Genesis 34 – Just Breathe

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In Chapter 34, we are introduced to Simeon and Levi, Leah’s boys and the deep sin that rules their hearts. Next week, we will meet her firstborn, Reuben.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This chapter is full of heartbreak all around. First, with the incredibly horrid sin of rape. Dinah, also Leah’s child, is raped by Shechem the son of Hamor. I can only imagine the anger, rage, and heartache Jacob, Leah, and their family must have felt for their daughter.

After learning of his son’s horrible actions, Hamor found himself in a tough spot. He was negotiating and begging for his son’s sin/crime. He said to Jacob and Dinah’s brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.” (v. 11-12)

Although the scriptures say Hamor spoke to the father and brother’s, we see that it’s the sons who reply and not Jacob. Not only was it the sons who replied, but it says they replied “deceitfully”.

Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Genesis 34:13-15

Circumcision?! I’m a female, so I know I can only speak from a female perspective on this, but I think most men would agree this was no small request. Verses 18-24 give us a little insight into his speech, but I find it hard to imagine that’s all it took to convince a whole city of men to accept this arrangement.

This is where my mind starts swirling with questions like:

  • How in the world did Hamor convince all the men in the city to be circumcised?
  • Would Hamor have ever offered that to Jacob if his son hadn’t defiled Leah or did he just offer it out of fear?
  • It says Jacob’s sons replied “deceitfully” to Hamor. Where was Jacob? Did he walk away in disgust? Did he rush off to comfort Dinah and Leah? Was he to overcome with anger or grief to respond himself?
  • Did Levi and Simeon have time to come up with this plan before presenting it or did it just instantly come to them?
  • Did Jacob know about his son’s intentions and go along with it quietly or was he surprised when it happened?
  • With Jacob’s relationship with God, how did his son’s (and maybe he, himself) fall so far away that murdering an entire city seemed ok?

How did it go so wrong? How did the anger towards their sister’s rapist (although well deserved) swell to such a rage that they could construct a plan like this and murder an entire city? I was reminded through these scriptures, that although I don’t pick up a literal sword, I sometimes lash out with my words.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5

Anger and fear can blind us to the way God calls us to live. It reminded me of a friend who recently confided in me about a “family situation” she was dealing with. She had reached her limit. She knew she had to remove herself from the “situation” or the outcome would not be desirable. I told her that “we all reach our maximum capacity to extend grace” every now and then. Ever been there? Reached your maximum capacity? Did you know you were about to get pushed over the edge and remove yourself from the situation or did you blow and then realize it was too late? The tongue can be an ugly vile tool, but when the heart is healthy it sings praises and gives encouragement.

As our relationship with the Heavenly Father grows,  it gets easier to see when we need to step back and find restoration in God. It becomes more bearable to be a peacemaker and breath grace into others. I love that image because I know there are many situations that without God I would be breathing a lot, but it wouldn’t be grace-filled. I need Him. I need Him to recognize when I am about to meet my maximum capacity. I need Him to help me recharge and refocus. I need Him to help me breathe grace into others. I have realized, after many years of trying, I can not do it without Him!

Although I know there will be times, my heart will surprise me. Will sneak up on me. Will rise up and respond in a way I never intended. That’s when I fall to my knees and ask God to keep working and thank Him for never giving up on me.

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