Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Blessed By God In Spite Of Circumstances

Joseph had been sold as a slave to Midianite traders on their way to Egypt because of their hatred for him as a result of his father’s favoritism.  Genesis 39:1-6 describes his slavery.  “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.  And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.  And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.  And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.  And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.”

Joseph had gone from the position of the favorite son of a very rich man to being a slave in a foreign land, yet we are told God was with him, blessing everything he did.  His owner observed those blessings from God and began to take advantage of them, making Joseph his business manager.  As a result of his treatment of Joseph, the owner’s business was blessed.  He was able to devote his entire energy to his political and military interests. 

Satan can’t stand it when other people begin to recognize God is blessing his people for obedience.  He will do anything possible to destroy their reputation and testimony.  Genesis 39:7-12 describes how Satan tried to destroy Joseph morally  so that god would not bless him.  “And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; either hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?  And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.  And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.  And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.” 

Satan repeatedly used sexual temptation to destroy joseph morally.  When that didn’t work, he set out to destroy his reputation, in Genesis 39:13-20.  “And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.  And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.  And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.  And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.” 

Angry that he would not have sex with her, the woman deliberately lied and accused Joseph of trying to rape her, claiming she had fought and showing the coat he had slipped out of to get away as evidence.  Her husband believed her and had Joseph placed in prison, even though he had not done what he was accused of doing.  It must have felt like God had forsaken Joseph, but as 39:21-23 makes clear, he had not.  “But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.  The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.”

Normally a slave would have been killed for attempting to rape a woman, without even a trial.  It was God who prevented Joseph from being killed.  God was with Joseph, blessing him in the prison just as he had blessed him as a slave.  Eventually, he was placed as the prison administrator, even though he was still a prisoner.  He was not confined to a cell but was free to go where ever he needed to go to fulfill his responsibilities.  He had earned the trust and respect of the warden thanks to God’s blessing.   Bad circumstances do not mean God is not blessing.  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Developing a Family Culture

Every person is responsible for their own actions, as we see in Romans 14:12.  “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”  God has given us the ability to make decisions for ourselves, so we cannot blame our parents or others for what we do.  At the same time, we must realize that one’s attitudes and way of thinking are strongly influenced the examples and teachings of those around him.  As a result, certain attitudes and behaviors tend to become part of the culture of a family or other group.   Jacob’s children developed much the same attitude that their parents had, as we’ve seen already.   It carries on over to the next generation as well.    

Genesis 38:6-10 tells about some of Jacob’s grandsons.  “And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.  And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.  And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.  And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.  And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.”

We have no idea what Er had done, but his attitude was so evil God killed him.  God had established a principle that it was the husband’s responsibility to provide for his wife.  Since people can die unexpectedly at any age, provision was made to for a wife’s support if something happened to her husband.  One of those provisions was the dowry given to her family for safe keeping.  Another way was for the husband’s family to take responsibility for supporting her, as prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:5-6.  “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.  And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.”  In such a case the first son would inherit the dead husband’s property and be considered his son. 

Onan had no problem accepting Tamar as his wife and having sex with her, but he didn’t want to have a son by her since it would be considered his brothers.  To prevent it, he practiced one of the original method of birth control, withdrawing before ejaculation.  As a result of his refusal to obey, God killed Onan as well.  Judah asked Tamar to stay with her parents until his youngest son, Shelah was old enough to marry, fearing he might die like his brothers had, in Genesis 38:11.  “Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.”

When Shelah grew up. Judah did not keep his promise to Tamar.  Learning that Judah’s wife had died, Tamar took action to get Judah to take the family’s responsibility for her, in Genesis 38:12-14.  “And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.  And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.  And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.”

Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, deliberately covering her face so she wouldn’t be recognized and sat where Judah was sure to see her.  Since his wife was dead, he had no hesitation about propositioning her for sex, despite the many prohibitions, as we see in Genesis 38:15-23.  “When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.  And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.)

And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock.

