Esau, the father of the Edomites — Genesis 36

Sad Man by Chris Connelly - Creative Commons

While she was pregnant with the twins Jacob and Esau, God said to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb…” (Genesis 25:23) Of course the nation of Israel came from Jacob. And here in chapter 36 we see Esau’s family growing into the nation of Edom. Chapter 36 in its entirety is here for you to read, followed by a few insights about Esau as he represents our selfish, flesh focused nature.

Genesis 36:

This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite—  also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.

These are the names of Esau’s sons:
Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.

The sons of Eliphaz:
Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz.
Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

The sons of Reuel:
Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau:
Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:

The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:
Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.

The sons of Esau’s son Reuel:
Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:
Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.

These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.

The sons of Lotan:
Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister.

The sons of Shobal:
Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.

The sons of Zibeon:
Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

The children of Anah:
Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

The sons of Dishon:
Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran.

The sons of Ezer:
Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.

The sons of Dishan:
Uz and Aran.

These were the Horite chiefs:
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.

The Rulers of Edom

These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:

Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.

When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.

When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.

When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.

When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.

When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:

Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.

Esau and our selfish nature:

Esau, because he was hungry, sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. He also took wives from the land of Canaan, causing his parents grief. He and his descendants lived by the sword, that is, they sustained themselves at the expense of others’ lives. He was a man focused on feeding his flesh rather than focused on his God, and though he experienced success materially and politically, he goes down in scripture as someone who lived a life without God. (Hebrews 12:16) He represents our selfish nature. That creature who lives inside of every single one of us who wants to eat whatever she wants, drink whatever he wants, marry whoever she wants, get up whenever he wants, watch whatever movie, play whatever game, look at whatever website. That part of you and me that says, “Just back off and let me do what I want to do.” As we see in Esau, if your or my desire to disregard God’s ways is allowed control, we can wake up one morning to find ourselves living a life without God.

We see from Genesis 36, Esau and his descendants settle in Seir and his family grows into a nation as God prophesied. It’s interesting to see the contrast in the two peoples early in their histories. We see kings and rulers included in the list of Esau’s descendants. While Israel was dwelling in Egypt enslaved, Esau was dwelling in Seir as a successful nation. But centuries later Edom comes to nothing and Israel, not only enters into the promised land, but remains a nation to this day. (Malachi 1:3) Likewise, we may be tempted to envy those outside of our Lord’s family who are reigning materially, or politically, or in fame, or in their careers. There can even be a temptation in some to chuck it all, to unload our belief in Christ and in God’s word, thus enabling us to go the way of the rest of the world, and perhaps experience gain in these areas. But, we do well to remember, ultimately, we go to that place Jesus prepares for us. (John 14:2-3) Others may reign in this life, while you may feel as though you’re enslaved, but it’s only for a short while. If you have Christ, you have eternity after this brief life on earth. Or as Matthew Henry puts it, “…all things considered, it is better to have Canaan in promise than mount Seir in possession.”

Bottom line:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

–Jesus Christ Mark 8:36


Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Chuck Smith

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

Love Like Jesus–Isolation vs. Engagement: John 1:37-39

Isolation Engagement Love Like Jesus

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

John 1:37-39

How Jesus Loved People:

In this passage we see Jesus loving people by engaging with them. The two following don’t say a word, so Jesus turns around and initiates conversation, “What do you want?” He asks.

“Where are you staying?” They ask back.

Then, rather than answering directly, Jesus answers in a way that will draw them in, “Come, and you will see.”

These two, the first two disciples of Jesus, follow Him and spend the day with Him. Later we’ll see all twelve of Christ’s disciples traveling with Him and living with Him on the road.

