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STUDIES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL
JACOB AT BETHEL
I. QUAR., LESSON X., MAR. 11, GEN. 28:10-22
Golden Text—”Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee.”—Gen. 28:15
VERSES 10,11. Because of his faith in the promises of God and his appreciation of them, Jacob now undertook a long and lonely journey on foot, and unaccompanied, that he might escape the murderous wrath of his brother. And in so doing he was leaving behind him and practically abandoning the earthly inheritance of flocks and herds, the wealth of his father Isaac, to
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Esau his brother, while he went forth empty-handed, with nothing but his staff. But he had what he appreciated more than all else, the blessed inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant, whose fulfilment could not be reasonably expected until the city for which Abraham looked (Heb. 11:10, the Kingdom of God) should be established in the earth. He evidently did not expect temporal blessings, and he actually forsook them; but while he sought first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, all needful temporal blessings, and more, were added.
VERSES 12-15. Here is sufficient evidence of the correctness of our estimate of Jacob’s character, as presented in our last lesson. Jacob was neither condemned nor repudiated by God. On the contrary, his faith and his appreciation of God’s promise made him beloved of God; and now, as he was a wanderer from home and family for the sake of his trust in God’s promises, God went with him on his lonely journey; and this confirmation of the original covenant must have been most refreshing and strengthening to him. Truly, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”—Rom. 8:31.
A comparison of verse 14 with chap. 22:17 will show that while the Abrahamic covenant was to have a double fulfilment—first, in a literal sense to him and his posterity; and, second, in a spiritual sense to the spiritual children of God of whom Abraham was a type (Rom. 4:17—margin), and who are therefore called the children of Abraham—this covenant makes mention only of the literal fulfilment which is to be realized by Jacob and his descendants—”Israel after the flesh”—as well as by Abraham and Isaac and all the prophets who shall constitute the earthly phase of the Kingdom of God.—See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., Chap. xiv.
The promise to Abraham in part was, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore,” which language, in the light of subsequent revelations of the Apostles, is seen to signify both a spiritual and an earthly seed, the former being Christ and his body, the Gospel Church (Gal. 3:16,29), and the latter, the literal descendants of Abraham and Jacob—”Israel after the flesh.” And in this seed of Abraham and posterity of Jacob, in both the literal and spiritual senses, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The two phases of the Kingdom will cooperate in the glorious and blessed work of the restitution of all things, foretold by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.—Acts 3:19-21.
VERSE 15 was the blessed assurance to Jacob of that which is now very shortly to be brought to pass, and which is even now beginning to be fulfilled. It signifies the regathering of Israel—often called Jacob; see Rom. 11:26—to the land of promise. It signifies not only their regathering out from among all the nations whither they have been scattered (Ezek. 11:17; 20:34,41; 28:25), but also their coming out of their graves. (Ezek. 37:12-14.) Consequently, at the appointed time (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II.), we expect that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets and all Israel will be regathered from “the land of the enemy”—the grave, and from among all nations whither they have been scattered, and firmly planted in the land which God sware unto Abraham and unto Isaac and unto Jacob. We expect all this and much more when the city is established for which Abraham looked, and unto the promise of which all the ancient worthies had respect.—See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. III.
VERSES 16-19. Jacob’s reverent appreciation of the Lord’s communion with him in the dream is commendable. Wherever God communes with his people the place becomes a sanctuary—Bethel, or house of
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God. Now the Lord speaks to us through his Word, and we speak to him in prayer;
“And wheresoe’er God’s people meet
There they may find the mercy seat:
Where’er they seek him, he is found,
And every place is hallowed ground.”
VERSES 20-22. A realization of God’s favor, instead of making Jacob arrogant and haughty, as less noble natures are often affected, led him in humility to a grateful consecration of himself to God, and to a sense of his own unworthiness. The word “if” in this verse might more properly be substituted by the words since, or inasmuch as, because Jacob is not here introducing a condition with God, but is expressing his acceptance of God’s promise (of verse 15) to do these things. Then note how moderate were Jacob’s desires for temporal blessings. All he craved for the present life were the simple necessaries of existence, while he solemnly obligated himself to tax all that he might in future acquire at the rate of 10 per cent, for the Lord’s special service. And there he set up a memorial pillar that that place should ever thereafter be to him a sacred place of worship and a reminder of the goodness of God, of his covenant and of the obligations which he had assumed as a thank-offering to the Lord.
This grateful consecration on Jacob’s part was a voluntary offering, not from constraint, but from love and gratitude. And in the course of all the ancient worthies who shall inherit the earthly phase of the Kingdom we see the same spirit of grateful sacrifice, which is only excelled by that of our Lord Jesus and those who closely follow in his footsteps, freely consecrating and actually sacrificing, not only one tenth, but all that they have—even unto death—that they may thereby accomplish the work which God has given them to do, and prove their worthiness of the covenant blessings to the spiritual house of Israel and seed of Abraham.
Those who have thus solemnly covenanted to present themselves as living sacrifices together with Christ, that thereby they may be heirs together with him of the spiritual blessings vouchsafed in this Abrahamic covenant, would do well to mark with what faithfulness the heirs of the earthly inheritance paid their vows unto the Most High. Mark also how thoroughly they were tested, and how bravely they stood the tests applied; and from their noble examples let us take courage while we run our race, inspired by the exceeding great and precious promises hidden for us also in that Abrahamic covenant. If Jacob asked no more than the actual necessities for the present life, surely we may be satisfied with nothing more; while we look for a still more glorious inheritance in the promised time of blessing. “Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.”—1 Tim. 6:8.
Yet it is to be feared that many who covenant to sacrifice their all in the Lord’s service actually render far less than one tenth. The size of our sacrifice is the measure of our love and zeal in the Lord’s service; and time and influence, as well as financial ability, are parts of our possessions to be rendered to the Lord as thank-offerings, while out of that consecrated to him the things needful for our sustenance may be retained in harmony with the spirit of our covenant.
And, while we run, let us remember for our consolation the promise to Jacob, and through him to us—”Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee.” “Faithful is he who hath called you, who also will do it.”—1 Thes. 5:24.
— March 1, 1894 —