And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

And he said, What pledge shall I give thee?

 And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.  And she arose, and went away, and laid by her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not.  Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side?

And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.”
About three months later, Judah learned Tamar was pregnant, in Genesis 38:24-25.  And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.  When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

Technically, Tamar was engaged to be married to Shelah, but Judah had not followed through on the agreement.  Under the Law, if an engaged woman indulged in sex with someone other than her intended, both the man and the woman were to be executed, according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24.  “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” 

Because she had the proof of who the father was, Judah was forced to admit he was guilty as well, and acknowledge it was his fault she had taken such action, in Genesis 38:26.  “And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.”   Neither Judah nor his sons took God’s commands seriously, partly because that is the example that they had set before them.  . 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Selling Their Brother Out

Jacob’s favoritism toward Jacob caused serious resentment by his brothers.   The favoritism also resulted in Joseph’s feeling superior and becoming a tattletale.  When Jacob sent him out to check on his brothers, they expected him to try to get them into trouble.  Genesis 37:18-20 describes their response.  “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.  And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.  Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 

For years, Jacob had tried to cheat Laban, and when they had murdered the people of Shechem, he was not concerned about the murders, but only about what people would think.  Effectively, he had taught them that the only thing that mattered was that you did not get caught.  The brothers concluded that Murdering Joseph would be okay as long as Jacob never found out what they had done.   Jacob never thought about what he was teaching his children by his actions. 

Reuben, the eldest had grown up with the constant bickering between Jacob’s wives, often finding himself in the middle of the fights, and probably blaming himself for them.  Whatever happens, he expected to get the blame, but he knew how cruel his brothers could be.  Genesis 37:21-22 tells us he tried to prevent the murder, but didn’t dare confront his brothers directly,  “And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.  And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. “  He told them that if they just left Joseph in a pit he would starve but that they could honestly say they had not killed him.  He didn’t tell them he planned to later rescue Joseph and send home. 

The brothers agreed follow Reuben’s suggestion, but they still wanted to get rid of Joseph, as we see in Genesis 37:23- 28.  “And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.  And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?  Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.”  They then set down to eat, ignoring the fact that their own brother was trapped in a pit and was to die there.  When they spotted a bunch of traders passing by, they decided to sell joseph as a slave and make a little profit while getting rid of him. 

Reuben had remained with the herds while the others ate.  Later he returned to the pit with the intent of freeing Joseph, as Genesis 37:29-30 describes.  “And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.   And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?”  As the eldest, he expected he would be blamed.  His brothers did not tell him they had sold Joseph or share the money with him.   For years, he would feel guilty for not having saved Joseph.

Believing Joseph was dead, he went along with their efforts to cover up the crime, as described in Genesis 37:31-34.  “And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no.

And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.  And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” 

By letting Jacob identify the clothing and come to his own conclusions, the brothers were able to divert suspicion from themselves.   To further allay suspicion, they made a big show of mourning for Joseph according to Genesis 37:35-36.  “And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.  And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.”   Reuben was the only one who wasn’t faking his sorrow because he didn’t know what had happened.   The others only pretended to care how their father felt.     

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Favoring One Child

About fifteen or sixteen years after Jacob returned to Canaan, his sons were taking care of his sheep.  Rachel, Joseph’s mother had died several years before, and His father favored Joseph over his other sons.  This resulted in jealousy among the boys, which wasn’t helped by joseph running home and tattling on them, as we see in Genesis 37:2-4.  “These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.  Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.  And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.”

Jacob was simply doing what his parents had done with him and Esau, favoring one child over the other..  It had caused a lot of problems between Jacob and Esau, who were full brothers.  It caused a lot more resentment among half-brothers whose mothers couldn’t get along.  It reached a point where the brothers actively hated Joseph.  Joseph became arrogant, knowing his father preferred him, rubbing it in when he got a chance. 

God gave Joseph some dreams to prepare him for the future, and Joseph used them to lord it over his brothers, as Genesis 37:5-11 describes.  “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.  And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.  And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?  And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.”  Even his father was troubled by his arrogance and scolded him for his attitude.  His brothers just got angrier. 

