READ: Genesis 33 and 34
BACKGROUND: If you have been following the story of Jacob, you may remember that Jacob and Esau have had a reunion. Esau seems to have forgotten his intent to kill Jacob. Esau even invites Jacob to travel with him. Jacob builds an altar at Shechem to “the GOD of Israel” commemorating his new found identity in GOD! We would have expected Jacob to quickly resume his journey home to Bethel, but instead it appears that Jacob settles in this area for a long time. So long, that his family becomes accustomed to living like pagans around them. Shechem, at this time, was a big city – lots going on, lots to do and perhaps the comforts of the place caused Jacob to once again forget where he was going…
34:1 – Dinah seems to have an active social life!
2 – Serious culture clash: What Canaanites consider lawful (taking unmarried women at will) is considered rape in the Hebrew culture – and in our own!
3 – Shechem (probably named after the city) apparently loves Dinah and hopes to keep her as his wife.
9 – Hamor (Shechem’s father) hopes this union will benefit him…..If his sons marry Israelite women, he can increase his property and wealth.
12 – 15: Let the scheming begin – Jacob’s sons use the wedding custom of a gift for the bride’s family into a trick to leave the Canaanite men defenseless. In doing so, they use God’s sacred ceremony of circumcision for their own vengeful purposes.
25 – A brutal and bloody retaliation for Shechem’s crime against Dinah.
THINK: One of the dangers for Jacob’s family and for all of us today, is becoming content. Jacob experienced incredible spiritual highs! He encountered the living GOD of the Universe! He pledged his life to GOD! He sought GOD during times of incredible stress and even danger. Yet when things got back to normal, and he settled into a daily routine, he grew lazy in his spiritual walk…..and all too quickly, the culture around him and his family began to have a great influence on him. His daughter ends up in the wrong crowd; his sons scheme to commit atrocities, and where is Jacob? He blames them for bringing trouble to the family, but don’t they rightly ask him, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” Some commentaries claim that the custom of the day prevented Jacob from intervening without consulting his sons. But Jacob had the knowledge of the LIVING GOD! He didn’t need to rely on customs. Jacob’s apathetic leadership of his family and his reluctance to keep his focus on GOD led to disastrous results.
During this summer so many of us will spend time at camps or retreats, attend worship concerts, or even go on short term mission trips. There are times when we have some time to really focus on Jesus. Often, during these times we are surrounded by others with a deep desire to serve Jesus. We can experience great spiritual growth and we can often sense God’s presence moving in us and leading us. We need to savor these experiences – even writing down some thoughts to reflect on in the future. And we also need to heed the story of Jacob – once we are settled again into everyday life, it is so easy to let the customs and the culture of our world begin to be the major influence of on our lives. And the result of taking our eyes off Jesus is always disastrous!
ASK: Am I letting myself become too comfortable in a culture that is often poisonous to my soul? Am I conforming to a culture of death rather than being transformed into a new life in Jesus Christ?
By: Deb Howard