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Sunday, October 28, 2012

In Whom is Your Trust?

Genesis Ch. 34 describes some tragic events. Jacob and his retinue had arrived and settled near the city of Shechem in Canaan following his departure from his uncle Laban in Paddan Aram.. Jacob's daughter Dinah went out to visit women inhabitants of the land. She encountered Shechem son of Hamor, ruler of the region, and was raped by Shechem. Acting contrary to many rapists, Shechem's heart turned toward Dinah and sought to marry her. He obtained the support of his father who approached Jacob and his sons for permission to marry Dinah. Here, a trap was set by the sons of Jacob whereupon they convinced Shechem and the men of his tribe to undergo circumcision. This they did but while weakened by pain from the circumcision they were attacked and killed by Simeon and Levi, brothers of Dinah. Among those killed were Hamor and Shechem.

It is all an unhappy chapter in the history of Jacob i.e. Israel. It is a double-barreled experience of bitterness for Jacob. What can we learn from it? We have to go back further.

After responding to the call of the LORD, leaving his people and his father's household in Haran, it was in Bethel, in Canaan, where Jacob's grandfather Abram (Abraham) pitched his tent, built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD (Gen 12).

It was further south, in Beersheba ,where Abraham later called again on the LORD the Eternal God after making a treaty with Abimelech (Gen. 21:22ff).

It was in Beersheba where Isaac, son of Abraham, experienced an appearance of the LORD who declared Himself the God of his father Abraham. Isaac pitched his tent there, built an altar and called on the name of the LORD.

After deceitfully receiving the blessing of Isaac originally intended for Esau, Jacob, son of Isaac, fled to Paddan Aram. Setting out from Beersheba for Paddan Aram in Haran, Jacob arrived at Bethel. Alone and his life at a low ebb he settled down for the night. During the night Jacob had a dream in which he saw a stairway reaching from the earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. There, above the stairway, stood the LORD who said "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac." It was here the LORD reaffirmed the promise of blessing given to Abraham. In the morning, Jacob took the stone upon which he had rested his head and set it up as a pillar, poured oil on top of it and made this vow "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Gen. 28:10ff)

After arrival in Paddan Aram Jacob spent many years being taken advantage of by his uncle Laban. Jacob's life was again at a low ebb. He was spoken to by the LORD saying "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." (Gen 31:3)

Jacob took up his family and all he had acquired and set out for the land of his fathers. But he had yet to encounter his brother Esau who had previously declared an intent to kill him and who he now learned was on the way to meet him accompanied by 400 men. In desperate straits again Jacob prayed "God of my father Abraham, God of Isaac, O LORD" calling on the promise of God to protect him for doing what the LORD had called upon him to do.

That night, alone after having sent his family and all that he had ahead of him, Jacob wrestled with God, sought and received a blessing and was here called Israel (struggles with God). The place of blessing he called Peniel (face of God) (Gen. 32:22ff)

Blessing indeed followed for the next day Esau arrived without acrimony. After courteous exchange the two separated and Jacob continued on his way. However, here is where tragic events unfold. Instead of going on to the land of his fathers, as the LORD had directed, Jacob tarried in the land of Succoth and Shechem, even buying a plot of land to pitch his tent within sight of the city of Shechem. He built an altar there and called the place El Elohe Israel (possibly mighty is the God of Israel) Gen. 33:17ff)

What Jacob had done was to enter partly into the land of promise but not go on to where his fathers Abraham and Isaac had dwelt and here they had called on name of the LORD viz. Bethel and Beersheba. To not go all the way with the LORD exposed Jacob and his family to the ways of people who are not the people of God. The consequences were tragic. Dinah and her brothers took life into their own hands. Their judgment was poor as was Jacob's.

Christians can learn from Jacob. Recall that time when you were, so to speak, prostrate and calling on the name of the LORD for forgiveness and salvation for you were doomed without Him. You promised to give all of yourself to Him and follow Him wherever He was to lead you.

Is that how it is with you now? Is it? Or have you, like Jacob, gone only part way with the LORD? Have you established yourself within sight of the world and its ways? Having, as it were, a foot in two camps? If you have, you will live below your privilege. You will be entangled with the world to the detriment of joy of living and serving the LORD.

There are those who trust not fully in the LORD and His Word. They have held on to the world and its philosophy on Origins and with that go part way with the LORD. This is a corruption which will bring fruit in keeping with its works. It will not place the Church - the house of God - at its promised position to be richly blessed with every spiritual blessing. It will not have the LORD working for it in a clear and unmistakable way. Instead it will be left to employ its own devices with destructive consequences.

Remember, it was the prostrate 'worm Jacob' who had the greater influence with the LORD than 'prince Israel'.

Trust and obey the LORD. It was a lesson learned the hard way by Jacob. Let us learn from Jacob's sorry sojourn near Shechem.

Sam Drucker

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