Just look at it! My desk. It’s a total mess. You see it’s been a busy week and I’m in the “middle” of a lot of things. Now it’s time to sit and write a blog post and I’m not totally sure where my laptop is buried in all this “life” (and let’s not even speak of the missing key trauma of this morning.) Life is messy though – sometimes I wish it could be neater, more organised but no matter how frequently you try to tidy it up, however many boxes you try to contain it in, it spills out and spreads about and can leave you feeling a little lost and confused.
I don’t know if you have a favourite scripture – maybe it’s Psalm 1 about the fruitful tree by the stream or Psalm 139 about never being able to escape God’s presence? Perhaps it’s I Corinthians 13 about true love or the river flowing from the throne in Revelation 22? I’m not sure but I don’t expect that Genesis 34 is in that category for many people – it’s another one of those baffling stories that let you know that bible heros were men and women just like us who faced difficulty, made mistakes and lived with life’s messiness but God still made their story part of His big story.
Basically Jacob and co. set up camp at a city named Shechem – they get settled by buying a bit of ground, putting up their tents and building an altar to God. Jacob’s daughter Dinah heads into town to make friends with the local women but gets in trouble when a local lad takes a fancy to her and rapes her. Heartbreaking and devastating for any family to walk through. The young man in question then sends his Father to negotiate with Jacob so that he can marry Dinah but doesn’t know what he is letting himself in for – you see Dinah has brothers, many brothers and they are mad! They want revenge on this man who has defiled their sister but they are calculated in how they go about getting it. The ‘Jacobsons’ will put down roots and intermarry with these people but only if the ‘Shehemites’ will first adopt one of their important customs – namely circumcision. The men of the city agree to have the chop, considering they will beneift from this alliance in the long run and Jacob’s wealth will eventualy become theirs, but while they are still recovering from their surgery two of Dinah’s brothers come into town and massacre the lot of them!
Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “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?” Gen 34:30-31
What a mess! Jacob had just got his fresh start and then before he’s barely unpacked the whole thing explodes in his face and he’s definitely not sure where his keys are under all this junk. But God is always kinder than we expect and always gives us more chances than we deserve. He speaks into our mess and tells us to turn around and go back to Bethel – to that place where we knew His presence and His promise. So Jacob gathers up his mess and goes…
God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. Gen 35:9-10
Israel means “Struggles with God”. You see God’s promise of favour and blessing comes hand in hand with struggle – it would seem you can’t have one without the other – just ask Joseph or Paul or Ruth or….. Sometimes we can feel like life’s mess is unexpected or unreasonable but it’s through the struggle that we meet God and hear Him speak to us.
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” Gen 35:11-12
I’m sorry – did God really just promise fruitfulness and blessing to this family? This same family that in the previous chapter brought trouble on their father by tricking, murdering and pilaging an entire city. They are not disqualified (and by the way neither was Dinah) – God speaks over them destiny and fruitfulness and an inheritance of nations! I don’t know about you but I find this hugely encourging! My family isn’t perfect (although I’m not aware of any recent massacres) – and I expect yours has it’s challenging corners too but God sent His family, His one and only Son, down into our mess and our struggles so that we might live under His blessing, His favour, His inheritance! Does that mean that our lives will be tidy and messless? Nope. Does this mean there won’t be struggles with God and battles with life? Highly unlikely but we are not disqualified by our mess or struggling – we are qualified by Jesus blood! Jesus, who was born as fullfillment of this promise, descended from this same family of messy misfits! Such good news it makes me want to do a little dance!!
Praying for you this week friends that you would know His face and His voice in the midst of life’s mess and that as you struggle you would do so in the light of His victory and promises. Now i’d better set to and tidy up this desk. Thanks for reading. Much love Rach x