Sermon 1718. Certain Singular Subjects
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And I gave unto Isaac, Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau Mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went downinto Egypt." Joshua 24:4.
THIS passage, though audibly uttered by the mouth of Joshua, is to be regarded as the immediate voice of God. Joshua saidunto all the people, "Thus says Jehovah, God of Israel." Jehovah reminded the tribes, their elders and judges, of all thatHe had done and of all that He had been to them-and from this He challenged their allegiance, requiring that they should henceforthbe loyal unto their great Benefactor. Addressing them, Himself, His argument became all the more impressive. I reverence allScripture more than tongue can tell, but yet I venerate most of all those portions of the Word which are God's own voice-thethoughts of Deity interpreted into human speech by Deity, itself! The passage now before us, though it reads like a pieceof ordinary history such as might have been composed by a common scribe, has about it a vastness of meaning such as can onlybe found in the language of the infinite God.
When God inspires David, or Isaiah or Paul, He teaches us most graciously, but when He condescends to speak, Himself, howshall we sufficiently reverence the Words? We have here, not so much a letter dictated by God, as the actual autograph ofthe great Father! My text is written with the finger of God. A glory blazes along the lines-the letters are all illuminated-thewords glow like the sapphire work of Heaven's pavement. Our text has a world of meaning in it. It may, as we notice its plainwords and prosaic statements, seem to be a mere common box, but it is, in very deed, an ark of precious perfumed wood, overlaidwith pure gold, and filled with gems and jewels rich and rare!
May the Holy Spirit give us eyes with which to perceive the treasures which lie before us in these words-"I gave unto IsaacJacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau Mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt."
I. The first thing that I discern here is HISTORY AND THE HAND OF GOD IN IT. See, "I gave," and then, again, "I gave." Itis not merely that Esau and Jacob were born of Isaac and Rebekah, but the Lord says, "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau." Howplainly does this declare that the hand of God is in human history! At first sight, history seems a great tangle, a snarl,a confusion-but on looking at it more closely, we perceive that it is only in appearance a maze- but in fact a marvelous pieceof arrangement, exhibiting perfect precision and never-failing accuracy! Our carnal reason sees the wrong side of the carpetand it appears to be without design or order-but there is another side to history-and looked at from that standpoint it revealsa wonderful pattern of beauty displaying unparalleled wisdom and goodness!
Histories of nations are, from the human side, little more than a narration of the crimes of kings and the follies of theirpeople. And yet, viewed from another quarter, they are the record of the dealings of God with men-the story of love's laborto reclaim the lost! Look at Calvary's sacrifice as it rises above all other events-even as, this morning, I saw the hillsand the tops of tall trees standing out above the morning mist. What a sight it is! The Cross towering over the ages lookingdown on their sins and sorrows! Calvary-what is it? What but the climax of human iniquity, where man became not so much aregicide, though he slew his King, as a Decide for, to the utmost of his power, he slew his God!
On the Cross, human enmity of God reached its most dread extremity! With wicked hands men crucified and slew the Son of God!Yet it is equally true that on Calvary we see more of the goodness, Grace, mercy, justice and long-suffering of God than anywhereelse. The Cross is, at once, our crime and our salvation-an exhibition of man's foulest sin and of God's richest Grace! Calvaryis of all spots, the blackest and the brightest-the place where Hell displayed its most deadly power and yet the very gateof Heaven! Thus is all human history, according to its measure and proportion, a bitter sweet. Where man's mischief and miseryabound, there do God's goodness and Grace much more abound.
We see the hand of God in history very strikingly in the raising up of remarkable men at certain special periods. It is true,as the Lord says, "I gave unto Isaac, Jacob and Esau." Children are the gift of God. This is true not only of Isaac
but of all mortal men. God gave to a worthy couple, George Washington; to another pair, John Howard; and to a third, GeorgeWhitefield. Each of these, in his own special way, was a Divine gift to men. Children are born with differing talents andvaried capacities, but all about them which will make them blessings is the gift of God. I shall not tarry to mention greatmen whose names mark epochs in history from which men date an increase of light and happiness-but let no man think of thesefriends and leaders of mankind without admitting the hand of God in their birth, training, disposition and ability.
