Introduction: Genesis 33 ends on a spiritual high point, as Jacob proclaims to all his surrounding Canaanite neighbors that ‘God, the God of Israel’ (Gen. 33:20) is his God. Significantly for Jacob and for us, such spiritual triumphs can be closely connected with times of great temptation. Never were Jesus’ disciples more vulnerable to temptation than when the time of Christ’s victory on the Cross drew near. “Watch and Pray that you fall not into Temptation” (Mark 14:38) are the watchwords of our Bible notes this week. But take heart: isn’t it wonderful of the Lord to wake us up when we are sleeping to urge us BEFORE temptations come to be ready for them? In this way, even the most grievous of trials can become moments of victory. As the old Gospel hymn (# 582 in our Trinity Hymnal) says:
“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; each vict’ry will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward; dark passions subdue; look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through.”
(Horatio Palmer 1868)
Monday: read Genesis 34:1. 34:1 starts in apparent innocence: a girl of about 14 curious about the way her neighbors live “went out to visit the women of the land.” But the translation could be, “Dinah went out to carnally behold the daughters of the land,’ that is, as Jewish tradition has it, to meet the pagan women of Shechem at one of their idolatrous feasts. The same grammatical construction, meaning ‘to look into something with sinful curiosity,’ appears in 1 Samuel 6:19 where God strikes the men of Beth Shemesh dead for prying into the ark of the Lord in an effort to know God’s secrets in an unholy way.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to protect you from any dangerous curiosity with the ways of this unclean world. Do we listen to the news or read the paper in a properly innocent way, asking God to protect us from unhealthy curiosity? Paul says that ‘it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret’ (Ephesians 5:12). God save us from our current culture, which pollutes our minds much like Dinah’s mind must have been polluted beholding the immoral festivities of the women of Shechem.
Tuesday: read Genesis 34:1-12. Dinah is violated by Shechem, the prince of the city bearing his name, who then boldly demands that marriage with her be arranged. Accordingly Shechem sends his father out to Jacob to arrange this unholy union between his unbelieving house and that of the man of faith. Surprisingly, Jacob is silent through the whole transaction. As we shall further discover tomorrow, it is Dinah’s brothers who arrange the whole plan of intermarriage between these two peoples. No true leader, with Dinah’s spiritual interests in mind, appears willing to defend her from the ambitions of Shechem. Shechem and his father Hamor must have assumed that their attractive offer of land, trade, wealth and a generous dowry in Gen. 34:10-12 would clinch the deal. Money talks, alas, louder than the faith of a compromised people.
Meditate and Pray: Pause for a moment and think of the precious Covenant children and young people of your church home and your own family. Ask the Lord to guard the next generation from unholy alliances in the work place as well as in marriage. Ask Him to help our young people to heed the commands and warnings of the Apostle John when it comes to unhealthy relationships with this world, sometimes called after the name of the spiritual Prostitute ‘Babylon’ in the Bible:
“Come out of her, my people,
So that you will not share in her sins,
So that you will not receive any of her plagues;
For her sins are piled up to heaven,
And God has remembered her crimes.” (Revelation 18:4-5)
Wednesday: read Genesis 34:11-13. God’s common grace had so enriched Shechem with power that he fell into the sin of pride – arrogantly offering money and marriage in order to placate the outrage of Dinah’s family at her rape. His own pride blinded him to the offensiveness of such an offer as he added insult to injury. Little did he know how deep the resentment would run among Dinah’s brothers for his treating their sister ‘like a prostitute’ (Gen. 34:31).
Like Shechem with his monetary offer to Jacob’s family to avert judgment, unbelievers may assume that they will be able to ‘cut a deal’ with God to cover their sins (appealing to their good works or social standing for example). But no such deal will suffice to cover sin. Though far different in His holy wrath against sin than the vengeful brothers of Dinah, God nevertheless does, like them, refuse to be ‘bought.’ What a shock for Shechem and others like him (compare the rich man of Luke 16:19-31) to discover that their value system does not count in the next life. All their earthly wealth will not purchase one moment of reprieve or peace but will be lost forever.
