Sometimes when I read my Bible there are parts that I don’t like. The next part of the story is one of those times. Jacob sits back when it comes to restoring and rescuing his daughter even though he knows what has happened. As a parent I find his apathy disturbing. He has a largely dysfunctional family; several wives (most of which know that he doesn’t love them), a large number of sons (most of which believe they aren’t good enough for their father’s affection) and one daughter (who is lost in this mix).With all this going on, I see it as a comfort that GOD still chose this family to be His people.
Dinah’s brothers, who have been learning from their father, act like their him. Since they are smaller in number, they are deceitful in order to bring punishment. They attack the city when the men are weakest and put the them to the sword. The city will no longer prosper and Jacob wants to know why his sons have chosen to make him obnoxious and cause the people to want to attack them. I don’t understand Jacob here. He has heard that his daughter was taken and defiled. Should she be sacrificed for his benefit, riches and status? Is he still a man dealing with fear and lack of trust in his GOD?
The chapter ends with a challenge for Jacob from his sons – should they have behaved like him and done nothing? They saw the dishonour that had been made against their sister and they sought to deal with it. Their aim, I think, was to restore their sister to the family, their means was perhaps questionable from Jacob’s and our perspective.
Is it time to put to death some of the things that are dishonouring us? At no time to we hear what Dinah thinks of this. Her brothers find her at Shechem’s house and take her from it. We do not hear of her putting up a fight nor do we see her being thankful for the rescue. Maybe, just maybe, Dinah was ‘happy’ to be noticed and wanted by someone, perhaps she didn’t see her situation as prostitution. Her brothers however, knew that is what she had fallen into and were determined to rescue her from it. I wonder if there is a question that needs to be asked personally: Do I need my big brother, Jesus, to come and rescue me from a danger that I have stepped into and that I can’t see?
We all need big brothers to be on our side. Accountability can be a great way of protecting yourself from traps, but this will only work if you are open and allow them to speak into your life. I know that I have friends that do just that. They spot things that I don’t and I hope that I do the same for them.
Anyway, the new chapter brings about change. GOD tells Jacob where he should be. He calls Jacob to Bethel, the place where he had encountered GOD before. Before they go Jacob calls for all foreign gods to be destroyed and for the people to purify and cleanse themselves. Jacob seems to have been shaken a bit. He wants there to be nothing that gets in the way of his relationship with GOD. He removes everything that might be considered as hindering – from other gods to earrings. He wants his people to be cleansed inside and out. Their identity will not be in any other god both in their hearts and their appearance.
Having been obedient and honoured GOD and His holiness, Jacob and his people are able to move freely and safely because the terror of GOD fell on all the towns. WOW! What did that look like? They weren’t just fearful but terror fell on all the towns around them. I don’t think it was the stories of how strong they were a people or how they had killed the men at Shechem that made the terror fall. I think it is solely linked to the sanctification – the making holy and setting apart – of the people. By removing all that hindered them and honouring GOD fully, they see, at last, that He takes care of everything else.
GOD speaks to Jacob and gives him a new name. He will be called Israel and he will be a father to the nation. GOD honours the man who had made so many mistakes, did so many wrong things, failed his family, had lived in fear and regularly lied. WHY??? GOD saw something that we cannot. He saw a change in a solitary man called Jacob that could now become the foundation of a nation. Jacob’s change was a journey that involved encounters, corrections, obedience and humility … it took time but he was never forgotten by GOD. GOD saw that he was ready to be a father and that he trusted in Him.
Since GOD is the same today as He was with Israel I know that He is able to give new names and bring to life the areas that seem dead. I am grateful that I am able to worship and serve the GOD of Romans 4:17b.
…the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
It is GOD that gives us our name. He is the one that determines when it is time to be renamed. He calls that which is not into being … don’t discredit what He sees in you!