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Return of the Angels

“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).

“And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him” (Genesis 32:1).

At Bethel the angels were on a shining staircase, at Mahanaim they were armed for war. Do you detect the meaning of that difference? Well, think of Jacob when he came to Bethel. Try to picture what was in his heart. He was separated from his father’s dwelling now, and he felt separated from his father’s God. Such was the past. What about the future? So, uncertain, Jacob fell asleep. It was then that there shone on him the ladder, and the foot of the ladder was his rocky bed. It did not rise from the far-distant tent. There where he lay, alone among the hills, he was as near to God as at Beersheba. You see the angels gave him what he needed. They gave him fellowship when he was lonely. They gave him heaven when he was far from home. They gave him hope that he might rise and journey, not knowing where he might find himself at nightfall, yet sure that God was ordering his way and would never leave nor forsake him.

Now turn from Bethel to that other scene when the angels met him. Jacob was possessed by a great fear. Yonder was Edom where his brother dwelt—Esau whom he had wronged so terribly.  Had he not stolen his birthright, and was it likely that Esau had forgiven him? Now Esau was a man of war, but Jacob had grown soft in his prosperity and was better at a bargain than a battle. If Esau fell on him in wild revenge, what hope was there for Jacob and his company? It was then that Jacob saw the angels. It was just this vision which Jacob needed in his hour of trembling. It made him far more powerful than Esau, for around him were the legions of God.

And so we learn the old and precious lesson that God reveals Himself just as we need Him. He never gives us what we shall want tomorrow; He gives us richly what we need today. Just as water, poured into twenty goblets, will take the shape of every goblet, so the grace of God poured into twenty days will fill the different need of every day. And that is why Christ, who knows the Father’s heart, bids us never be anxious for tomorrow—“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). When we need the ladder, we shall have the ladder. When we require the army, we shall get it. We shall have grace to live by, while we are called to live. We shall have grace to die by, when we are called to die. It was that faith that buoyed the heart of Jacob, carried him forward, and made him more than a conqueror.

—George H. Morrison