earnest in prayer to Him.(4) To sweeten and endear the mercy He vouchsafes them, after all their doubtings and fears of the contrary.(5) God heightens the difficulties that seem to stand in the way of mercy before us, that we may be enlarged in our thanksgivings for it afterwards.Application:
1. Take heed of judging God's purposes of grace by the external dispensations which make way to bring them into effect.
2. Beg that faith may not fail when all things of sense seem dark and dismal.
3. Beware of entertaining narrow thoughts of God in the deepest distress. Believe Him always the same, whatever changes you meet with.
4. Listen not to what flesh, and sense, or Satan would suggest, derogatory to the power and faithfulness of God.
5. Be assured that all God's providences are accomplishing His promises, though you see not how this will be brought about.
6. Whilst you are so apt to say on earth, that all these things are against me, with the greater earnestness press on towards heaven. And in the light of that world, you will be fully satisfied how all things in the issue were for you, and that all your tears did but prepare you, with the greater relish to enter into that presence of God, where there is fulness of joy, and where there are pleasures for evermore.
(D. Wilcox.)1. That men may be brought by very different ways to think that all things are against them. Jacob was brought to despond by the simple pressure of adverse circumstances. It was the loss of his children that made him utter the words of my text. Joseph and Simeon were gone. Benjamin was apparently to go next. It was indeed too much for a father's heart. But I wish you to observe, that it had in it nothing of the bitterness of sin. I do not say that Jacob's adversity might not be connected with the faults of his early life. Most probably the judgment of God it was. But I mean that his sorrows were not of a kind to bring his sins to remembrance. I think if the sons of Jacob had said, "all these things are against us," they would have had much more reason for uttering these words than had their father. Depend upon it, it is when our faults have brought us into trouble — when our punishment is the legitimate child of our sins — it is then that we have most reason for believing and for saying, that "the hand of the Lord is against us." And yet I would have you observe, that even in the case of Joseph's brethren, who were now in his power, and locked by his command in prison, it was not true that all things were against them. Little as they might deserve it, God's hand was over them for good. Thus they were on the eve of prosperity; for, however strange it may seem, still it was certainly true, that the sin of these men against their brother was not only the means of their own prosperity, but was likewise a link in the grand chain of God's providential dealings with the whole race of mankind.
2. Every one knows how frequently he is wrong in his forebodings of evil — how circumstances of evil which he feared would prove fatal to his happiness have turned out entirely different from that which he feared — how often has it been the jaundice of his own eyes, and no defect of the light of heaven, which has made all around him wear a melancholy tint. And, therefore, upon mere general grounds, we strongly condemn those who are always faint hearted, and those who magnify disasters and difficulties in fancying that all things are against them.
3. But I have showed you that there is a divinely appointed way of viewing the circumstances in which we find ourselves placed, so that, by the help of this, we may foresee that they are really for us, when they seem to be against us. Yes, there is such a divinely appointed mode, and if I can only help some of you to look on your condition here upon earth, in that way which God has revealed and has made palpable through His most blessed Son, I shall feel sure that I have not spoken to you in vain. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God? Then, if you do, you will find it impossible to prove that in any condition of life all things can be against you. You will feel an assurance which nothing on earth or hell can shake, that God Himself is for you. Let me take two or three cases by way of example. In the first place, let us take a case of poverty. I suppose that there is nothing so likely to make a man say to himself that all things are against him, as being poor. Jesus Christ was a poor man too. You cannot be so poor as He. What honest man is there without a home? But again, there is a much worse enemy to be found in this world than poverty, and in sight of this enemy, I do not wonder that a person who remembers our Lord's words concerning the narrow road of life, and the broad road of destruction, should sometimes be dismayed. I allude to the fact, that every condition of life, and every period of life, is full of temptation to go astray from the ways of God and of heaven. Christ, by whose name we are called, and whose soldiers we are, condescended to be tempted himself. But again, a man may be brought to the conclusion that all things are against him by the same kind of painful experience as that which made Jacob utter the words of the text. It was the hand of God taking away what was dearest to the heart that made Jacob groan with a sense of the deepest misery. I do not think we need inquire whether Jacob was or was not excusable for uttering this lamentation. God was the judge of this. But we may well remark, that myriads of persons since then have been afflicted in the same manner, and many have given way to the same lament. He who believes on Jesus Christ must never say, under the weight of any affliction, "all these things are against me," because, under the weight of those sorrows which were put upon Christ, He never uttered such words. Once more, let me allude to that moment in every human life which brings a man into immediate contact with the unseen world. Let me speak of death, that one only event which is certain to every one present. It is well for us, while we are in health, and have the use of our faculties, to consider what impression will be made on us when we feel our strength decaying, and are assured either by age or sickness, that our work will soon be done. It is a terrible thing for a man, then, to feel that all is against him; and, no doubt, this feeling does often give rise to very happy results; but, I believe, that this is not the usual result. Certainly, according to my own experience, it is far from being so. I think that, in general, they who have not found out how much there is against them during their life, and how much has to be done in order to cut through the obstacles which stand between their souls and God — I think that they do not find this out in death. They who have lived carelessly, generally die carelessly too.
(Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)
I. I notice THAT GOD WORKS THROUGH SECONDARY INSTRUMENTS. The fore-determined purpose was to provide for Jacob and for his race; and we know that this purpose was accomplished. Jacob spent his declining years in peace and plenty beneath the shadow of his son's greatness. So also was the race secure from the incessant wars and dangers of Canaan. In the land of Goshen they grew into a nation, till, through the agency of the Egyptian king, God sent them forth upon their destiny a great and conquering people. But think, how many links in the chain of events there were to bring about this result, how many secondary causes were at work! The silent order of nature, the bad passions of man, the apparent accidents of travel, the vain visions of the night, all concurred — but why? Was it some happy accident alone that blended them all together? Do great results spring out of blind causes? or do the accidents of a world of chance accomplish the promises of a God of truth? Surely not? They all concurred because God was in them all, through them all, over them all.
II. I notice THE COMPLEXITY AND REACH OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT, EXTENDING SO FAR AND INVOLVING SO MUCH AS TO BE WHOLLY BEYOND OUR POWER TO UNDERSTAND IT. Surely none but God can measure God. If He be not beyond our reach and understanding, He cannot be God. We know only that which is before our eyes, and can not measure Him or His doings.
III. But, lastly, LET US LEARN TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE LOVE OF GOD AND THE FULFILMENT OF ALL HIS GRACIOUS PURPOSES TOWARDS US. To the blinded eye of the flesh indeed there may seem darkness and trouble on every side of us, our wishes thwarted, our hopes destroyed, our loved ones taken away — every comfort wrecked, till the heart cries out, I have nothing left to live for — yet when that time of bitterness comes to us, let us not forget the promise, "All things work together for good to them that love God" the exact meaning is "all things are working together for good," at this very moment, when the anguish is in thine heart, and the complaint is yet quivering upon thy lips.
(E. Garbett, M. A.)
1. It is for the trial of our faith.
2. And do not the secret ways of God's providence illustrate brightly His Divine power? He works indeed by means, but His independence of them is shown by the unexpected way in which He orders and employs them.
3. And, lastly, do we not gather the oft-required lesson of increased confidence in Him, who is our God and our all?
(S. W. Skeffington, M. A.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)1. The great object of religious discipline in this world is to prepare for the perfect happiness of a future existence. This is a fact too much lost sight of. Many, and especially young and inexperienced Christians, expect that the commencement of a religious life is to be a deliverance from those cares and sorrows, by the pressure of which they were perhaps first drawn to seek the Lord. Rut the great object of religion is to fit a guilty, polluted, lost creature, for the presence of God in a world of eternal happiness. But as the gift of inspired religion is rather a means of preparing the soul for the future life, than a provision of comfort for this, we remark —
2. Religion does not prevent the occurrence of those afflictions which are the common lot of mankind.
3. That if religion, or a real and religious connection with God, increases our afflictions, it sanctifies them. Though deeper afflictions do come upon the child of God, they are not the capricious severities of a hard master.(1) They are sanctified by our Divine Master to the increase of faith.(2) Again, the afflictions of the saints are appointed as a means of setting their affections on the things above.(3) God sanctifies affliction to the increase of obedience. Entire submission to God is a difficult lesson.(4) But observe that the years of later life are often more especially marked by correction and afflictive discipline. It is partly owing to natural causes. The natural progress of events and relationships serves for a time to increase our hold upon this present scene, and to open to us new sources of earthly enjoyment. But though we conceive that these things are adding to our happiness, and are consequently anxious to increase them, they are so many additional points at which we are accessible to affliction; and then, at last, the time comes, when we feel that schemes and plans will fail, and unexpected misfortunes will arise. The happiness on which we calculated ends in disappointment, Life is, in this respect, like a tree, which in its progress to maturity sustains, and soon recovers an injury, by the energy of the vegetative principle; but after it has spread to its widest extent, both in the root and the branch, and the day of maturity is gone by, it is more widely exposed to injuries than ever — and every day less fitted to repair them. But it is of Divine appointment also that afflictions crowd upon the decline of life. We see it in the history of the saints — in Jacob and Eli and David. We see it every day around us. There is much to be done in the heart, which remains long undone; and life glides away, and grey hairs are upon us, before we are prepared to submit to the needful discipline. And yet the work must be done. God therefore hastens His work of sanctification, and often, very often, sustains and sanctifies the soul of His faithful pilgrim under an accumulation of suffering, which once would have appeared absolutely insupportable: "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and Rachel is not, and ye will take Benjamin away."