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JACOB'S RETURN TO CANAAN.Gen. xxxi.
As long as it pleased God that Jacob should serve Laban, his Providence made his lot tolerable. But as soon as the moment arrived in which he purposed to send him back to his father's house, all things contributed to force him out of Syria. The sons of Laban began to murmur; and they complained that the substance of their father was transferred to Jacob. “ And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory." Laban himself was now disaffected to him, in such a manner that he could not conceal his displeasure. There was no longer any peace
for the stranger. God has served his purpose with him in servitude ; and he must now go home. « And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.”
In this situation he sends for his wives, and lays before them all his affairs. Do they side with their father? Do they still cling to their kindred and their country? Do they use all their efforts to induce Jacob to relinquish his purpose ? Do they, as was natural, try every effort to soften their relatives, and reconcile the parties ? No. Instantly they take part with their husband both of them are equally decided and zealous.
They are as ready to set out for Canaan as was Jacob himself. “ And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto
him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house ? Are we not counted of him strangers ? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children's : now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.”—Gen. xxxi. 14-16.
Here we see that what God ordains his Providence effects. All things conspire to fulfil his pleasure ; and
obstacle that is calculated to oppose it is removed.
Here also we may perceive a shadow of divine things. The spouse of Christ is made willing to leave her parents, her relatives, and her country, and set out with her husband for the heavenly Canaan. There is a willing people in the day of power.
Jacob, however, does not arrive at Canaan without his difficulties. Providentially Laban was not informed of the departure of his son-in-law till the next day; and, therefore, Jacob was far advanced on his journey before he could be overtaken. This was greatly in favour of his escape. But Laban was informed of the flight, not only in time to attempt, but in time to accomplish, the overtaking of the fugitives. God frequently brings his people into imminent danger, to show his power and Providence in working their deliverance.
Laban pursues for seven days, and at last overtakes his prey on the mount of Gilead. What now is to be done ? Where now is an escape ? Why, when the ordinary ways of
Providence are not fitted to deliver the Lord's people out of danger, he takes extraordinary means to effect his
purpose. The Lord appears to Laban in a dream, and forbids him to injure Jacob. There is no fear that the Lord will desert his people. In one way or other he will send relief.
But Divine Providence is seen even in this ex. traordinary deliverance. By the Divine warning the resolution of Laban was changed ; and instead of attempting to injure them, he sent them away with his blessing. Thus all the people of God are hunted and pursued by their spiritual adversaries, as soon as they set out for the heavenly Canaan. But no efforts can disappoint them; and by the Providence of God, many who may at first have attempted to arrest and detain them, will in the end disiniss them with their blessing.
JACOB'S MEETING WITH HIS BROTHER ESAU ON HIS
RETURN FROM SYRIA,Gen. xxxii.
Notwithstanding that Esau was determined on the murder of his brother, on account of the great provocations he had received from him, yet the eternal purposes of God secured his safety, as much as if he had been
heaven, under the throne of the Most High. But how does God preserve him ? By his Providence alone, in the use of ordinary means, in which the eye of human wisdom would see nothing of divine interference at all. No iniracle appears in altering the purpose of the intended murderer. All is natural. Providence works through the prudence of his servant. Jacob proposes to meet his brother, and disarm his wrath by the most consummate human wisdom. He avails himself of a deep knowledge of human nature; and connects such a series of conciliating circumstances, that the stubborn soul of Esau is broken down to child-like tenderness. The Patriarch sent messengers before him to apprize his brother of his approach; and charges them, in the first place, to inform him of his wonderful prosperity and riches. This itself is a conciliating circumstance. Prosperity creates friends. But in the case of these brothers, this was calculated to have a peculiar effect. Length of time might have cooled the passion of the discontented brother, but his interest still equally demands the murder. This alone can restore the inheritance, and disappoint the subtlety of Jacob. Nothing was so well calculated to allay the suspicions of evil from Jacob, as the fact of his uncommon wealth. Esau had no respect for the spiritual promises ; and the great prosperity of Jacob would tend to convince him that he was in no danger of the machinations of his brother to deprive him of the wealth of Isaac.
The messengers are instructed also to recognise, in Jacob's name, the superiority of his elder brother. He uses the most honourable forms of address to Esau, recognising his lordship over him, and the most humiliating expressions with regard to him
self. This was well calculated to soothe the pride of Esau, and soften his rugged heart.
In the answer of the messengers on their return from Esau, we may see a remarkable instance of Providence. “ And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him." That this was with hostile intentions is most apparent. Jacob himself understood the matter in this light. “ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.” It was not to honour his brother that Esau would take such an escort to meet him. Yet there was no threatening. Not a word in reply, either good or bad. There is great cause for apprehension : there is some room for hope.
Here we see that Divine Providence brings bis people into danger, and surrounds them with circumstances that create alarm, and keeps them for a time in suspense, in order to try and exercise their faith and patience. Providence might have instantly relieved Jacob from apprehensions on the return of the messengers. Esau might have been moved instantly to mercy, and to use language that would relieve his brother from his anxiety.
Why did be not do so ? Does God take pleasure in the pain of his people ? No; but it was in wisdom that Jacob was not instantly relieved. Had he got a favourable answer, he would not have had room to exhibit the admirable combination of faith and works which is now presented to our view. His suspense was good for him ; it is good for us. For a like reason, Jesus