Meditate and Pray: May the Lord increase our thankfulness for our inheritance, that is kept sure and safe for us in heaven as 1 Peter 1:3-5 reminds us, and may we sing with great thankfulness the words of Robert Murray McCheyne (# 545 vv. 1-2 in our Trinity Hymnal):
When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.
When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink, –
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.
Thursday: read Genesis 34:13-29. Sadly, Dinah’s tragedy proves to be a time of real temptation for her brothers, especially Simeon and Levi. The snare of vengeance against the violator of their sister and all connected to him proves to be their undoing. Led by these two, all of Jacob’s sons deceitfully offer the Holy Sacrament of Circumcision to the followers and family of Hamor in Gen. 34:13-14 – not to invite these unbelievers into the household of faith so that they would discover the Grace of God in the Covenant – but in order to murder them during the incapacitating days of adult circumcision, as they indeed do in Gen. 34:25, along with plundering the possessions of that city. Thus the sons of Jacob, as Bill Harrell puts it, ‘went from being sinned against to sinning. While the sins of others against us may injure us, it is our own sins that ruin us. It is far better to be sinned against than to sin.’
Meditate and Pray: Use these words in prayer from Hymn # 335 in our hymn book to ask the Lord for the grace always to take our hurts to Him and not to take matters of judgment into our own hands:
“Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be;
And with words that help and heal would Thy life in mine reveal;
And with actions bold and meek would for Christ my Savior speak.
Truthful Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would truthful be;
And with wisdom kind and clear let Thy life in mine appear;
And with actions brotherly speak my Lord’s sincerity.
Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be;
Mighty so as to prevail, Where unaided man must fail;
Ever by a mighty hope, Pressing on and bearing up.”
(Thomas Lynch, 1855)
Friday: read Genesis 34:30-35:5. These elder brothers Simeon and Levi have become so hardened in violent crime that they rudely reject the rebuke of Jacob at their murder of the men of Shechem, when he says to them as their father, “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites…” (Gen. 34:30). Surely such hardness must have had long antecedents. Young men simply don’t arrive at such bloody plans of vengeance over night! Where do the hardening effects of sin begin?
We don’t have look far in this case. It is the cruel idols and household gods of the nations, embraced by the very family of Jacob, as Gen. 35:1-4 proves, which produce hard-heartedness and graceless refusals to forgive others for hurting us. Idolatry produces self-satisfaction, passion and lust – but not restraining grace sufficient to cover over the sins of others. Only the Gospel of God’s Grace can make us ‘love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us’ (Matthew 5:44).
Is all therefore lost for Jacob’s family? Not at all: though they must now leave Shechem in disgrace (Gen. 35:5), God’s protecting Power goes with them so that no one takes vengeance on this saved rabble of sinners. Moreover, the Grace of Repentance is given to Jacob’s family as they all give the Patriarch their idols in Gen. 34:4 – including we may be sure the idols which Rachel had hidden in her heart for so long – see Gen. 31:34-35.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His victorious Grace in our families and the hope that He will once again visit us with the brokenness of Repentance, softening even hearts long hardened by sin. Sing about this hope in verses 1-2 of # 491 of our hymnal by Ray Palmer (1864):
“Take me, O my Father, take me;
Take me, save me, through Thy Son;
That which Thou wouldst have me, make me,
Let Thy will in me be done.
Long from Thee my footsteps straying,
Thorny proved the way I trod;
Weary come I now, and praying,
Take me to Thy love, my God.
Fruitless years with grief recalling,
Humbly I confess my sin;
At Thy feet, O Father, falling,
To Thy household take me in.
Freely now to Thee I proffer
This relenting heart of mine;
Freely life and love I offer,
Gift unworthy love like Thine.”