Jacob was oblivious to the effect his favoritism was having on his sons.  He sent the others out to herd sheep while allowing Joseph to stay at home, then sent him to check on the others, further aggravating the other’s animosity, according to Genesis 37:12-19.  “And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.  And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them.

And he said to him, Here am I.

And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.

And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.  And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.”

The brothers were not herding the sheep where their father thought they were.  They were sure Joseph would complain and get them into trouble again.  They decided to kill him and stop the problems.  After all Simeon and Levi had killed the men of Shechem and gotten by with it.  Surely they could get by with killing Joseph.  Ecclesiastes 8:11 warns, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”  Failure to deal with sin immediately encourages people to go further.  We need to make sure we are not encouraging sin or conflict by our actions.  Children tend to get the feeling parents favor one child over another from time to time despite our best efforts, but when one child gets most of the attention, it creates real problems.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Trouble Is A Part Of Life

Jacob had bought land in Shechem, intending to make it his permanent home.  After his sons murdered the men and spoiled the city, he became concerned that the neighboring tribes would attack them in retaliation.  God would use that concern to convince Jacob to go to where God wanted him, in Genesis 35:1.  “And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.”  God directed him back to the place he was when he first began to consider what God wanted. 

Jacob remembered his experience and his sense of fear and awe at the righteousness and power of God.  For years they had kept the idols Rachel had stolen from Laban, as well as the other idols and religious objects they had gotten in the travels, sometimes even using them.  He knew all those things would not be acceptable to God.  Genesis 35:2-3 describes his instructions to his family.  “Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

Finally, Jacob had grown enough to begin to teach his family about God.  As a result, they left behind those old gods, choosing to serve God only, as Genesis 35:4-5 tells us.  “And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.  And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.”  While the neighboring tribes would have liked to destroy them, God caused them to fear the consequences such an action might produce.

Jacob and his family came to the place he had called Bethel without incident as a result of god’s protection, and he followed what God had  directed, In Genesis 35:6-8.  “So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.  And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.  But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.”  The nanny who had taken care of Jacob and Esau as children ninety years before died while they were at Bethel, and was buried under an oak tree.  Death is an intrinsic part of life, and following the Lord does not make us immune to the problems of daily life.    

At Bethel, god reminded Jacob that he had a new name as a child of god, and repeated all his promises, expanding upon them, in Genesis 35:9-13.  “And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.  And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.  And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.  And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.” 

Jacob’s entire attitude had changed since the first time he was at Bethel.  This time he did not try to make adeal with God, but simply believed his promises and worshipped him as we see in Genesis 35:14-15.  “And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.  And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.”

Life’s problems continued even after God had renewed his promises at Bethel.  Rachel died in childbirth, shortly after they left Bethel, according to Genesis 35:19.  “And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.”  A little later, Reuben, his eldest son had an incestuous affair with one of Jacob’s wives, in Genesis 35:22.  “And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it…”  We never want to fall for the false belief that Christian will not have any problems if he is following the Lord.  Jesus was very clear when he said “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” in John 16:33.  People who forget trouble is a part of life often become depressed when facing struggles.  It is factor in the unprecedented number of suicides we see today. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Following Their Father’s Example

Though he believed in God and had been changed in many w3ays, Jacob was still depending on his own abilities to protect him rather than trusting God.  Instead of going on to Edom as he had promised Esau, he turned west, eventually arriving in the Hivite city of Shalem, in an area known as Shechem, according to Genesis 33:18-20.  “And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.  And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.  And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.” 

Jacob had every intention of making that area his home, even buying a piece of property for a home, and built an altar there.  Dinah, his only daughter wanted to meet some girls her age, as Genesis 34:1-4 tells us.  “And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.  And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.  And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.”  While visiting other girls, Dinah met Shechem, the son of the headman of the region.   They ended up getting sexually involved, and Shechem wanted to marry her.  He asked his dad to make the arrangements. 

