What has happened to Jacob? Where is Israel in all this? Just when Jacob seemed so close to realizing his new identity, he now appears to be so far away.
While there are a number of other characters involved in the story, Jacob’s the primary one. It’s his decision to settle down in Shechem rather than going to Bethel. And his compromise, his partial obedience, sets up the rest of the narrative. It allows Dinah to be in a dangerously vulnerable place. His failure to respond and to lead his family results in the brothers taking matters into their own hands.
This is another one of those episodes that we could ask where is God in the midst of this mess? His name is not mentioned even once. He doesn’t seem to be factoring into Jacob’s thinking, much less his family’s thinking, at this point. I don’t know how long he’s lived outside of Shechem…but it’s been too long. Partial obedience is disobedience…it’s compromise, and he’s compromised far too long. When we are in that place of compromise, God seldom factors into our thinking even when tragedy strikes…even when we experience the consequences of our choices.
So where is God? He’s still there in the midst of the mess. He hasn’t lost control. He is still working in the lives of His people. Jacob, like his daddy and granddaddy, is called to be a blessor of the nations. But also like Abraham and Isaac, his actions result in cursing rather than blessing. Instead of introducing the townsfolk to the love of Creator God, they’re introduced to a sword. Yet God is still in the process to transform Jacob into Israel. He’s not done, and He hasn’t given up on Jacob. But for Moses’ original audience, this episode would have highlighted the danger of compromise. It doesn’t turn out well.
God is still at work in our mess too. When the sin of others tragically impacts us, when our anger overwhelms us, when we are tempted to withdrawal and look out for number one, He sees and He cares. He knows and will one day judge. But praise God that He is patient. If not, all of us would be annihilated. For no one is innocent. Since the time of the fall, when the world was fractured by our sin and rebellion, God has been on a rescue mission. He’s promised a way back to the garden, a way back to life with Him through faith in the One He promised to send…the Genesis 3.15 Redeemer, the Head crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus, who lived a perfect life, died a bloody, horrible death, was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, crushing the serpent’s head. He has provided the way back for us to Creator God.
I don’t know who you are today…Dinah, Shechem, Jacob, Simeon and Levi…but Jesus died for you. He understands your shame and your guilt, your anger, and your fear. He took it all with Him when He was nailed to the cross. He came to bring life. He wants to restore and heal you. And He wants to remind you that you are an image-bearer. You have infinite value. You are loved.
Until next time…stay salty.