(5) But observe, the believer sometimes, in the crisis of affliction, loses sight of the great object of afflictive discipline, and receives it in a wrong spirit. The spirit of resistance shown strongly in the case of Jacob. In the bitterness of his sorrow, he exclaimed, "All these things are against me." It was the language of passion, of momentary rebellion. In these few words Jacob was guilty of a forgetfulness of the former faithfulness and love of his Almighty Friend — "All these things are against me." Jacob was guilty of an aggravation of the causes of his sorrow. It is difficult in the time of recent affliction to take a deliberate view of the afflictive circumstances; but it is unwarrantable in a complaining spirit to exaggerate them. "Simeon is not." Why should Jacob suppose so? Jacob was guilty here also of a premature decision of the whole case, without reference to the Divine power. He had seen his former trials terminating to the welfare of his own soul, and to the glory of God. Jacob was guilty of a decline from the practical conviction of his unworthiness, which formerly he strongly felt.(6) But observe, such afflictive dispensations issue in the vindication of God's dealings with His people, and in their advancement in grace and holiness. But see how the development of the dispensation vindicates the gracious providence of God. Of the three sons who were the subject of the Patriarch's grief, Joseph was already exalted to an honourable station, Simeon was safe under his brother's roof, and Benjamin was in this very matter the object of his brother's peculiar solicitude; and the whole family bad been so specially the object of Divine protection. Such visitations issue in the superior sanctification of God's people. We must not look at the fretful repining of Jacob, without noticing the settled composure with which he meets the severity of the trial when it must be endured. Nothing can be more interesting than the spirit of submission with which he addresses himself at last to this distressing sacrifice, "If it must be so now, do this. Take of the best fruits of the land, and carry down the man a present." Certainly, Christians in general must not expect a conclusion to their trials so marvellous as this; but, at the same time, God is infinitely wise in the choice of the facts by which our faith is to be strengthened and encouraged; and He would not have put upon the record a history so remarkable, if He did not mean us to gather from it how much we may expect from His gracious providence, as the issue of those trials in which we bend with meekness to His will.
One Thousand New Illustrations.In a fit of dejection Dean Hook once wrote: "My life has been a failure. I have done many things tolerably; but nothing well. As a parish priest, as a preacher, and now as a writer, I am quite aware that I have failed, and the more so because my friends contradict the assertion."
(One Thousand New Illustrations.)
Fifteen Hundred Illustrations.In the early history of Burmese missions, a young Burman of superior rank became a convert. His sister was a maid of honour to the queen, and being greatly distressed at his change of religion, and thinking if she could separate him from the missionary he would soon forget the foreign ideas, she obtained for him an appointment, which he was obliged to accept, as governor of a distant province. He had not been long at his new post, when some Karens were brought before him accused of worshipping a strange God. "What God?" he asked. "They call Him the eternal God," was the reply. A few questions satisfied the young governor that he had fellow-Christians before him. To the great surprise of the accusers he ordered the prisoners to be dismissed.
(Fifteen Hundred Illustrations.)
Moral and Religious Anecdotes.Mr. Newton had a very happy talent of administering reproof. Hearing that a person, in whose welfare he was greatly interested, had met with peculiar success in business, and was deeply immersed in worldly engagements, the first time he called on him, which was usually once a month, he took him by the hand, and drawing him on one side into the counting-house, told him his apprehensions of his spiritual welfare. His friend, without making any reply, called down his partner in life, who came with her eyes suffused with tears, and unable to speak. Inquiring the cause he was told she had just been sent for to one of her children that was out at nurse, and supposed to be in dying circumstances. Clasping her hands immediately in his, Mr. Newton cried, "God be thanked, He has not forsaken you! I do not wish your babe to suffer, but I am happy to find He gives you this token of His favour."
(Moral and Religious Anecdotes.)
PeopleBenjamin, Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh, Reuben, Simeon
TopicsBenjamin, Bereaved, Deprived, Jacob, Joseph, Simeon
Outline1. Jacob sends his ten sons to buy grain in Egypt.
16. They are imprisoned by Joseph as spies.
18. They are set at liberty, on condition to bring Benjamin.
21. They have remorse for Joseph.
24. Simeon is kept for a pledge.
25. They return with grain, and their money.
29. Their relation to Jacob.
36. Jacob refuses to send Benjamin.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 42:35
LibraryCorn in Egypt
Now, there are very few minds that can make parables. The fact is, I do not know of but one good allegory in the English language, and that is, the "Pilgrim's Progress in Parables, pictures, and analogies are not so easy as some think; most men can understand them, but few can create them. Happy for us who are ministers of Christ, we have no great trouble about this matter; we have not to make parables; they are made for us. I believe that Old Testament history has for one of its designs the furnishing …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 5: 1859
Touching Jacob, However, that which He did at his Mother's Bidding...
The Upbringing of Jewish Children
Spiritual Hunger Shall be Satisfied
Letter Xliv Concerning the Maccabees but to whom Written is Unknown.
Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
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