Love Like Jesus

Love requires engagement. I suppose, at the opposite end of the spectrum from engagement we find isolation. Isolation is unhealthy on several different levels that we won’t go into here but one thing I know with absolute certainty: isolation kills relationships. I know this with complete certainty because I have a tendency to isolate myself. One of the great pleasures I enjoy in life is that of immersing myself in the creative process. I believe it’s a good thing to do because I believe God designed me this way. However, when I’m immersed too deep for too long, it’s very hard on relationships. It’s just impossible to communicate love to people when you’re isolated. It’s that simple. (for more on isolation see previous post: It is not good for the man to be alone)

I know of a county sheriff in the Southeastern part of the U.S. who provides an interesting illustration of the importance of engagement and the problem of isolation. He’s a first class person, this sheriff. He’s conscientious, hard working, of great integrity, smart, and he treats people very well. A few years ago, as the end of his term approached and election time neared, not surprisingly, everyone who worked in headquarters supported him. They were raving fans. They told everyone they knew to vote for the guy. But unfortunately, as good as he was, he had the habit of working at headquarters, focused on problem solving. This was done at the expense of spending time with his deputies out in the field. The result was his deputies didn’t just not support him, but many hated him. As enthusiastic as the headquarters people who saw him every day were for his reelection, his deputies who he rarely spent time with were equally enthusiastic for him to lose. They wanted him out.

Love requires engagement.

Of course Jesus was a master at this. He engaged to the point that He lived with His disciples for three years. His engagement with His followers was (and is) amazing. He delivered Holy Spirit inspired teachings, He touched people, He healed people, He loved people.

In my own life there were times when I did well in this area of engagement and times when I did not. The difference in my relationships was dramatic. The trap, for some of us, is to feel as though engaging with others is not a productive use of time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Love requires engagement.

And without love we’re nothing.

Engage people.

“…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:2

[Image via jared moran – Creative Commons]

Meditate on it day and night — Joshua 1:8

Daily (Photo credit Chris Plunkett)

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Joshua 1:8

When I was a Captain on the fire department we had a class where the instructor shared this stat: 93% of what a person does during the course of a typical day is done out of habit. That leaves only 7% of your actions that require a decision. So what does that say about living a successful life? Your habits are everything! 93% of what you do is based on your habits! Aristotle said it well when he stated: “We are what we repeatedly do.”

In the book of John, speaking of Jesus, the very first verse tells us, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. So what John is saying here is Jesus is the Word of God incarnate! (John actually states Jesus is God’s Word twice in this passage. And here is where he also recognizes Jesus as the Creator. See John 1:1-14) This is huge! This means when you spend time in God’s word you’re spending time with Christ Himself! It reminds me of that old question everyone asks, “If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?” Well, you could choose to have dinner with, say, a great musician, but why would you do that when you could have dinner with the One Who created the musician in the first place, even all music for that matter, even all matter for that matter. The point is, the opportunity to spend time in God’s Word is an opportunity to spend time with the Creator of the universe. Recognizing this, it’s not surprising then how dramatically a life is changed when the habit of prayerfully reading through the Bible is inserted into that life. I’ve seen it in others who developed this habit and have experienced it myself. The habit of prayerfully reading through the scriptures every day is one of the most powerful habits you can develop because you’ll be spending time with the most powerful Being in the universe.

It will change your life.

It has changed mine.

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed”

John 8:31 (KJV)

Come back to God

Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son

We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians 5:20

“Idol worship is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. When you’re looking to your career, or your marriage, or your romance, or your friends to give you everything you should be looking for in God, you’re looking to idols. Making these good things into ultimate things is a misappropriation of your love. Love your uncreated God designed for you to devote to Him, is given instead to these created things. And the ultimate result is undue anxiety, drivenness, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment. It happens this way every time.” (excerpts from Keller)

Make your love for your Creator, Who is Himself uncreated, your first priority, for just a few months, and see what happens to your life.

You’ll be glad you did.

“Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians 5:20

Get rid of all your idols — Genesis Chapter 35

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” -C.S. Lewis (photo credit: UK Heaven Live)

Read Genesis 35

Where we last left Jacob: After raping Jacob’s daughter Dinah, the young prince Shechem, went with his father to Jacob, to ask for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s big brothers pretended to enter into an agreement with Shechem but then retaliated in a horrific and murderous manner. They were chastised for it by their father Jacob afterwards, but, surprisingly, they remained a part of God’s plan. In Levi’s case, his descendants were even assigned to minister unto God as His priests. We learned from this example, four reasons why God will choose to use you as a part of His plan for the world. (see previous post on Genesis 34) Today we’ll read of Jacob’s conflict and controversy during his travels. Then we’ll answer one of the most important questions that can be asked: “What is the object of your love?”

