I was looking a little last evening into the beautiful truths contained in the mystery of Jacob at Peniel. It is clear, I judge, that his faith had failed. Instead of remembering the promise and passing on in the quietness of faith, his soul, through unbelief, gets into great exercise. Instead of looking at God's host, he looks at Esau's host; he fears, and prays, and calculates, and settles all according to man's best device. Here was exercise when all should have been stillness. "Stand still and see the salvation of God." And often it is unbelief that raises exercise of spirit. There is such a thing as religious unbelief, praying unbelief. We have an instance of it here. Jacob was in exercise of heart, he was praying, when he should have been still as a stone, asleep in the promise; for so God gives His beloved sleep. With all this, of course, the Lord is at issue. He has a controversy with all this. Accordingly He comes out to wrestle with Jacob. But this wrestling and all that accompanies it has deep meaning for the soul. I might look at this in a few particulars. First. The first thing learnt is that which I have already noticed; that the Lord has a quarrel with Jacob. So hath He with us all. His truth or word addresses us in the very first instance, as those who have departed from Him, and with whom He has a very serious question to settle. In His word He withstands us to our face, He convicts us, He tells us that all is far indeed from being peace between Him and us. Secondly. But in the wondrous management of this quarrel, the Lord allows Jacob to prevail, and he has to sue for, and even purchase deliverance from his grasp. So with us. If the Lord pleased He could consume us. He could let out His righteous anger and destroy us. The mere touch of His hand withered Jacob's thigh, so one charge of ten thousand would undo us, and leave us in hopeless condemnation. But He did not deal according to His strength with Jacob, neither does He deal with us sinners according to His righteousness. He allows Himself to be prevailed over. It is all His grace, all His own counsel and doing, but so it is, He allows Himself to be prevailed over, He has committed Himself to a promise which ties up His strength. He has revealed a gospel in the blood of His dear Son which decides His way towards us in peace. He cannot deny Himself. He has put Himself in such an attitude before us, that faith must prevail and get the blessing. No victory is so sure as when a willingly emptied and unresisting enemy is against us. If I were to fight with a Goliath, knowing that he meant to lay aside his arrows and his strength, my victory would be surer than if I were to meet the weakest boy in the camp. For in the latter conflict, I should still have to measure strength and to think of the chances, though they might be never so much on my side; but in the former conflict, I need not count on chances at all, the victory was already and altogether sure. So here with Jacob, so in the gospel with us sinners. We have to do with One who has laid aside His strength and His weapons of war; who says, "My terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee." He has provided a way whereby He way fold up all His instruments of death, lay aside His angry righteousness and fiery vengeance of law, which He might so justly have drawn out against us, and He has given the sinner, like Jacob, to prevail for a blessing through that promise by which He has put Himself before us in an attitude of gracious or voluntary impotency. The gospel, when He has taken up His position, hides all that would destroy us. And such is the way of this divine Stranger with Jacob here. Thirdly. We then see the nature of the blessing. His name is now Israel, for he has power with God, and this secures him power over man, and all beside. And so is it with the believer. He can say, all is his; he has got, through grace, the key to divine fulness--all that God is and has is for him. And he can, in the sense of this, say (as Jacob, after he became Israel, might have said of Esau), "If God be for me, who can be against me?" He is conscious of this. The sense of it is attached to him. In spirit he has power with God and with man, and has prevailed--and thus every believer is an "Israelite." Faith prevails. It hushes Sinai, it answers the accuser, it pleads Christ to the demands of the law, and thus satisfies them; it meets the Father in the Beloved, and delights Him; it shouts a triumph over death, because of Christ's resurrection; it assures itself of all glory, because of Christ's oneness with His poor people. The believer thus prevails--is thus "Israel." All are prevailed over, all give place to the power of faith. Fourthly. We see the natural slowness in understanding this--in apprehending God in the gospel of His grace. "Tell me thy name," says Israel to God. This is to be rebuked. "Wherefore dost thou ask after my name." "Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known me, Philip." But in no other way will God be known, save in the blessing of the gospel, in the revelation of His grace in Christ. As the Lord here blesses Jacob in answer to the inquiry, "What is thy name?" and as we are now to turn from other witnesses, and to learn "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." We may be slow like Jacob, but God is sure. Fifthly. After this we see the happy issue of it all. Jacob now learns that he has been with God, and yet, a wonder to himself, his life is preserved. His thigh may halt, but his life is preserved. And all this gives us a striking view of the issue of a poor sinner's faith in the gospel, now simple, full, and established. He knows that he has the face of God bright upon him, not to consume, but to cheer and, bless him. That glory that would have been intolerable to man or to flesh is welcome to the believer. He knows God's righteousness remains unmitigated, but he knows that he has it in Him, and thus no glory is too bright for him. He can see God and live. He can stand in His presence, and rejoice instead of tremble. He bears in his spirit, it is true, the pledge of being but a saved sinner, one whom God might righteously and easily have consumed, but one whom grace has put in a place, not of defeat, but of victory; not of death, but of life. He is a halting conqueror. Such was Jacob. Such is every believer. And such will he be for ever. Life and victory will be his, but he will never forget that he is debtor to grace for it all.
I dare say my dear sister will go along with me quite in these simple comments on this little place in Jacob's wondrous history. I should be glad to pay you a visit, not as thus with pen and, ink, but face to face. However, I see no present prospect, but it may be that the path of our feet may again lie toward you. You will give my love to many around you, whom I remember in all love, especially dear . . . ., from whom I used to hear occasionally; dear M . . . . and C. B . . . .
The Lord be with your spirit, dear sister, His hand under your head, and then will the other one be embracing you, His strength and gentleness being both yours.
Believe me ever your affectionate brother,
J. G. B.
Accept the united love of all here for yourself, dear mother and sister, and our young friend. Some weeks since I had a welcome letter from dear Miss . . . .