Summary: Dr. Tow looks at Jacob's journey in Genesis 35 and offers some comparisons as we encounter conflict, loss and much more in our own journeys.
Such Is Life
Life is a journey; for every one of us, that journey is filled with a wide variety of experiences. Such is life. Sometimes those experiences feel real good and sometimes they feel pretty rotten. Sometimes we understand what is going on and sometimes we are baffled. “God, what are You doing and what am I supposed to do next?” Have you ever prayed that prayer?
I want us to go, this morning, to Genesis 35. In this chapter Jacob is leading his family on a journey. Three times in Genesis 35 we read the words, “And they journeyed.” We’re going to look into this chapter and learn from their journey. Perhaps the Lord will speak to us from it about our own journey. Maybe He will answer some of the questions that are on our hearts. 1 Cor. 10: 6 tells us that these Old Testament stories were written for our instruction. There are principles at work here that are also at work in our lives. We will see eight Episodes in Jacob’s life here. We will consider possible life lessons in each episode.
The first event actually occurs in the previous chapter, Genesis 34, but it is referred to in our text.
1. Conflict with the Hittites
Jacob had spent over 20 years living with his Uncle Laban. There he married his wives, had children and accumulated livestock. Then God told him to return to his homeland in Canaan. On his way, he came to a town called Succoth that was in the territory of the Hittites. It is about 40 miles north of Jerusalem and north of where he was supposed to go (Bethel). Living short of full obedience, he settled in and bought a piece of property near Succoth.
His only daughter, Dinah, went into Succoth to visit with some of the girls there. While there she met the son of the ruling sheik and the guy raped her. In retaliation, Jacob’s sons (Simeon and Levi) attacked and plundered the city.
Genesis 34 ends with Jacob arguing with Simeon and Levi. Look at Genesis 34:30-31, “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.’ But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister like a harlot?’”
Two life lessons from this event:
Jacob’s incomplete obedience left his family vulnerable to problems. He was supposed to go back to Bethel (where God had spoken to him) and return to his father’s house. By the end of Gen. 35 he has done that. But in Genesis 34 he has stopped short of full obedience. Had he fully obeyed in the first place, all of this might have been averted.
God providentially redeemed the mess and worked it all together for Jacob’s ultimate good. Israel was to be a separate people unto God’s covenant. Jacob was getting way too cozy with the ungodlily world around him. God used the conflict to separate him from these ungodly people and protect him from something even more negative.
Sometimes a negative event can be protecting us from something even more negative. Never is God the author of sin; but often He is working preemptively in our behalf.
2. Word from the Lord
This is sovereign grace. Jacob and his family have made a mess of things. Yet God speaks to Jacob. Events have chastened him and prepared him for this visit. He is humbled by what has happened to his daughter. He is apprehensive about what the surrounding tribes may do to him. Genesis 35:1 begins with the word “Then.” In this context God speaks to Jacob. “Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.’"
Notice the instruction, “Arise, go up to Bethel….” Go do what you were supposed to do in the first place. Now get up and do it! “And make and altar there….” He had erected an altar at Succoth (Gen. 34:29) which was a good thing to do. But he was supposed to go all the way to Bethel and make the altar “there.” With that instruction also came words of comfort. God graciously reminds him of his previous encounter at Bethel—a time when he was in fear of Esau’s retaliation. Now he is afraid of Hittite retaliation. “Remember, Jacob, I protected you then; and I will protect you now—but you need to fully obey me.”
Life Lesson: God’s grace is amazing in our lives. Even when we have made a mess of things, he meets with us and speaks to us. He patiently reminds us of what He has already told us to do: Something for everyone of us to be grateful for.