Genesis 35:

Now, on the heels of this massacre by his sons, Jacob hears from God: Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.

So Jacob says to his entire household, Get rid of any foreign gods you have with you, purify yourselves, change your clothes. We’re going up to Bethel where I’ll build an altar to God — He answered me in the day of my distress and He’s been with me wherever I have gone. So they give Jacob all the foreign gods they have and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buries them under an oak tree at Shechem. Then they start on their journey to Bethel, and the terror of God falls on the towns all around them, so no one pursues them to avenge the massacre they had committed.

Jacob and all who are with him come to Bethel in the land of Canaan. He builds an altar there as the Lord instructed, and he calls the place El Bethel which means, God of Bethel. It was there God revealed Himself to Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother Esau.

Afterwards, Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, dies and so they bury her under the oak outside of Bethel. As Rebekah was Jacob’s mother, Deborah, her nurse, would have been the one who helped raise Jacob. She also would have been a valuable mentor and leader to the women in Jacob’s household. She was obviously well loved for they name the oak tree under which she was buried Allon Bakuth, which means oak of weeping.

After Jacob came back from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.”

And God also said to him, “I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” Then God went up from him.

So Jacob sets up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he pours out a drink offering on it; he also pours oil on it. Jacob calls the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

So they leave Bethel and head for Ephrath. While they’re traveling Rachel begins to give birth but she has difficulty. As she’s struggling in childbirth, the midwife says to her, Cheer up, you’re having another son. But it’s such a difficult birth Rachel is dying, and as she breaths her last she names her son Ben-Oni, which means son of my trouble. But Jacob graciously spares the child from the burden of such a name and names him Benjamin, which means son of my right hand.

So Rachel dies and they bury her on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob sets up a pillar, and to this day (to the time of the writing of the scripture by Moses, some 400 years after these events) that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

Israel moves on from there and pitches his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel is living in that area, his oldest son Reuben goes in and sleeps with Israel’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel hears about it.

Jacob’s twelve sons:

The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.

The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.

The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

Jacob eventually comes home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (also called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lives a hundred and eighty years. He breathes his last and dies and is gathered to his people, old and full of years. Esau and Jacob, his sons, come together to bury him.

What is the object of your love?

We see in our story Jacob, in response to this tragedy his sons instigated against the entire city of Shechem, institutes a renewal of faith. He tells everyone in his household and every person with him to give up their idols and he buries them. It is truly amazing how during times of prosperity we drift away from what’s important and the idols creep in. Our focus, our time, and our energy become devoted to things other than God. We become distracted. This is what happened to Jacob’s household. We see they have accumulated quite a collection of idols.

In the Bible we see idols defined, not just as the making of little statues depicting strange gods, but also the making of good things into ultimate things. Idol worship is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. When you’re looking to your career, or your marriage, or your romance, or your friends to give you everything you should be looking for in God, you’re looking to idols. Making these good things into ultimate things is a misappropriation of your love. Love your uncreated God designed for you to devote to Him, is given instead to these created things. And the ultimate result is undue anxiety, drivenness, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment. It happens this way every time. (excerpts from Keller)

Why put yourself through the emotional instability that comes from directing your love toward those things which are created instead of your God? Do you know that the infidelity of a Reuben or Bilhah might possibly come into your life? Or death, no one escapes the death of loved ones. The death of a Deborah or a Rachel is, with absolute certainty, going to take place in your life. No life escapes death’s touch. Jacob’s father Isaac died and so will yours. In the world, you will have trouble. When these storms come, and they will come, if you’re looking to your career, or marriage, or friends to provide you with strength to stand, you’re in for a disappointment. Instead, have your feet planted solidly in a deep and rich relationship with Christ when these troubles come your way.

