Genesis 34 -- 36
Jacob's prayer was answered and Esau welcomed his return. Following Esau's departure, Jacob continued on toward Bethel, since the Lord had said: I am the God of Bethel . . . return to the land of your kindred (Genesis 31:13). But, just a short distance from Bethel, Jacob discovered the beautiful valleys and opportunities for financial gain at Succoth, and built him a house (33:17). He then came to Shalem, a city of Shechem . . . and pitched his tent (33:18) on the border of the Promised Land. It appears that he expected the blessings of God upon his "almost complete" obedience when he erected an altar there (33:20) and settled his family.
For ten years Jacob's stay seemed to be successful. Then we read the tragedy of his daughter Dinah. When Shechem . . . prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her (34:2). After their sister's rape, in revenge Dinah's brothers looted their homes and destroyed property.
Children often suffer eternal consequences because of parental neglect to train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6). Godly parents, like Jacob, often become so involved with achieving material goals that they neglect their spiritual responsibilities to read the Bible and pray regularly with their children during their teachable years. This leaves the door open for worldly attractions that gain control of their children's hearts, resulting in heartbreaking consequences.
Surely, we can learn from Jacob that material success is no assurance that we are in the will of God. But the greatest lesson we can learn from Jacob's tragedies is that he didn't give up when his situation looked hopeless. Instead, he turned to the Lord, who said: Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from . . . Esau your brother (Genesis 35:1). At this time of renewal, Jacob reminded his family to put away the strange gods . . . be clean, and change your garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar to God (35:2-3).
The three things Jacob said to his family have a parallel for Christians today. He first said: Put away your false gods -- a reminder that old habits of sin must be forsaken; The second: Be clean . . . change your garments a reminder of what Paul later wrote to the Romans: We are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
Jacob's family was now prepared to go up to Bethel; and make there an altar to God. With their hearts set on pleasing God, they forsook the past.
Participation in church worship is a very important way in which God can speak to us, through Sunday School, Bible study, and sermons. Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word (Ephesians 5:25-26).
34:2 defiled = raped; 34:3 clave = passionately attracted to; 34:7 wrought folly = brought disgrace; 34:27 spoiled = plundered; 34:30 troubled = made trouble for; 35:11 out of thy loins = your offspring.
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