Saturday, September 26, 2020

2020.09.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:18–34:6

Read Genesis 33:18–34:6

Questions from the Scripture text: To what city does Jacob come safely in Genesis 33:18? In what land was it? From what land had he come? Where does he pitch his tent? Of whom does this remind us (cf. Genesis 13:12)? What does Jacob buy in Genesis 33:19 (cf. Genesis  23:15–20; Joshua 24:32)? How much does Jacob pay for it (cf. Genesis 23:15)? What does Jacob do there (Genesis 33:20)? What does he call it? About whom does Genesis 34:1 tell us? Where does she go? Why? Who sees her in Genesis 34:2? What is his status? What does he do with her? How does the end of verse 2 judge what was done? But what was the feeling of Shechem’s soul toward her (Genesis 34:3)? And what does verse 3 say that he did to her? And how does it say that he spoke to her? To whom does Shechem speak in Genesis 34:4? And for what does he ask? What other father has heard something (Genesis 34:5a)? What does he (not!) do? What does Hamor, however, do already in Genesis 34:6?

Sometimes we slouch into thinking that our growth in Christ will be linear, but sinners and salvation are more complex than that. This passage presents real progress, as far as Jacob is concerned, but rather troubling shortcomings as well. We learn to rejoice over God’s genuine work in sinners that He is saving, while raising the alarm about how damaging remaining sin can be, while we are still in the process of being sanctified.

First, we see the real progress of Jacob. v18 establishes it with geography: the Padan Aram period is over, and the patriarch is back in the land of promise, “the land of Canaan.” Genesis 33:19 establishes it with real estate: “and he bought the parcel of land.” There are echoes of Abraham here, buying the field of Mamre from the sons of Heth. Now it is Jacob buying literally “the field” from the sons of Hamor. 

And Genesis 33:20 establishes it not only with worship—again, this is reminiscent of Abraham, who has erected altars all over the promised land—but especially with the name of the God who is worshiped: “Elohe Israel” (“the God of Israel”). No longer is the focus on God as his father’s God and his grandfather’s God, but very specifically Jacob’s own God, Who has given him a new identity in relationship to Himself, “Israel.”

But, among these reminders back toward what was good with Abraham, the Holy Spirit also gives us an alarming mixture of reminders of Lot and of some of the shortcomings of Abraham. One can hardly see Jacob pitching his tent toward Shechem without seeing the reflection of Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom back in Genesis 13:12. And how disastrous this ended up for both men’s daughters! 

And just as we see Jacob proceed to be shamed in some respects as a husband and father, by comparison to Shechem and Hamor, we can hear the echoes of Abraham before Pharaoh or Abimelech, and Isaac before the other Abimelech, with the heads of wicked states justly taking issue with the other patriarchs. 

Jacob’s relationships with Leah and Rachel (not to mention Zilpah and Bilhah) have not been described in such wholehearted terms as Shechem’s soul clinging for all it’s worth to Dinah, or loving her and speaking to her heart. Jacob heard that his daughter had been brought low by her unclean romance (Genesis 34:5), but kept silent until back came. Hamor outshines this passivity by going straight to Jacob as soon as he hears his son’s request.

So, on the one hand, we are encouraged to be reminded that our struggles in sanctification are not news. Even when we have seen real spiritual progress among God’s people, great folly and sin have remained, and the capacity for astounding stumblings (e.g., David, others). But on the other hand, when we see what comes of this we are also solemnly warned of the disastrous consequences that may come from this remaining sin, and by this warning we are urged by the Holy Spirit to stay in lock-step with Him in the war against our flesh!

What evidence is there of spiritual progress in your life? How are you fighting against what remains from your flesh?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH219 “O Worship the King”

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