God intended the sex act as the ultimate expression of love between a husband and wife, not as just an enjoyable activity between a boy and girl.  Jacob and his sons were upset when they heard what had happened, blaming it all on Shechem, as we see in Genesis 34:5-7.  “And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.  And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.  And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done.”

Hamor and Shechem realized they had every right to be upset, and did their best to straighten out the problems in Genesis 34:8-12.  “And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.  And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.  And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.

And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.  Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.” 

Shechem agreed to pay any amount of dowry they might demand if they would just let him marry Dinah.   Hamor promised they would be given all the rights and privileges of citizens of the area.  For years, Jacob’s sons had watched their dad and their uncles take advantage of each other.  They had learned how to take advantage of others quite thoroughly,   The Hivites took them at their word, agreeing to do what they demanded as Genesis 34:13-24 tells us.  “And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.  But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son.  And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.  And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,  These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.

Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.  Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.  And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.”

Jacob’s sons had no intention of keeping their agreement.  They intended to take advantage of the fact that the circumcision would leave the men incapacitated for a few days to get even with the Hivites, as described in Genesis 34:25-29.  “And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.  And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.  The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.  They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,  And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.” 

While the men were incapacitated, Simeon and Levi went into their homes and murdered them. The other brothers then stole their belongings and took their families as slaves.  Jacob was upset about the murders, according to Genesis 34:30, because it might turn all the neighboring tribes against them.   “And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.”  He was not worried about the fact they had committed murder or stole from thyem, but only about what others would think. 

Simeon and Levi excused their actions by saying they just got what they deserved, in Genesis 34:31.  “And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?”  They completely ignored the facts.  Only Shechem had had sex with their sister, and the others did not deserve to die,   Shechem had not treated her like a prostitute, but had wanted to marry her, actually doing what the Old Testament Law commanded in Exodus 22:16-17.  “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.  If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”    Their actions were inexcusable, and Jacob’s failure to treat it properly will come back to haunt him later.  In effect, he has taught them that even murder is no big deal.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Responding Out Of Habit

In martial arts such as Karate, students practice a particular defense repeatedly until it becomes a habitual response they don’t even have to think about.  As a result, they are able to respond very quickly to situations.   Unfortunately that response is not always appropriate, with the result that the martial artist may unintentionally injure someone who unknowingly triggers their response.  The same thing happens with other habits as well.  when a certain situation arises, we automatically revert to what we have practiced without thinking about it. 

When we become a Christian, God changes the underlying attitude that originally caused the response.  Unfortunately, because we have practiced those things so long we automatically do them even before we give it a thought.  Even though God gives us a new attitude, and changes our desires, it can be difficult to break those old habits.  Jacob demonstrated this in Genesis 33:12-17, when Esau offered to provide escort. 

“And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.

And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.  Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.   

And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me.

And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.  So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.

And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.”

When he had been trying to get beyond Laban’s reach, Jacob had been unconcerned about how hard it would be on the young, but he used such concerns for an excuse to reject Esau’s escort.  Jacob had developed such a habitual attitude of distrust and deceit that he was afraid to believe Esau, so he lied to him, telling him the young couldn’t stand being rushed, and promising to come along at his own pace.  As soon as Esau was out of sight, he turned west into Canaan, rather than continuing south into Edom. 

Many times we think that if a person has truly been saved, certain behaviors ought to instantly disappear and become upset if they do not.   Jesus addressed this issue in Luke 17:3-4.  “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”  f the person sincerely admits he was wrong and makes an effort to change he is to be forgiven even though he repeats the sin over and over, even the same day.  If he is sincere, eventually the habit will begin to change. 

However, if the person refuses to admit they were wrong or make any changes, it is prossible they have not been saved and must be treated accordingly, as Jesus explained in Matthew 18:15-17.  Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.   But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”  If a person will not admit they are wrong or agree to change, their attitude probably has not been changed by God.