There is no replacement for God.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

Matthew 22:37


Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Chuck Smith

Tim Keller

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

Led into the wilderness to be tempted

The Temptation Trap (Photo Credit: Zazzle)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Matthew 4:1-11

How Jesus loved people:

Jesus kept himself available to love people by resisting temptation. Can you imagine how the path God had in mind for him would have been impacted had he succumbed to the tempter? Swamped with the demands of leading the governments of the world, he would have been distracted from his calling which was to live humbly, simply, and to engage with people directly, in love.

How you can too:

Never before in the history of humankind has there been a time when people are inundated by entertainment and recreation such as we are today. It’s an amazing time to be alive but it’s also a time when we’re bombarded by distraction and temptation. Twenty-three year old Chen Rong-yu was looking for entertainment when he decided to head out to his local internet cafe to play League of Legends. He found himself so engrossed in his game that he made it a marathon session, playing for some twenty-three hours straight. But because of his prolonged lack of movement, and a previous medical condition, it appears that blood clots formed in his system resulting in his death. He was found with his hands stretched out over the keyboard, as though he was still playing. The thirty other gamers in the cafe were similarly absorbed and didn’t notice that he was deceased until nine hours after his passing. (see Daily Mail article by Rob Cooper)

When it comes to temptations, you and I have the same decisions to make as Jesus. If I succumb to a marathon gaming session, while I probably won’t die, I’m as good as dead to the people I love and care about while I’m consumed by that game. If you succumb to watching an entire season of Downton Abbey in one sitting, during that time, you’re not available to show others Christ’s love. If I’m consumed by the latest on Whitney Houston’s death, or the NCAA tournament, or The Hunger Games, then I’ll be distracted from what God has in mind for me.

The bottom line: If you want to love people the way Jesus did, keep it simple like Jesus did. Resist the temptation to immerse yourself in entertainment, or sports, or recreation. These things are not bad if experienced in reasonable doses, but they will completely derail your life, if allowed to consume too much of your time, mind, heart, and soul.

Resist temptation.

Keep life simple enough to leave room for Christ and what He has in mind for you.


Rob Cooper

Growing Up

Photo credit: Lakeland Baptist Church

If you’re older: Are you equipping others to live for Christ?

If you’re younger: Are you seeking out wisdom from those who are older, wiser, and more godly than you are? Or, and be honest with yourself, are you tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind, or by every story that comes across the internet?

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-15

Live for Christ first, then watch the rest of your hopes and dreams follow. (Matthew 6:33)


Inside the Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Hachbach

Ever wonder why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our father… Give us this day our… Forgive us our… as we forgive our… Lead us not unto… deliver us…”

Notice there is nary an I, me, or my to be found anywhere, only us, our, and we.

Ever wonder why Jesus, the Son of God Himself, no matter where He was geographically, was in the habit of attending the local place of worship regularly? (Luke 4:16, Matthew 4:3, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 13:54)

It’s His desire for us to worship together. It’s His desire for us to go to church together.

Joel J. Miller said it well when he wrote:

We live and worship God in community because we can’t see enough of him on our own. Christians who isolate themselves from the body are consigning themselves to a peculiarly distorted and limited view of God.

The Christian faith isn’t about Jesus and me. By necessity it’s about Jesus and us.

“…and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.”

Luke 4:16


Meaning of Life

The following is a true story.

Back in Chicago they both had good jobs. Back in Chicago they lived in a nice apartment. But that was six months ago. Now he’s twenty-three years old and living in an 8’x21′ travel trailer in the mountains outside of Talent, Oregon. His wife is seven months pregnant with their first child. Their trailer is so small that, in her pregnant condition, if she drops the soap in the shower she has to step out of the shower to pick it up. The only place for the refrigerator is on the front porch. His boss at the cabinet shop where he works tells him that the economy is bad and getting worse — the work is drying up. He has to cut his hours back to eight per week.

He is not a believer, but it’s been said that there are no unbelievers in fox holes, and he is in a financial fox hole. In desperation he walks out into the beautiful woods of Southern Oregon, kneels down and prays. He says, Lord, please, I have a baby on the way, my hours are down to almost nothing, we can’t afford to pay the rent on our little trailer, we’re broke. I need a job.