The greatest blessing which God ever gave to man was the Man, Christ Jesus, and, under Him, the next best blessings are men.You remember the passage, "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And He gave someApostles," and so forth. Ascension gifts are sure to be worthy of the occasion and, therefore, eminently precious-and theseare all men! Within a man-poor, lowly, humble and even sinful, though that, man may be in himself-there may lie concealedan almost infinite blessing from the Most High! Even as within an acorn sleeps a forest, or within a flint lies light fora nation's watch-fires. When the Negro slave had borne long years of bondage and hope of deliverance seemed far away, it wasGod that gave an Abraham Lincoln who led the nation onward till "Emancipation" flamed upon its banners
Long before, when England, free in every corner of it, yet held slaves in its colonies, it was God that gave Wilber-forceand raised him up to plead in Parliament the rights of men, till the command went forth-
"Thus says Britannia, empress of the sea, Your chains are broken; Africa, be free!" In all such acts of righteousness, thecoming forth of the man of the hour must be attributed to God's own hands. The men, themselves, may not know why they havecome to power-of them it might often be said as the Lord said of Cyrus-"I girded you, though you have not known Me." The mightyones that contend for wrong, bind the chains and forge the fetters of the oppressed, do not know the champions who are predestinedto overturn them, but God knows, and that is enough! Tyrants have always just cause to be afraid, for every birth may producea deliverer. Somewhere in a hovel there may sleep, in a rude cradle, the boy who shall shake the throne of evil!
As yet it has always happened in due season that Pharaoh has been confronted by Moses and the princes of Midian by Gideon.For every Sisera there is a Jael and for every Goliath a David. The upas tree may increase its deadly shadow, but an axe issharpening for the felling of it! Evil is a gourd and though a man is but a worm, yet he shall destroy that gourd. God isstill working in the fashioning-oh, with what mystery-of His own instruments! In His book are written the members of men whoare yet to be, who are now being fashioned in secret by the hand of God! These shall, by-and-by, appear, and shall lead onthe race to a further unloosing of its bonds. I rejoice in the possibilities which lie in birth!
As to the One great Seed of the woman we look for our greatest deliverance, so do we, in a lower sense, look to her seed forthe overthrow of many of the doings of the serpent race. That curse which made her, in sorrow, bring forth children, containsenclosed within itself, like a bud in its sheath, the promise of untold benediction! Often at a birth might an age rejoiceand sing, "Unto us a child is born: unto us a son is given." Let parents think of this and dedicate their offspring with manya prayer to the Lord whose gift they are. Let old men think of this and cry to God to raise up true men to fill the placeswhich they, themselves, can no longer occupy. Lo! Children are a heritage of the Lord!
When our sons are a seed that the Lord has blest, blessed is the man that has his quiver full of them. Let us bless and praisethe Lord, as we look back in history upon God's manifest interference with the course of events by the singular births ofmen whom He has used to effect His own Divine purposes! Nobody denies that the hand of God is in the coming of men for thehour when the hour calls for the men. So, also, is the hand of God distinctly to be seen in all great events. If Esau capturesMount Seir, then the setting up of the Edomite dominion, bad as it may have been, is, from another point of view, a matterin which God's purpose and design are to be noted, for He says-"I gave Esau mount Seir."
Brothers and Sisters, I believe-and I hope the Truth of God is not too strong for you-that not a tiny bird pecks up a wormfrom the ground without your Father. A plant does not sprout in the corner behind the wall and shoot up its flower, seed,ripen and decay apart from the Lord of Hosts! Much less does an empire rise, flourish, or decline without Divine co-operation!When the sere leaf falls from the sycamore in the autumn time, a Providence guides the leaf to its place upon the sod. Andwhen the worm uplifts itself to draw that leaf into the tunnel which it has made, the hand of the Lord directs the burial!In everything that happens, be it small or great, the Lord is present and His will is done!
It is so in all the plotting and maneuvering of kings and princes and senates; in the stirs of public opinion; in the marchingof armies and in all that transpires among mortal men. Though the iniquity of man is abundantly seen, yet the overruling powerof God is never absent. The world is not left to itself, given over to the lord of misrule! In all events the hand of Godmay be perceived by all who care to perceive it. I reckon war to be a huge crime on man's side, but, when battalions havemarched against battalions, the destiny of empires and possibly of the whole race of man, has turned upon the health of acommander, the clearness of his eyes, or the quickness of his messenger-yes, the turning aside of a bullet, or the fall ofa horse, or the breaking of an axle has become the pivot of history, the turning point of ages-and there at the center theLord has been surely ready!
Essential points have been secured beyond all question. Perhaps it is more nearly right to say that every turn of historyhas been essential and that the whole of it has been in the hands of the Highest. It is singular how God is seen, both indangers and preservations, in connection with crises of history. Wellington at Waterloo sat on his horse, Copenhagen, allday long. A friend of mine, well known to most of you, said to him, "I suppose your horse must have been very weary." "No,"said the duke, "He was so fresh that when I got off from him, he threw his heels into the air and almost struck my temple.I was not in greater danger all through the battle than at that moment." God had preserved the hero all that day and we littleknow what had been the result if a chance slug or ball had carried him off!
And yet you see when the red mouth of war was growing silent, the Iron Duke was still in jeopardy! Had he been suddenly cutoff, our island might have become an insignificant province of a vast Napoleonic empire! But he was immortal till his workwas done. Above the awful din of war, I hear the voice of God, and even out of such an evil which makes earth, for a whilelike Hell, the good Lord of All produces good! Masters of armies reckon their hosts, but the Lord of Hosts they forget. Theyplan and scheme, these masters of men to whom their people are as so much food for powder- but a higher plan overrides theirplanning! There is a King of kings, and Lord of lords, and He is no silent spectator of what is done, but stretches out Hishand to deliver the nations from the power of evil, so that, still, by His great power, the world moves onward to somethingbetter.
We think of this poor world with great sadness when we see all the crime and sin which defile it, and yet we join with Galileoin saying, "It does move though!" Truth makes progress! The right is winning! If we do not see an improvement today, or tomorrow,yet take any 20 years and you will see that the world is moving-moving on to that grand day when the song shall ascend, "Hallelujah,Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" As the Lord's hand was in Esau's possession of Mount Seir, so is it in thesettlement of every tribe and people. And it is to be seen by all observant eyes in all the great epochs of the history ofman. Yet please notice that whenever we say this-and I say it pretty plainly-we never excuse the sin and folly of man!
We speak of predestination and foreknowledge because we find these Truths of God in Scripture and they seem, to us, to befacts in the very nature of things. God knows all that happens, otherwise He were not God, but a poor, blind deity. And ifHe knows that a certain fact will happen, then it is a fixed and settled thing, depend on that! Nothing happens other thanGod foreknew would happen and, therefore, it is fixed! If I laid aside predestination, yet foreknowledge would be quite enoughfor me. Something or other is certain to happen and God knows what that something or other is-and, therefore, it is fixednot by blind fate, but still fixed. Yet this fixedness is perfectly consistent with the free agency and responsibility ofman! Man thinks, resolves and acts as freely, and as much on his own accord, as if there were no foreknowledge and no God!In the book of the unrevealed, everything is written-but the mystic roll is laid up in the archives of Heaven and no man knowswhat is written in it.
Down below everything happens according to that book-not a stroke of it is in error, not a mistake is found in a single word-theevent happens as it was foreknown. But, still, if there were no such book, man would not be more absolutely free than he isnow. I can join heartily with the advocate of free agency when he talks of man's voluntariness in his acts of sin, his willfulchoice of evil, his rejection of Christ and of His Grace. No man can too thoroughly believe in the willful guilt of the wicked-atany rate, I will go all lengths in such a belief. I couple with what is called Calvinistic Doctrine, the other doctrine offree agency and responsibility, which seems to me to be equally true. And if this is judged to be an inconsistency, the remarkdoes not stagger me, for I see no inconsistency and do not believe that any exists!
My God is not a mere Omnipotent Being who can rule dead materialism and compel insensible atoms to do His will, but He canrule free agents, leaving them absolutely free and yet effecting all His purposes with them! God's eternal pur-
poses are accomplished and yet men remain responsible free agents both in their beginning and in their ending. Do you saythat you do not understand how this can be? Neither do I, but I believe it! There are 10,000 other things in Nature and historywhich are too high for me to understand their "how" and "why"-and yet I see them-can I not, also, be sure of some matterswhich I do not see? It is not for me to profess to comprehend the nature or the ways of the Infinite! If we could comprehendthe Lord, He would not be the infinite God! It is because He is beyond me-infinitely beyond such a poor creature as I am-thatI, all the more, reverently adore Him!
His Nature and His nets are, alike, veiled in mystery, but alike to be held in reverence. Have you never heard of the insectphilosophers? They were midgets so small that a man needed a microscope to see them-but they were very great philosophersfor all that-and they set about to describe an elephant. One of them hung upon the gigantic creature's ear, surveyed a smallportion of its area and his theory was that an elephant was a living wall, almost perpendicular! Another stood upright somewhereon the creature's back and he concluded that the creature was a vast plain! A third, who was perched upon a hair of the animal,propounded the idea that it was a tall shaft. These midget-philosophers had not eyes large enough to take in a whole elephantand so each one judged from the tiny morsel of hide which came under his own narrow range of observation.
Yet these ephemera were nearer the mark with the elephant than our wise men are with the universe, concerning which theirfirst principles, theories and hypotheses have usually been a museum of follies! Yet if philosophers understood the universe,that understanding would not bring their carnal minds within measurable distance of the infinite God. None but the Spiritof God can reveal God to any man-and the man, himself, must receive a new and spiritual life before he can know what the Spiritteaches. Who, then, among the worldly-wise may dream of understanding God, when even the spiritual rather embrace Him by lovethan grasp Him by understanding? Let us, therefore, believe what we find to be in God's Word and what we are taught by HisSpirit, though it should be far above our heads! Let us not delay to believe until we can reconcile.
Do you not know that in theology-all the false parts of theology on which the sects stand and fight each other- consists ofsuspension bridges made of cobwebs which are intended to bridge the distance between two awful Truths of God which look asif they were divided from each other? The great rocky Truths are, in effect, accepted by both parties, but the battle waxeshot concerning these cobweb-bridges which were never worth a tithe of the ingenuity which has been wasted upon them. I holdit true that God is in history and in everything! And I read the newspaper that I may see how my heavenly Father governs theworld! And this I believe though I most clearly see that men sin willfully, wickedly, vol-untarily-and that they are guiltyfree agents in all their wrong-doing. These thoughts come to me when I remember the character of Esau, and yet read the Lord'swords, "I gave unto Esau mount Seir to possess it."
To us, dear Friends, the hand of God is very visible in our own case. Look at the hand of God that gave to you and to me suchparents as we have-I mean those of us who have the great delight of having descended from Christian men and women. Had weanything to do with that? And yet the greatest part of a man's future depends upon the parents of whom he is born. No personcan deny that our parentage is beyond our own power and yet, to a large extent, it colors the whole future of life. Is notthe hand of God in it? Why shall one be born of a long succession of drunks and of thieves, and have within himself an insatiablepassion born with him to imitate them-while another inherits a sound constitution from his parents and, though he has no tendencyto the Grace of God, yet he has a tendency to morality and naturally develops self-restraint and gentle manners? Do we notsee the hand of God in the parents that He gave us?
I cannot be so blind as to deny my own obligations! I shall forever bless God that I was given to a godly couple whose delightit was to lead me in the ways of God. And do we not see the hand of God, again, in our children? Many of us do. Oh, how someof us bless and praise God that ever such sons fell to our lot! We never think of them without delight, for they are livingin the service of the Lord Jesus, spending and being spent in the Divine Master's service. Look at your children as the giftsof God and if they are not yet all that you could desire, yet still believe that God has given them to you, even as He says,"I gave Isaac, Jacob and Esau." You, dear Friends in Christ, united in holy wedlock, may look upon your children as not unclean,but holy, in the sense intended by the Apostle when he speaks of the unbelieving wife as sanctified by the believing husbandand adds, "else were your children unclean, but now are they holy."
They are not to be viewed as the unhappy fruit of an unhallowed union, but as gifts of God, to be brought up for Him and trainedin His fear. They come not as the result of uncleanness, but as gifts from the Lord, to whom marriage is
an honorable estate. It were a sad thing if the sight of my child made me blush for shame. But it is a joy to look upon himas, like Samuel, asked of God and given of God. Bring these gifts of God to God and say, "Here, Lord, are the children whichYou have given me. Save them by Your Grace, since in love You have given them to me. These dear ones are favors from Yourself,blessings upon which I set great store. O Lord, let Your name be named on them and let Your Grace be glorified in them."
Observe, further, that the Lord's hand is in all the prosperity which He gives to any. He says, "I gave unto Esau Mount Seir,to possess it." It is by God's allotment that temporal things fall as they do-even the ungodly have their portion in thislife by Divine grant. It were "vain to rise up early, and to sit up late, and to eat the bread of carefulness," if the Lorddid not build the house and prosper the labor! It is He that gives you power to get wealth. Our daily bread comes from thegranary of Providence. The store most ample, or the measure most scant must, alike, be traced to the one all-bountiful hand.And, once more, God's hand is to be seen in the place in which we live. If Esau lives in mount Seir, it is because God appointshim to be there-and if Israel goes down to Egypt, it is for the same reason. If you and I move from one place to another,it is sweet to see the cloud moving before us and to know that the Lord directs our ways. "The steps of a good man are orderedof the Lord."
But I need not instance cases. The hand of the Lord has been with some of us, for good, from our cradle even until now! Andwe believe that He who has led us so far will still lead us until we arrive at the House not made with hands, eternal in theheavens!
II. Secondly, we have another lesson to learn from our text, and that is upon, "I gave unto Isaac, Jacob and Esau," twin childrenborn of godly parents. In that birth there was joy, but sorrow came by it as well as joy. What joy there was in Isaac's housethat day, for we read that it had been a matter of prayer in the family! See Genesis 25:21. It had been a grief to Isaac that, married at 40 years of age, he had lived 20 years in married life without a child, althoughhe had the promise of a seed. Later on it happened that Esau and Jacob were born. There was joy! Yes, double joy, becausetwo sons to build up their father's house. Ah, had they known it, there was grave cause for mingled emotion in that doublebirth!
We read that 40 years after Esau married, he took unto himself two Canaanite wives, "which were a grief of mind unto Isaacand to Rebekah." Yes, we may fondly promise ourselves that children born of godly parents will be an unalloyed comfort tothem and yet it may not be so. Children are certain cares and doubtful comforts. They may bring to their parents such sorrowthat they may be inclined to think the barren happier than the fruitful. Hence it is well for us to leave our hopes of posteritywith God-and if we reckon that in a childless house we have missed a great joy, we ought, also, to reckon that we have misseda mint of trouble by the same fact!
Your children are not born in Grace, but they are the children of nature-and that being the case, you may have to see in oneof them-God grant it may be in no more-an Esau, yes, a profane person who will sell his birthright and become an enemy ofthe people of God! Esau was born of admirable parents, and so an Esau may be found to your boundless grief in your own family.It has been so, before, with others, and it may be so with you. The lion's whelp has been found in the sheep's fold; the vulturehas been hatched in the dove's nest. There was great hope, certainly, of both boys born in Isaac's house, for we look thatgodly parents should train up their children in the way that they should go, so that when they are old they may not departfrom it-therefore both Esau and Jacob were most hopefully started.
But Esau was not trainable. He was a wild man, went his own way and became a follower of rough sports, "a cunning hunter,a man of the field." And soon he became profane, as often happens to those whose chief pursuits are sporting. Ah, me! Ah,me! How often the brightest hopes have been blasted and those who appeared to be floating on the current which flows towardsHeaven have been drifted back and lost on the forlorn shores of unbelief! It is a great advantage to you, my dear young Friend,to have been born into a Christian family, but I charge you, do not trust in it as though it were, in itself, a guaranteeof salvation! Isaac, the beloved of God, has Esau for a son.
Mind that! David had to sorrow over Absalom, and Hezekiah over Manasseh. You may be the Esau of your family. Is it so? MayGod grant that such a dreadful portion may not be chosen by you! Remember that your brother who has lived with you, sleptwith you and grown with you, side by side, may be gracious and you may remain ungodly. Is it so now? Oh, that the Holy Spiritmay come and work upon you till you and your brother are one in Christ, like James and John, Peter and Andrew! Father, doyou find a division in your house? Then pray to God, even as Abraham prayed for Ishmael,
"Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" Pray for your wayward boy! And, oh, you that are in the family and have, throughDivine mercy, become a Jacob and not an Esau, ascribe it all to Sovereign Grace and give God the praise!
But forget not your brother! While he lives, have hope for him and see what you can do that he, also, may rejoice in the Lord.But, ah, if we could read the future when we look at our little children, we should rejoice with trembling! And as we cannotread the future, it is fit that we should pray with earnestness. We have prayer often at dying beds-why have we not more prayerin the chamber of birth? Surely, when an immortal spirit starts upon its endless career, it is well for us to cry to God andask others to join with us in the loving, earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit may cause the newly-born to be born again assoon as they are able to know Jesus and believe in Him! There stands the fact-in birth there is joy tempered with godly fear,hope mingled with sacred anxiety and high advantage which may yet most sadly end in deepened responsibility and increasedsin!
III. Thirdly, and very briefly, we have next to view WORLDLINGS AND THEIR POSSESSIONS. "I gave unto Esau Mount Seir, to possessit." That is to say, Esau, as compared with Jacob, appeared to have the best of it, for he had "Mount Seir, to possess it,"but poor Jacob had not a foot of land that he could call his own except the family sepulcher at Machipelah, in which, afterwards,he slept the sleep of the righteous. Why does God so often give possessions to ungodly men? Why do they flourish? Why do theyhave their portion in this life?
Is it not, first, because God thinks little of these things and therefore gives them to those of whom He thinks little? "Why,"said Luther, in his day, "the whole Turkish empire is but a basket of husks that God gives to the hogs and, therefore, Hehands it over to the unbelievers." So often wealth and riches are but so much wash which the great Husbandman gives to theswine on His estate. Something infinitely better is reserved for the Lord's own family! The rich blessing of true Grace Hereserves for His children and heirs. It shows how little God thinks of kingdoms, empires and great riches, for He leaves these,full often, to the worst of men!
How few saints have ever worn crown or coronet! A holy man once said that the kings who have gone to Heaven might almost becounted on your fingers. See what small account the Lord makes of the world's best store! Do you wish that ungodly men shouldhave less? For my part, I am reconciled to their present prosperity, for it is all they will ever have. Poor souls, let themhave as much of it as they may, here, for they will have nothing hereafter. Besides, they have no God-and having no God, itwould take a great many fortunes to make a godless man's portion worth a straw! If the graceless could gain all worlds, whatuse would they be to them when they come to die? Their own souls lost and no comfort in Christ, and no joy in the Spirit-whathave they gained, after all? Let the worldlings have the husks.
Let none of us ever cry, "I gladly would fill my belly with the husks that the swine eat." Let those have the treasures ofthis present evil world who have nothing else! Never quarrel with the Lord for saying, "I gave unto Esau Mount Seir, to possessit." Besides, these comforts may lead them to reflect upon God's bounty to them and, at any rate, they ought to move themto repentance. It is my earnest hope that many an ungodly man, whom God has highly favored in the things of this life, maybe influenced by the Spirit of God to say, "Why should I continue to rebel against God who has been so kind to me? He hasprospered me and taken care of me. Why should I not turn to Him, and become His servant?" At any rate, gratitude for merciesreceived should produce repentance for sins committed.
But worldly goods have no necessary connection with ungodliness. There is no infection in harvest stores, nor iniquity inthe wealth which comes of commerce. In themselves, gold and silver are harmless metals. There have been men who have enjoyedthe abundance of this world, and yet have inherited the world to come. Not many great men after the flesh are chosen, butthere is a great difference between, "not many," and, "not any." Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and the women who ministeredunto Christ of their substance had a fair measure of the comforts of this life-and used them for their Lord. It was not Solomon'swealth that brought him down so low-his unrestrained passions were his ruin, else might he have held all his treasures andheld his God, too.
Pray, therefore, that the rich may be brought to Christ! Why should not that fish be taken which has the silver shekel inits mouth? Why may not Matthew, the publican, be called from the receipt of custom? Is there not yet another Zac-chaeus tobe renewed by Grace? May not their indebtedness to God be used as a plea with the wealthy to give themselves to Him who hasalready given them so much? It was no fault in Jonah that he felt pleasure under the shade of his gourd- the fault lay inmaking a god of that gourd! There is no evil in having goods, but there is great evil in making those goods
our chief good. Yet, Brothers and Sisters, so it is that the men of this world usually have the most of it. I do not say thebest of it.
It is and always will be a mystery, as long as the world stands, that the wicked often flourish and the righteous suffer.Read the Book of Job. Read the 37th Psalm; read the 73rd Psalm and see how holy men and wise men have been perplexed and troubledby the method of the Divine Providence. To see wickedness on a throne and righteousness in a dungeon, pride enshrined in honorand holiness rolled in the kennel is a serious trial of our confidence in God-and yet there are weighty reasons why it shouldbe so for a while. Not without wisdom does the Lord say, "I gave to Esau Mount Seir, to possess it."
IV. Now comes the fourth point and a great mystery, too. Here are THE CHOSEN OF GOD AND THEIR TRIALS. "I gave unto Esau MountSeir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt." That is their portion. They must go down into Egyptbecause of famine. And they must suffer there under a tyrant's iron rod, so that they may become familiar with the drudgeryof slaves. They must be strangers in a strange land and be sorely bruised beneath the foot of the oppressor. The escutcheonof their nation was to be "a smoking furnace and a burning lamp." Moses saw Israel as well as God when he beheld a bush burningwith fire but not consumed. Is not this a strange thing?
To him whom God loves best He allots the hardest conditions. Esau's sons are dukes, but Jacob's seed are drudges! Esau reigns,but Israel serves! Esau set his nest on high, but Israel crouched by the reeds of the river. The worldling would read theScripture as if it said, "As many as I love, I caress and pamper"-but the Lord speaks not so-His Words are, "As many as Ilove I rebuke and chasten." "Whom the Lord loves He chastens and scourges"-those are very hard words-"scourges every son whomHe receives." To carnal reason this seems straining! Faith, alone, can explain it.
Israel and his children went down into Egypt, first, for their preservation. So God brings His people into trial often topreserve them from the world and its evil influences; from themselves and their natural pride; from Satan and his puffingup. By sorrow and adversity the children of God are driven to their knees, brought near to their great Father and kept infellowship with Him. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions. The salt and bitterness of sorrow often preserve menfrom the gall and bitterness of sin.
They went down into Egypt, next, for their improvement, for the family of Jacob was in a mournful condition and by no meansfit to be used of the Lord. The story of Jacob's family is a strangely sad one, perhaps Scripture does not contain more mournfulpages. The evil influence of polygamy is clearly seen, blended within the errors of Laban's house and envenomed by the foulexample of the Canaanites among whom they sojourned. It was time that they should shift their quarters-they were neither gettinggood nor doing good. It looked as if the Patriarch would beget an ignorant, quarrelsome, vicious race-and so they were sentdown into Egypt that trouble might teach them better manners. God often thrusts His people into adversity that He may improvethem, awaken them, instruct them and ennoble them.
See to it, Brothers and Sisters, that the Lord's design be fulfilled in you to the fullest. May the anvil and the file, thecrucible and the flame work in you a clearance of dross and rust, and make you pure and bright. They also went down into Egyptfor their education. The chosen seed needed teaching! They were getting to be rustic, not to say barbarous, in their manners-acquirementsand knowledge were scant among them. They must go down into the seat of ancient learning to acquire arts and sciences andcivilization. In Egypt, a race, which, otherwise had been a mob must be consolidated into a nation! A band of willful menmust be trained to discipline and obedience. The Lord said, "Out of Egypt have I called My son," because Egypt was his schoolof learning, his drill ground of discipline. We are ignorant, rebellious and willful till the Lord trains us. "Before I wasafflicted I went astray; but now have I kept Your Word."
The Lord teaches us on the blackboard of adversity and we are often rapped over the knuckles by the stern Master! It is wonderfulwhat we learn when we are taken among the thorns! I hardly think that I have learned anything except in affliction! At leastI know this-I owe more to the hammer, the anvil, the file and the furnace than I do to all the green meadows and flowing brooksand singing birds that I have ever seen or heard! I fear that I have learned little beyond that which has been whipped intome! And though I am not fonder of the rod than you are, I confess that such sweet fruit grows on the bitter branch of trialthat I would fear to be long without it. I would rather weep within the Lord's chosen than laugh within the reprobate! Byunhallowed mirth fools grow more foolish, but by sanctified trials wise men become yet wiser. For future usefulness it iswell that we have present sorrow and, like Jacob, go down into Egypt.
And they went down to Egypt, again, that God might display His great power in them. I would not care to be Esau on Mount Seirwhen once I see Pharaoh's hosts drowned and Israel marching through the depths of the sea!-and when I hear the song of theIsraelite maidens and the shouts of the men, "Sing you to Jehovah, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his riderhas He thrown into the sea." It is worth while to go down into Egypt to come out of it with a high hand and an outstretchedarm! Oh, the glory of the Lord in His redeemed! Oh, the lofty destiny of the tried people of God! Oh, the sublimity of theirlives, even now! There is God in them! There is God about them. He heads the van and brings up the rear! They are as signsand wonders in their generations. He has blessed them-yes, and they shall be blessed.
It matters little that Esau has Mount Seir for a possession-Israel has her God! No foot of land, perhaps, you call your own.You do not know where your next suit of clothes will come from and God has kept you on short commons and multiplied your straitsand needs. Never mind-yours is the lot of the chosen-for "Jacob and his children went down into Egypt." That is where thestory ends, according to my text, but you know the story does not end there at all, for out of Jacob and his children camethe Son, the Scepter and the Throne! The Godhead took up the seed of Israel and now, today, He that sprang of Jacob's loins,according to the flesh, sits on the highest Throne of God and reigns supreme! The Shiloh has come and it matters nothing whatEgypt brought of sorrow unto Jacob's seed, seeing that out of them, at the last, came the King and Savior of men!
If Jesus is ours, the rest is a small affair. Give me Christ and I ask for nothing else! Having faith in Jesus, I can leaveall things with the great Disposer of events. Christ and a crust-the promise and a parish coat! Grace and an almshouse! Cannota saint be more than content with these? So have I set before you the varying lots of God's own people and of the wicked.I hope that you are ready to say that you would rather suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures ofsin for a season. God help you to make that wise choice and to make it at once! May His Spirit lead you to take the Lord Jesusto be your All in All! Amen.