« PreviousContinue »
and the service of God as a proper choice. It is strange that Christians in general look so little to the Lord in this matter.
THE ARRIVAL OF REBEKAH AT THE TIME WHEN ISAAC WAS ENGAGED IN COMMUNION WITH GOD BY MEDITATION AND PRAYER.-Gen. xxiv. 63.
It is but a slight circumstance, but as an instance of providential wisdom, it is worthy of observation, that, at the moment of Rebekah's arrival at the residence of her future husband, he was engaged in meditation and prayer. This may be in man's view an accidental coincidence, but it is the arrangement of the Providence of God. The trifling fact is recorded by the wisdom of inspiration; and there is nothing recorded which is not calculated in one way or other to give us instruction. The believer ought to see Him who is invisible, and to commune with Him as his confidential and Almighty friend. The nearer he lives to God, the happier will he be. Yet strange, the corrupt heart of man, even in the believer, is prone to seek happiness by departing from God. It is only when he is kept by the power of God, and as far as he is kept, that he finds his happiness in God's favour. To encourage his people to constant fellowship with him, he increases their happiness, as they increase in a desire to enjoy his presence. He is the hearer of their prayers, and they never seek him in vain. If he
gives them not the very thing which they ask, he will give them what is better for them; and he will give them what they ask when it is good for them. Here he honours prayer by putting Isaac in possession of his highest earthly blessing, while he was engaged in meditation and prayer." And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming."-Gen. xxiv. 63.
THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE OF GOD TO ABRAHAM WITH RESPECT TO ISHMAEL.-Gen. xvii. 20; xxv. 16.
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee," says God to Abraham; "behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly: twelve princes shall he beget; and I will make him a great nation." This promise was in a great measure fulfilled, even while Isaac, the heir of the promises, was a stranger and a pilgrim in Canaan. "These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations." -Gen. xxv. 16. And how did the Lord fulfil this promise? Altogether in a way of Providence. He did every thing with an unseen hand, exactly as he still does every thing in all the kingdoms of the earth. His own people can trace his steps, and recognise the marks of his presence. But he lies
hid from the observation of the world. It is delightfully instructive to the believer to trace the history of the descendants of Ishmael, and behold how wonderfully God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham with respect to them. And in this ought we not to see the Providence of God in the affairs of all nations, of all ages? Who is it that raises up nations to prosperity, or casts them down and destroys them? Who is it that bestows empires, and upholds the thrones of kings? Who is it that sends the sword, and gives conquest to the ambitious? Who is it that regulates all the affairs of earth, and sends war or peace, prosperity or adversity, victory or defeat, at his pleasure? It is the God who made, and who fulfils this promise with respect to the son of Abraham.
JACOB'S PURCHASE OF THE BIRTHRIGHT.
Can any man approve of the conduct of Jacob? It was base, it was ungenerous, it was hypocritical, it was unjust. Yet the God of Providence gives it success, while he does not sanction it. He does more than this. He makes conduct, of which he disapproves, the very means of effecting his eternal purpose. And was he at a loss for means to accomplish his purpose, that he chose to fulfil his will by an act of the foulest treachery? No, he has his choice of means to effect the events which he
designs to bring about. And this means was the best suited to answer the ends of his sovereign wisdom. It was in every part suited to his design. Had any part of it been otherwise, it would never have existed.
The sovereignty of Providence meets us here at the very threshhold. Could any thing have been easier for Providence to effect, than to cause that Jacob should have been the first-born of the twins? This would have taken away all occasion for the existence of this disgraceful conduct in Jacob. But instead of making Jacob the first-born, Providence undoubtedly constitutes Esau the first-born for a specific purpose. God designedly gives oc
casion to the scheme of Jacob and his mother. In the very birth of the children, Divine Providence points out the future history by Jacob taking hold of Esau's heel.
The different dispositions, habits, and manner of life of the two brothers, were calculated to cooperate in bringing about the event here related. "Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents." This circumstance was the occasion of exposing Esau to the hunger, through the temptation of which he was induced to sell his birthright, while it afforded to Jacob an opportunity of supplying his brother's want at the moment.
The sinful partiality of the parents, each for a different child, had also a distinguished share in bringing about the event. The ground of Isaac's
peculiar love to Esau was utterly unwarrantable; and it is not said that Rebekah's preference of Jacob was grounded on his character. At all events, she loved Jacob peculiarly, and by this means the birthright was transferred from Esau to his younger brother. Had Esau been the favourite of his mother, or of both his parents, this scheme would not have been contrived to deprive him of his birthright. Every link in the chain is inserted by the hand of Providence.
The answer of God to Rebekah, declaring that "the elder shall serve the younger," no doubt makes Isaac guilty of rashness at least, in conferring the birthright, without farther consulting the Lord. He acted evidently out of preference to Esau. But this is another feature of the Sovereignty of Providence in this matter. God could easily have made Jacob the favourite of his father as well as of his mother. Had he done so, no occasion could have been given to this crime in Jacob. His father would have given him the blessing by consulting the mind of the Lord. This providential circumstance shows us also that God can effect his purposes through the means of persons who intend to thwart them, as well as by those who intend to give them effect. He made Isaac transfer the birthright to Jacob, in the very act by which he intended to give it to Esau; and thus to derange the appointment of God. It may alleviate the guilt of Rebekah in this matter, that she knew the divine appointment. But it is not said that she acted on this principle. She