Friends and family tell him to apply for unemployment. But partly out of his foolish pride, and partly out of his own integrity, he won’t. Unemployment is not for able bodied men, he answers. With no job, my job is to find a job, he says. So he applies everywhere: wood mills, factories, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, everywhere. But nobody’s hiring.

Things get desperate. The baby is due soon and his pregnant wife is ready to move back to Chicago, where her family is, and where the jobs are. Where she can live in a decent place instead of a tiny travel trailer. During one tearful argument she has her bags packed and is at the front door. Just until the end of the month, he says. If I don’t find work by the end of the month, we’ll head back home.

He’s spending more and more time out in the woods, on his knees, praying. One time he prays something that even surprises him. He starts with the usual desperate plea, Lord, please, the rent, the baby, the bills, my wife has had it. I need your help. Please. And then, this unbeliever, prays something surprising. These words come out of his mouth: Lord please give me a job, and give me a job where there are Christians.

He and his wife are looking at help wanted sites when he finds a firefighter position advertised. Good salary, good schedule, it sounds too good to be true. Unlike many young men, he’s never dreamed of becoming a firefighter, in fact, it’s never even crossed his mind. I’m not sure about this one, he says. It really does sound too good to be true.

You’re applying, she says.

So he does. He applies. They give him a three hundred page binder to study, for a written exam.

Just a few days after he turns in his application, the baby is born. He learns something about what it means to love someone, in truth, he didn’t know he could love anybody as much as he loves his little boy. They pay part of the hospital bill with money borrowed from family. The rest they promise to pay on a little each month.

He’s in the woods again, on his knees. More desperate than ever. Lord, now on top of everything else, I have this baby to provide for! Help me to do that Lord.

The baby is five days old the night before the firefighter test. He crams all through the night then shows up, sleep deprived, at the local high school cafeteria where the test is being given. He walks through the door to find three hundred other applicants seated and waiting for the tests to be passed out. Look at them all, he thinks to himself. He almost walks out but decides, as long as he’s come this far…

The guy on his left seems to be acquainted with the guy on his right. Did you hear there’s a  firefighter from Portland who came down to take this test? The guy on his left says. The guy on his right replies, No, but did you hear there’s a Captain from Phoenix, Arizona who’s taking this test?

Wow, he thinks. What chance do I have. But I’m here. What else is there for me to do but to go ahead and take this exam.

A week later the phone rings. It’s the fire department. They want to do an interview. A week after that he’s in front of the Fire Chief and two Battalion Chiefs. He answers everything as best he can. A few days after that they offer him the job.

On day one, in the middle of his first full shift as a firefighter, one of his crew says, Hey, we usually take a little time to do a Bible study in the evenings. Why don’t you join us?

That unemployed twenty-three year old was me. And as you can see, I have found Jesus’ words to be true. You will too.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

–Luke 18:1-8

Genesis Chapter 34 — You have brought trouble on me

Read Genesis 34

Where we last left Jacob: We last left Jacob encamped just outside of Shechem. He and Esau had just reconciled, and we explored the importance of reconciliation with others, and especially, the importance of reconciliation with God. We learned about how neglect is the most damaging thing a person can do to a relationship, even worse than abuse, and how it’s essential that we not neglect our relationship with Him. (see previous post: Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him)

Genesis 34:

In Genesis 34 we’ll hear the story of Dinah’s rape and how her brothers respond. After that we’ll learn about the four reasons why God wants to use you to do His work.

To this point, only one daughter of Jacob’s is mentioned in scripture — Dinah. She’s listed with all the sons born to Jacob and we don’t know if that’s because of her central role in the story we’re about to hear, or if she actually was the only daughter to that point. (see Genesis 30:21)

Now Jacob’s daughter by Leah, who is Dinah, goes out to visit the women in her area. And she’s seen by a young man named Shechem who’s the son of the ruler of that place, Hamor the Hivite. When he sees her, the young man Shechem is filled with desire for Dinah, and he takes her, and rapes her. Shechem’s heart is drawn to Dinah, he falls in love with her, and speaks tenderly to her. Afterwards he goes to his father Hamor and says, Dad, pull some strings and get me this girl for a wife. I’m crazy about her.

What a story, and one that we’re familiar with today. The new girl comes to town, different, beautiful, and from an exotic new people. The privileged young man, the son with a rich and powerful father, sees her and wants her. Though a prince in that city, he’s a prisoner to his lusts — he takes her, he rapes her, then, after he rapes her, he asks his father to use his considerable influence to get him what he wants. We still see it today among the rich and powerful — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, they’re rich, they’re powerful, and they’re used to seeing what they want and taking it. The Bible is timeless. Of course it’s about God, who is unchanging, but it’s also about people, whose sinful nature remains the same to this day.

Back to our story: So word gets back to Jacob about what happened, but his sons are in the fields with the livestock; so Jacob doesn’t do anything about the matter, thinking he’ll wait until his sons come home.

Then Shechem’s father Hamor shows up to talk with Jacob, but by then Jacob’s sons had heard about it and had come in from the fields, so they’re all there together: Hamor, Shechem, Jacob, and all of Jacob’s sons. Jacob and his sons are blown away by what just happened. They’re shocked by it and outraged.

But Hamor says to them, My son Shechem’s heart is set on your daughter. Please, give her to him as his wife. And, even beyond that, let’s intermarry; give us your daughters as wives, take our daughters as wives, and you can settle here among us. The land is open to you — live in it, trade in it, buy real estate in it.

Then Shechem speaks up and says, Let me find favor in your eyes, I’ll give whatever you ask. Name your price for the bride as high as you like. I’ll pay whatever you ask only give me the girl as my wife.

In their anger and outrage, Jacob’s sons reply deceitfully to Shechem and his father Hamor. They say, We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who’s not circumcised. That would be a discrace to us. We’ll enter into an agreement with you on one condition and one condition only: you have to become like us by circumcising all your males. Do that and we’ll give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you won’t agree to be circumcised, we’re taking our sister and we’re out of here.

Well, Shechem, who’s the most honored young man of all his father’s family, he must have fallen hard for Dinah, because this circumcision thing seems like a good idea to him. And his father Hamor likes the idea as well. Shechem’s so excited about marrying Dinah that he wastes no time in doing what was agreed to. He takes his father to the gate of their city to speak to all the men. These men are friendly toward us, they say. Let them live in our land and trade in it; there’s plenty of room. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. But there is one thing… the’ll only live with us as one people if we’re all circumcised.

But think about it, they continued. These guys are rich! Won’t their livestock, their property, and all their other animals become ours? So let’s agree to it and let them settle among us.

And all the men who were there agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every man and boy in the city was circumcised.

Fast forward three days. Every single man and boy in the city is in terrible pain. And two of Jacob and Leah’s sons, Simeon and Levi, brothers of Dinah, decide to take advantage of it. They take take up their swords and lead a surprise attack on the city, killing every male including Hamor and his son Shechem. Then they rescue Dinah from Shechem’s house. They also loot the dead bodies, seize their livestock, donkeys, and everything else both in the city and out in the fields. They carry off all their wealth and all their women and children.

The slaughter and plunder was all done without Jacob’s knowledge.

When Jacob sees Simeon and Levi he says, You have caused me to become a stench in the nostrils of the people of the land, the Canaanites and Perizzites. We’re few in number and if they join forces and attack us, we’ll be destroyed.

But they reply, Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?

Jacob says to his sons, You’ve caused me to become a stench in the nostrils of the people of the land, and, if the Canaanites and Perizzites join forces, they’ll wipe us out! Matthew Henry puts it this way, “If all the Shechemites must be destroyed for the offence of one, why not all the Israelites for the offence of two?” Even though Jacob knew of God’s promise to preserve the nation of Israel, he was wise to be concerned about the consequences that inevitably follow sin. Parents are often aware of consequences that their children, even their adult children, have no fear of. (Matthew Henry)

Later we’ll see Jacob on his death bed, blessing and prophesying over each of his sons. When it comes to Simeon and Levi’s turn he says of them,

“Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.” (Genesis 49:7)

4 Reasons why God will choose to use you:

Was it wrong for Shechem to rape Dinah? Of course it was. Was it right for Simeon and Levi to take out an entire city in revenge? Absolutely not! Jacob nailed it when he said, “Cursed be their anger…” But the Lord doesn’t shy away from revealing to us the flaws and failures of his people. Simeon and Levi had problems. The nation of Israel had problems. They were deceitful, they were sinful, they were far from perfect. Throughout the Bible God takes pains to show us that He uses imperfect people to do His work. We’ll see later that, in spite of what happened in today’s story, the tribe of Levi will be assigned to minister to the LORD as His priests.

So why? Why does He do that? Why does He use imperfect people to do His work. Why would He use a person like you? There are four reasons.

1) There’s no one else to use:

The people of the Bible were just like the people of today, they were imperfect, they were flawed, yet God used them. If God only used perfect people, He would have no one to work with! So He uses what He can — and that’s you, and that’s me, with all of our failures and sin. God will use you, with all your imperfections, because we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) You fall short just like everyone else. God will use you because you’re the only type of person available to Him.

2) His grace

God allows us the opportunity to serve Him in spite of our weaknesses because He is gracious. He knows we’re but dust and ashes. (Genesis 18:27) He knows we wrestle with our flesh. We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

We can actually approach God’s opportunities to serve Him boldly and with confidence, not because of who we are, but because of what Christ did, on the cross. Christ reconciled us to God that we may receive mercy and find grace.

3) Your growth

Some have the thought that they need to improve themselves before they can serve God, but scripture teaches just the opposite. If you serve God, you’ll find your self improving, as a man, or a woman. As you’re around Him, in His word, with His people, praying, or ministering unto one of the least of humankind, you’ll find yourself growing. God has a way of using people to do His work while growing the same said people into men or women of God. When Elijah called Elisha into service, he was just an average farmer. In fact he was plowing a field at the time Elijah called him. When Jesus called the disciples there was no one special among them, they were just a bunch of fishermen and other regular guys. Elisha grew, and Jesus’ disciples grew, primarily, while they served, not before. (1 Kings 19:19, Mark 1:16-20)

4) His glory

The beauty of God using a flawed, imperfect person like you or like me, to accomplish His will, is that He gets the glory! If He were to use brilliant perfect people, the response of those observing would be to assume that the talents of the person were the reason for God’s success. And the person would get the glory instead of God Himself. We see a great illustration of this in Judges chapter 7. General Gideon is preparing to go into battle against the Midianites with 32,000 men when the Lord says, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me (and say) ‘My own strength has saved me.’ God continued, “Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. (Judges 7:2-3)

And that was still too many in the Lord’s sight. So He had Gideon take the remaining men down to drink water from a stream. Only those who cupped their hands and lapped water like a dog were permitted to fight. That left only three hundred men to go into battle against the entire Midianite army. And, with God’s help, they won. And God got the glory.

I’m so thankful that God makes a point of sharing the failures of his people, like those of Simeon and Levi. That encourages me, and it should encourage you as well. I can very easily become discouraged with my own deficiencies and feel that I’m not worthy to serve Christ.

But the reality is, you don’t have to be anyone special to be used by God. In fact, if you have too much going for you, it could actually get in the way. The only thing you need to be used is a willingness on your part.

So try something, attempt something for God, maybe something small. Offer to help in some small way at church. Look for an opportunity to help a neighbor in need. Join the local big brother or big sister program. Make a short prayer list and pray for the people on it once a week. Are you too busy, or too tired after work? Those are just imperfections that God can overcome. Pray about it. Start anywhere, with anything that has eternal value.

Serve Him and His blessings will exceed your expectations.

Start by saying this prayer with me, “Lord, I’m flawed and imperfect, but use me anyway. Lord use me anyway, anyway you please. In Jesus’ name.”

Now go out and look for opportunity. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

“God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

1 Corinthians 1:28-29


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Chuck Smith

Matthew Henry

Laura’s Thoughts on Scripture

Jon Courson