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)
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