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St. John of the Cross says: 'When the patriarch Jacob wished to go up to the Mount of Bethel in order to build there an altar to God on which he should offer sacrifice, he first gave three commands to his household.' He applies these three commands to the spiritual life of the Christian. The strange gods are the 'outside affections and attachments'. 'Use clean means to get rid of the worldly appetites still left in the soul.' And the third thing we must have in order to reach the high mountain is a change of garments. Through the means of the former two works God will change our garments from old to new, putting in the soul a new understanding of God in God, the old understanding of man being left behind and a new love for God in God implanted. He will empty the will of all its old human desires and tastes and will put within the soul a new knowledge and an abysmal delight, all other knowledge, all old imaginations, having been cast aside. Thus He will cause to cease all that belongs to the old man, which is the clothing of the natural being, and will clothe the soul in new and supernatural garments according to all its powers.
Obras, vol. i. p. 21.
Reference XXXV. 8. J. W. Bergen, Servants of Scripture, p. 12.
The Birth of Benjamin
I. Of all that we read in the book of Genesis of the faith of the patriarchs, there are few examples that shine forth more strongly than this of Jacob in the name that he gave his son; being able to look beyond the present sorrow to the power of God that was to be revealed. But for that faith, no doubt he might well have been content to have left the mother's name unchanged. But he knew not only from whom the sorrow came, but whereto he had promised that all sorrows should lead; in Jacob's seed all families of the earth were to be blessed; and as each of his sons were born, even to this last, he would rejoice as feeling that the blessing came nearer and was multiplied. Thus it was that Jacob's faith was rewarded by the power of the right hand of the Most High revealed above all memories of sorrow.
II. Yet the sorrow itself is not without a Gospel lesson; indeed the lesson of the sorrow contributes to and bears part in the triumph. Benjamin was born and Rachel died, not at home, but on a journey; not even in such a home as Jacob had, when, stranger and pilgrim though he was, he pitched his tent, and built an altar, and digged a well, and bought a piece of ground with money of the sons of the people of the land. From that home they were driven; it was this flight most likely that brought on the mother's hard labour; so that we may say the sorrow wherein Benjamin was born came from his brethren's sin, from the folly wrought in Israel and the corruption that is in the world through lust. And even so it was when Bethlehem saw the birth of another Son of sorrow and of power, that sorrow was in Him part of this saving work of love. It became Him who was to be known as a Man of Sorrows to come as a Child of Sorrows; but He was not only born in sorrow Himself, He was a Son of His mother's sorrow too. Her loneliness teaches us scarcely less than this; for whereas He had a work to do that we cannot share in, her work was altogether the same as ours, so that her example comes the more closely home to us. For her Son to be homeless was a part of the suffering He undertook for our sake, and by its merit avails for our profit; but she was only one of ourselves, a believer as we are or ought to be; and therefore if she was a wanderer with Him and suffered with Him, we are taught that we must suffer with Him before we can reign with Him.
III. But not only sorrow generally is a discipline to faith and a means for growth in holiness; this special trouble of the wanderer and the homeless is one which it specially befits us that we should learn to know and feel. For however perfect happiness God may have given us on earth, this world or any place in it is not our real home after all. One day we must leave it, and we must have learned beforehand to find a home wherever He is who loves us, if our departure is to be with joy, and according to the old bridal blessing, 'From home to home'.
W. H. Simcox, The Cessation of Prophecy, p. 11.
References. XXXV. 29. F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 126. XXXV. F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 121. XXXVI. 24. Expositor (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 852.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Genesis 35". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent