January 11, 2016

A faith-building narrative

Genesis 33-36 

A few chapters in the Old Testament might cover several years of a person’s life, even several generations in the life of a family. The story of Jacob is like that. In these four chapters, Jacob returns to Canaan and home. He looks back and realizes how great a role God had played in his life. He and his brother met and were reconciled.  

However, troubles come. A man from a nearby tribe raped Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. To his credit, the offender wanted to marry her, but Jacob stipulated that all the men in that tribe be circumcised. When they agreed and were in pain after doing this, Simeon and Levi took on the entire city and killed all the men, an unjust revenge that created new fears for Jacob. Would these people send their army against them? 

He didn’t need to worry. God told him to leave Shechem and return to Bethel and settle there. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, but Jacob found his father Isaac. The story closes with a genealogy of Esau and the Edomite nation he founded

The part of this story that catches my attention is Jacob’s fear and what God did about it. Jacob was concerned with what Simeon and Levi had done: “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:30-31). 

The man who raped Dinah was wrong, but the retaliation by her brothers didn’t help matters. There would be no peace for them if they stayed in that place. 

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”  

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”  

Jacob took their foreign gods and the rings from their ears and hid them under a tree near Shechem and they began their journey. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. (Genesis 35:1-5). 

God can do amazing things to protect His people. He can make our enemies to be at peace with us (Proverbs 16:17) and He can fill them with fear of us, as He did with those who were a threat to Jacob. This means that I need not fear anything or anyone. My God is more than enough to take care of whatever might seem like a threat and turn that threat whatever way He wishes. 

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