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JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL
Hosea 12:3-28.12.4; Hosea 12:6. By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him.…Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
THE historical parts of Scripture, if duly improved, will be found no less useful than any other. The Apostles often refer to them, and declare, that the things which had occurred to their ancestors, had “happened to them for ensamples,” and that they were recorded “for our admonition.” The Prophet Hosea was reproving both Ephraim (or the ten tribes) and Judah (the two remaining tribes) for their respective sins. But having called the latter by the name of “Jacob,” he thought it proper to guard them against the delusion of imagining themselves accepted of God because of their descent from Jacob, when their conduct was in direct opposition to that which he maintained. He then brings to their remembrance a very striking instance of Jacob’s communion with God; and takes occasion from it to urge them to an imitation of his example.
We shall consider,
In a season of great distress he betook himself to prayer—
[Jacob was greatly alarmed at the tidings that his brother Esau was coming against him with four hundred men to destroy him. He therefore used all the most prudential means to pacify his brother, or at least to prevent the total destruction of himself and his family. But he did not trust in the means he had devised. He determined to seek protection from God, well knowing that no means whatever could succeed without him, and that his favour would be a sure defence.
When Jacob staid behind in order to call upon his God, God instantly came forth to meet him. The person who is said to have wrestled with him is sometimes called a man, sometimes an angel, and sometimes God [Note: Compare Genesis 32:24; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 32:30. with ver. 4, 5]. It was none other than the Son of God, “the Angel of the Covenant,” who assumed on this occasion, as he did on many other occasions, a human shape: and by his condescending to come to Jacob in this manner, he shewed, both to him and us, that none should ever seek his face in vain.
As for Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, the prophet explains the import of that phrase, by saying, that Jacob “wept and made supplication unto him.” He “stirred up himself, as it were, to lay hold on God;” and pleaded his cause before him with boldness and confidence. Assured of a successful issue, he persevered in the conflict till break of day; and when solicited by his apparent adversary to terminate his exertions, he replied, “I will not let thee go until thou bless me.” Yet we are particularly informed, that with this boldness there was a mixture of the deepest humility; for he urged his petitions as our Lord himself did in his incarnate state [Note: Hebrews 5:7.], with strong crying and tears.
Thus did Jacob shew us to whom we should go in an hour of trouble, and in what manner we should endeavour to interest him in our behalf.]
By this means he obtained the desired relief—
[We are told twice in the text, that “he had power, and prevailed.” He prevailed with God; and by God’s assistance prevailed over man. The great object of his suit was to defeat the malice, and assuage the wrath, of his brother Esau. But how should he effect this? Conciliating as his measures and his conduct were, he could not ensure success: and therefore he went to God, who has all hearts in his hand, and turneth them whithersoever he will. He well knew, that, if once he could get God on his side, he was safe; for that “none could be against him, if God were for him.” To God therefore he presented his supplication; and behold the instantaneous effect! The enraged persecutor meets him with fraternal affection, and the only strife between them was, who should manifest the greatest love.]
In the exhortation grounded on this fact, we see,
The improvement we should make of it—
The intermediate words, omitted in the text, are merely a repetition of the same idea, that the person who had met with Jacob in Bethel, was “the Lord God of Hosts;” and that, in thus conversing with Jacob, he had, in fact, conversed with the Jewish nation, and had evinced his readiness to hear the supplications of all that call upon him. Then follows the prophet’s exhortation, which it will be proper to enforce;
“Turn thou unto thy God”—
[He that was Jacob’s God will also be ours: he is ours by external profession, and will be ours by the special communication of his grace, if we seek him with our whole heart.
To those who are in trouble, God is the only refuge [Note: Nahum 1:7.]. We may go to the creature, and obtain no benefit: but, if we make our application to him, he will hear and help us. In him we shall be as in an impregnable fortress; and if the whole human race were combined for our destruction, not a hair of our head should perish. Let every one of us then turn unto God; and we shall find him a very present help in trouble.]
“Keep mercy and judgment”—
[We may be ready to think, that as Jacob, notwithstanding his perfidious conduct, found acceptance with God, we may also live in the violation of our duty, and transgress the plainest principles of love and equity, and yet have God for our protector and friend. But Jacob’s treachery was a source of innumerable troubles to him through life, and especially of those very fears that harassed him on this occasion. And we shall find, that, sooner or later, deceit will bring its own punishment along with it. Doubtless when Jacob “wept,” he did so from a recollection that he had brought all these evils on himself, and had altogether forfeited the Divine favour. And to those in hell, it will be no inconsiderable augmentation of their misery to reflect, that they brought it on themselves.
Let us then determine, through grace, that we will give no just occasion to the enemies of our religion to blaspheme, but that we will in every thing keep a conscience void of offence towards both God and man.]
“Wait on thy God continually”—
[Whether we be reduced to such manifest straits as Jacob was, or not, we equally need the superintending care of God’s Providence. We have spiritual enemies, incomparably more numerous, powerful, and inveterate than Esau’s band; nor can any human means effectually defeat their malice.
Let us then not merely call on God occasionally, under the pressure of some heavy trial, or in the near prospect of death; but let us maintain fellowship with him continually, and by fervent supplication prevail with him to preserve us from all evil, and to bless us with all spiritual blessings. Let us remember, that he is our God in Christ Jesus, and that, through the aid of our incarnate God, we shall be more than conquerors over every enemy [Note: If this were the subject of a Fast Sermon, it might be improved, 1. in reference to the subject; 2. in reference to the occasion. The former of these heads might be treated as above; and under the latter it might be shewn from a variety of instances (e. g. 2 Samuel 15:31; 2 Samuel 17:14. 2 Chronicles 20:5; 2 Chronicles 20:23.Isaiah 37:15; Isaiah 37:15; Isaiah 37:36.), that humble and importunate prayer is the most effectual method of defeating the rage or devices of our enemies.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hosea 12". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany