“I am unworthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my stuff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.”
This text is part of a prayer!
A prayer uttered by Jacob near the Jabbok as he returned from his uncle Laban!
There he had fled some twenty years before for fear of his brother Esau who threatened to kill him. There he had labored hard for his wives and his substance. Now returning to his own country, he is again faced with the problem of Esau. Will his brother have forgotten his old grudge? Will he attempt to carry out his old threat? Jacob is perplexed and afraid! How shall he meet his brother? What shall be done with all his possessions, his wives and his children?
Jacob flees to God in prayer!
A prayer most worthy of consideration!
In the latter part of the prayer he raises the actual petition for divine help. In the first part, however, is the acknowledgment and recounting of Jehovah’s blessings!
A prayer of thanksgiving!
Striking it is that the prayer should begin thus! Would we not expect that it would be an outcry for immediate aid? Lord, help me! Yet, he recounts Jehovah’s mercies, and his own unworthiness!
Instructive is this prayer!
Not only is prayer the chief part of thankfulness, but thanksgiving is the prerequisite of good prayer. And true thanksgiving is possible only when self is negated!
Thanksgiving is not a mere rejoicing in things! Nor is it only to recount all of Jehovah’s mercies! True thanksgiving is to humble ourselves before Jehovah in the acknowledgment that we merited none of them!
Unworthy of all God’s blessings!
O, the magnitude of those blessings!
Of all the mercies!
And of all the truth!
Wonderful combination! Closely related!
Note how they appear together in other Scriptures! “And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his MERCY AND HIS TRUTH . . .” Genesis. 24:27. “He hath remembered HIS MERCY AND HIS TRUTH toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Psalm 98:3.
Mercy and truth belong together!
Mercy is that strong Divine desire to bless! So it is in God Himself. He seeks and desires to find in the blessed trinity perfect blessedness. And when it is directed to objects outside of Himself, it is always directed to the miserable! Then it is the strong desire to make them blessed as He is blessed!
Truth: literally, faithfulness!
When related to a given promise, it is the truth! When He gives His promise, He speaks the truth. When He keeps His promise, He is faithful!
Jehovah’s truth or faithfulness is closely related to His mercy! In these two is bound up all the covenant blessings! In His mercy He bends down to the elect sinner to redeem him from misery unto eternal glory! This purpose of God is declared by promise to His covenant people! And faithfully He realizes that promise to them in Christ Jesus!
Apart from God’s covenant there is no blessing, only curse!
And we should note first of all the evidences of this in the experience of Jacob! When he fled to his uncle Laban, he had only his staff. O, to be sure, he had also the promise of God at Bethel. His God would be with him, and make of him a great nation. The blessings of Abraham and Isaac would truly come to him. But for the rest, he was poor, helpless, miserable Jacob! With only a staff in his hand!
Now, however, he is become two bands, two companies! This does not refer to the sadness of his plight, as might be superficially concluded. When he exclaims that he is now become two bands, he is not lamenting his poor and helpless condition because of his fear of Esau. Rather, he is pointing to his greatness! He is pointing to his cattle and sheep which he had gained while he labored for Laban. He is mindful of his wives and his children. The Lord had kept His word to Jacob! He had exceedingly blessed him! Where once he was alone and poor, having only his staff; now he is become rich indeed! He is become two companies! Once he was outside of Canaan, now he is back in his own land; not Esau’s, but Jacob’s by birthright and promise! Canaan with its milk and honey! And all this earthly in connection with its heavenly counterpart! Salvation, heaven, God’s covenant fellowship!
Note, too, the evidences of this blessedness for us!
To be sure, earthly riches no longer are of typical value for us. They are no longer for us a special sign of God’s favor. Just because we have had a big harvest is no sign of special blessing to us! Nor can America today boast that God has especially favored her because she had waving fields of grain and great abundance. It may very well be that God looks down in wrath and is setting her on slippery places. On the other hand, it may be a blessing if the Lord would deprive us, His children, of even our daily bread.
Earthly abundance given by God in His favor is a blessing! But the blessing lies not in the things themselves. Rather, it lies in the attitude of favor toward us! Then only is it true that abundance of wealth works for our good. We who are God’s covenant people truly acknowledge Him as the Giver of great abundance, and we thank Him for it, while we look not on the things which do appear, but on the unseen!
We, therefore, behold the spiritual realities of God’s covenant, and all things in the light of these! And these God, in Christ Jesus, has revealed to us in a far greater and higher sense than He did to Jacob. Jacob had to see them in the type, in the shadows. We see them in the antitype, in the fulfillment! Hence, we see first the spiritual, and then the natural in the light of the spiritual!
Then, also, like Jacob, we must exclaim: O God, how great are all Thy mercies and Thy faithfulness to us! Thou didst give us Thy only begotten Son! In Him Thou didst cleanse us from all our guilty stains! In Him Thou didst declare that we are righteous before Thee, so righteous that we appear before Thee as those who have never committed one sin! In Him and with Him we are heirs to a great and eternal inheritance! Besides, Thou dost cause all things to work for our salvation! Health and sickness, prosperity and adversity, peace and war, life and death, yea, Lord, all things are our servants! And we acknowledge all Thy gifts as good, because they come from Thee, the Father of Lights, with the purpose to bless us!
Indeed, Father, Thy blessings are very great!
I am unworthy!
Literally, I am small! I am of little worth!
And this is not an over-pious statement of Jacob whereby he sought to gain more favor with God! Somewhat like we might say to our fellowman when he is about to give us something, or has already made us the recipient of a gift. We say, “O, you ought not to do this;” or, “You shouldn’t do this to me, I didn’t deserve it.” While all the while we did not want our benefactor to withdraw his gift, but we wanted him to feel that he has given it to the right party. Jacob was not trying to draw the Lord on to more giving by the ruse of piety or humility.
Rather, what we have here is a deep sense of guilt, and therefore of unworthiness! Jacob was deeply sensitive concerning and wholly aware of his sins! His past life flashes before him: the deceit whereby he sought to trick his brother and his father, the mistrust of Jehovah’s continued guidance and care in the face of danger and the threat of death at the hand of his brother, the impatience he manifested respecting the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises.
By grace, Jacob is truly humbled by the knowledge and consciousness of his awful corruption! He acknowledges that there is no merit in him! Hence, the confession: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and all the truth which thou hast shewed unto thy servant!
And what shall we say?
What shall we say when we behold the luxuries in which we bathe? When we take inventory of all the abundance with which we are surrounded? When we contemplate the richness of the spiritual gifts which flow to us as to no others?
And pray, let us be honest about it!
Shall we boast in what we have accomplished? Shall we gleefully run our fingers through the wheat and the corn we have harvested, like the miser who lifts the shiny silver pieces with his bony fingers and proudly rejoice in the fruit of our ingenuity and industrious labor? Shall we perhaps with a semblance of piety confess that with God’s help we are what we are and have what we have?
Or, shall we admit what little and miserable microbes we are?
Shall we not rather cry out: O God, be merciful to us who are sinners?
By grace, that is exactly what we will say!
We will confess that we are worthy only to be cast out of God’s sight! When we stand in the light of His holy presence, we will confess our sins before Him!
O God, how great and how numerous are my sins and my transgressions! How I transgressed all Thy good commandments! How I grumbled and fretted when things looked dark and it appeared that all was against me! How often I sought the things below, not the things which are above! How often I forgot that apart from Christ Jesus all things are curses, and that in Him only I am blessed! O God, be merciful, for I am unworthy of the least of all Thy benefits!
Such a confession will be pressed out of us when we behold the greatness of the blessings! When all that great mercy passes in review! How God has blessed us in Christ Jesus with spiritual and heavenly benefits! How daily He has laden us with His lovingkindnesses! How when all seemed to go wrong, He made it turn out to our good!
Then the child of God has nothing in self whereof to boast!
Then, indeed, he is swallowed up of mercy!
Thus we are prepared for the proper attitude of thanksgiving!
That is to count Jehovah’s mercies! To name them one by one! To read Jehovah’s Name upon each of them! That is to give thanks!
That is to praise Jehovah for His goodness! To enumerate His virtues as they manifest themselves in all His lovingkindnesses! To say that He is good!
How necessary that proper attitude is!
Divinely necessary, because God alone will be glorified!
Also necessary from our point of view, because there can be no real, true, spiritual satisfaction without it!
Then indeed, the grace of God is reflected and returns unto God Who gave it, in the form of praises that glorify His Holy Name!