Summary: A teaching message on Genesis 33:18-34:31.
Genesis Series #58 September 08, 2002
Title: How to Maintain Spiritual Purity
Welcome to New Life in Christ. Today we continue with message #58 in our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Genesis.
Read Genesis 33:18-34:31
God’s people are clearly called to be a distinct, separate people. Christians are to maintain a clear identity as a separate people, both in what they believe, and in how they behave. As 1 Peter 2:9 says, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, the you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." The same calling to be a distinct and separate people was also given to the nation of Israel. As the Bible says to both the Christian and Israel, "Be Holy (separate) because I am Holy." (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 19:2)
In keeping with this biblical injunction to be a distinct and separate people who maintain spiritual purity, God also gives us several warnings in the Bible about spiritual impurity, which could also be called spiritual corruption or spiritual defilement. For instance Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. . ." In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Paul reminds believers that righteousness and wickedness have nothing in common, and therefore there should be no spiritual corruption or defilement in the Believer’s life. In verse 17 of that same chapter he then quotes an Old Testament scripture which instructs God’s people to "Come out from them and be separate. . ." Two verses later in 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says, ". . . Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. . . "
There many other Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments, directed toward Israel or the church, which speak to the same issue of spiritual purity. By this point you’re probably wondering what the subject of spiritual purity has to do with the sordid tale of sex and violence in Genesis 34. The answer is "Everything!" The nation of Israel was always in danger of losing their distinct and holy identity by adopting the practices or accepting the people of Canaan. They could become spiritually defiled through intermarriage, treaties, or various enticements. Many of the stories in Genesis, Lot in Sodom, Abraham in Egypt, etc., are intended to teach the Israelites, and us, about maintaining spiritual purity and the dangers of spiritual impurity.
Those biohazard specialists who deal with Anthrax don’t do so without great care and protecting themselves from being contaminated. In the same way the Christian is always in danger of being contaminated by the world. We also must take great care that we are protected from spiritual defilement.
In essence that is one thing this passage in Genesis teaches God’s people to do. It teaches us about the need to maintain spiritual purity, how to maintain spiritual purity and how not to respond to spiritual impurity. With that said I would summarize the first lesson of Genesis 34 like this.
1. Spiritual purity can only be maintained by being fully obedient and alert.
When I use the term "spiritual purity", I’m speaking of people’s behavior and beliefs. Spiritual purity is when our beliefs and our behavior are consistent with those which are presented as acceptable in the Bible. To maintain that standard of morality, separation and purity of doctrine, we must be fully obedient to God and alert to the dangers of worldly contamination. With that said let us look at this passage verse by verse.
Read Genesis 33:18-20
These verses may not be a part of Chapter 34, but they are essential to understanding the spiritual lesson of that story. Jacob had vowed to return to Bethel and had been instructed to do that by God. Instead of doing that, he lingered near the city of Shechem, which is one day’s journey from Bethel. He did not just stay there overnight or stop to replenish his provisions. He actually purchased land there “within sight of the city.” In some ways this story is similar to that of Lot in Sodom. Both Lot and Jacob settled or lingered where they should not have been and they both brought harm to their families as a result.
The point is that Jacob was not fully obedient and that led to Dinah’s defilement. He did part of what he was supposed to do, but not all. He even acknowledged Yahweh as his God for the first time. He worshipped him there (Genesis 33:20) but did not fully obey God. Just because Jacob built an altar and did spiritual things did not mean he was where he was supposed to be. Just because a Christian acknowledges Jesus or does spiritual things (Church, Prayer, Tithing, etc) does not mean they are where they are supposed to be either. In some ways, Jacob was doing what many Christians do today. They obey God partially, acknowledge and worship him, but don’t do everything God has said; they don’t go all the way. They try to hold on to some of the sins or the ways of the world, but that ultimately leads to corruption.