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Biblical Illustrator Isa 44

Biblical Illustrator Isa 44

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 18, 2011
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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR ISA 44CHAPTER XLIV.Vers. 1-5. Yet now hear, Jacob, My servant. — Why are the people, of Oodcalled by the name of Jacob ? — Have you never wondered why the people of Godshould be called by the name of the third of the ancient patriarchs in preferenceto th first two? We often, indeed, find them called the seed of Abraham, andwe should easily understand what was meant if we read of the children of Isaac:but, as far as I remember, they are nowhere called simply Abraham or Isaac,whereasit is perfectly common to hear them called Jacob or Israel, the name of the thirdEatriarch being directly transferred to his descendants. ot only so: this usageas passed over into the ew Testament, and we still sometimes cadi the wholeCHAP. XLiv.] ISAIAH. 391body of living Christians the Israel of God. This is a somewhat surprising circum-stance; for of the three patriarchs the third is certainly not the favourite. Why,then, is it that the name of the third patriarch is attached to God's people, as if he were more directly their progenitor than the other two? Is it because theyare liker him than they are to Abraham or Isaac? Is the average Christian animperfect, stumbling mortal, a compound of obvious vices and struggling virt'^es,as Jacob was? It would be harsh to say so. But we may come nearer the mark if we put this suggestion in a different form. Jacob was the progressive characteramong the patriarchs. His beginnings were ignoble, and the vices of his naturelong clave to him; yet by degiees he surmounted them: he lived down the evilwhich was in him; and his end was that of one who, after many defeats, had atlast obtained the victory. Abraham is a much grander figure than Jacob, buthe has far less history. He may almost be said to be perfect from the first. If in him there was a slow development from small beginnings, we have no recordof it. Isaac, again, was, as far as the records inform us, a back-going rather thana progressive character. The opening scenes of his history are beautiful and noble;but his character lacked back-bone, and we see him sinking into physical grossnessand moral flaccidity. Jacob's life, on the contrary, in spite of great defects tobegin with and many faults by the way, was a developing and ascending one. This
is shown by the names he bore: he was first Jacob and then Israel. And it maybe to recommend such a life of progress that his names are given to God's people.(J. Stalker, D.D.) Biography in three words : — I. Jacob. 1. This was the nameof the natural man. After he had received his new name the very mention of theold one must have reminded him of the evil time when he was an unbrotherlybrother and an unfihal son. It is true that, while he was still Jacob, he wentthrough the experience of Bethel, where he saw the vision of the ladder reachingup to heaven. This is usually regarded as his conversion, but, if it was, he wasafterwards a backsUder, for his subsequent hfe in Padan-aram was far moreguidedby selfish cleverness than by the law of God. The name Jacob, in short, was amemorial of a youth of sin and of a manhood of worldliness. But is it not, thusunderstood, an appropriate name for the people of God? Is there not for themalso a bad past to remember ? It is well sometimes to go back to what we were,because the old habits may still spring up and trouble us; though we may nowhave received a new name, the old Jacob is ia us still. Above all, we ought to goback on that old time, because it helps to magnify the grace which brought usout of it. 2. But there is another idea inseparably connected with the name of Jacob: it is that of Divine choice. In our text this is very prominent — " Israel,whom I have chosen," " Jesurun, whom I have chosen." It is, indeed, coimectedwith the other two names here, because these indicate that to which he was chosen.But he was the choice of God, in preference to Esau, whUe he was still Jacob. AsHe chose Jacob, while he was still Jacob, so He loved us while we were yet sinners.II. ISEAEL. 1. The patriarch received a new name because he had become a newman. God does not trifle with such things. A change of name among us maybe a mere freak of caprice ; but when God deliberately changed a man's name,it was an outward monument of an inward change. If it did not mean that thenatural man, which the name Jacob designated, was entirely exterminated, itmeant that it was so far overcome that the complexion of the life would hence-forth be different. The reign of selfishness and worldliness was over, and a newspirit had entered in and taken possession. If we ask how this came about, it mayhave been a slower and more complex process than we have any record of; forwhat appears a sudden spiritual change is often only the culmination of movementsgoing on for a long time before. But what we are permitted to see clearly in therecords of the patriarch's life is the midnight scene on the bank of the Jabbok.It is far away, and it is evidently concealed under forms of speech which are nowalien to us; but this at least is evident, that the patriarch was that night, if ahomely phrase may be allowed, at cross grips with God. That night God was notto him vague and far-off, but intensely real and very near; and Jacob had trans-actions with Him face to face — ay, hand to hand. Is not this what the religionof many people lacks? To a certain extent they are reUgious. Yet somehowit never comes to close quarters between them and God. What they need is Christ,
the reconciler. 2. But the new name of Israel denoted more than this. It wasexpressly said to him, as he received it, " As a prince hast thou had power withGod and hast prevailed," and this was what the name meant — the possession of power with God. Evidently a great crisis had come in Jacob's experience, in392 THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR. [chap. xliv.which his will came into collision with the will Divine. But what an unequalstruggle ! The mysterious man had only to touch Jacob in the seat of his strength,and it yielded in a moment ; the sinew shrank, and he could struggle no more.Yet in the moment when he appeared to be thoroughly beaten, it turned out thathe had gained the victory and won the blessing. This is not so mysterious as itlooks. It is repeated in every great spiritual crisis. It is through such experiencesthat men and women enter into the secret of the Lord, become mighty in prayer,are endowed with spiritual power, and if they do not receive new names on earth,yet obtain a stamp and a signature of character leaving no doubt that they havenew names in heaven. III. Jeshtjbun. There is no evidence that this namebelonged to the third patriarch, though it may have done so. But there can belittle doubt that, standing where it does, alongside of the other two, it was meant,like them, for a symbol of character. The root from which it appears to be derivedmeans straight or upright, and this is its most probable meaning. This was pre-cisely the development of character which the third patriarch needed, after he hadreceived the new name of Israel. What happened the very next morning afterthe great midnight scene on which we have been looking ? He went forth to meethis brother Esau; and this is the account of how he behaved: "Jacob lifted uphis eyes and looked, and behold Esau came, and with him four hundred men ; . . .and he bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother."Bowed himseK — to the ground — seven times! This to his own brother! Whatwas he bowing for? Why could he not stand up straight on his feet and look hisbrother in the face? Read the whole account of the preparations and dispositionswhich he elaborated before meeting Esau, and of the sly, suspicious way in whichhe met and managed his rough but generous brother, and you will feel inclined tosneer: Is this the man who was called last night a prince who had power with God?There is far too much bowing and becking, twisting and turning. This man is notstraight; he is not upright. It seems to me that sometimes in people who havehad their Bethels and Mahanaims and Peniels, and can speak to you about experi-ences of struggle and emptying, and of being filled with the Holy Spirit, there is adefect of a similar kind. Although they have had dealings with God, and feelthemselves on a footing of reconciliation with Him, they are not right in theirdealings with men. There are few things which so injure the cause of religion

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