Strong God

Genesis 33-36

Pericope: Genesis 35:9-11

My wife and I serve in an upscale apartment community downtown Dallas. Recently, we were awakened by a series of gunshots. It was followed by a second series of shots and a scream. Minutes later, we could hear sirens in the distance growing louder- apparently they were heading to the crime scene. The next morning, I tried to do some research on the internet to find out what happened. I never found out, but what I did discover was the fact that this city, like most others, is daily rattled with crime. Thoughts of packing up and moving to a suburb crossed our minds, but even then we know we would not escape such evil.

This whole world is inundated with evil. All around us we see and hear the effects of wickedness. And we must ask ourselves, where is God in all this? Where is God? Why doesn’t he do something about it?

Thoughts like these crossed my mind as I read through the passage when Jacob moves back to Canaan. His daughter Dinah goes out to meet new friends and ends up getting raped by this guy named Shechem. What’s worse is that Jacob (The great pillar of faith!) does nothing and even gives permission for Shechem to take Dinah to be his wife! Jacob was more concerned about being a good guest in this new land than living by the ways of the Lord. The waters become murkier when Jacob’s sons take justice in their own hands. Jacob then has to live in fear of the surrounding villages avenging the deaths of the family of Schechem. What a mess! Where was God in all this?

Genesis 35:9-11 gives the answer. God in effect says, “I am El Shaddai” I am the sovereign God. I am the Strong God. God delivers Jacob from the surrounding villages. The writer of this passage reports that they were afraid of the God of Jacob. Jacob was instructed to get rid of foreign gods and to go to Bethel. Bethel is the place where Jacob had previously made a covenant to worship Yahweh as the one true God.

In the midst of the weakness and ineffectiveness of Jacob, God was establishing Himself as the one true God, the God of Abraham, then Isaac, and now Jacob. This story is not about Jacob, but about God. Jacob had foreign gods, sources where he went for strength, sources which were ineffective. But God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “God fights.” God was fighting on behalf of Jacob the whole time, not just in bringing justice on behalf of Dinah, but to bring Jacob to a knowledge of Him so that God could establish His covenant through the line of Jacob. This covenant is one which God, through Jesus Christ, would bring life and liberty to all men who would also rid themselves of foreign gods.

If you get discouraged because of the wickedness and injustice, and if you wonder where God is, you can be confident that God is fighting as a Strong God to bring you into community with Him through Christ. One day all evil will be destroyed. Justice will be delivered to propagators of evil and mercy extended to those who live for Christ. Our concern should not be about figuring about what God is doing in the midst of wickedness, but rather are we aligning our life away from “foreign gods”, impotent objects and belief systems which bring no security at all in the midst of such evil? Are we aligning our hearts toward El Shaddai who has effectively proven himself over and over again in Christ and will one day restore goodness and destroy all evil?

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Unchanged

Genesis 28-33  1/27/2009 8:45pm

Pericope: Genesis 31

Recently I was involved in a discussion with some friends. One made a statement that for the most part he is no different than he was 5 years ago. He confessed that he struggled with the same issues today as he did back then. So the big question became, “How can I change?”

It seems to me that as I read the Old Testament, I am encountering the same issue. Even as the people of God entered into a Covenant relationship, their lifestyle remained unchanged. In the story of Jacob, as he was earning his wives Leah and Rachel, there were several instances that suggest God’s people were heavily influenced by culture. First, why two wives? Second, when the wives were arguing over fertility problems, Leah gave away mandrakes to Rachel in order to have a night with Jacob. Rachel’s confidence for fertility was not centered in Yahweh. Third, Rachel stole her father’s idols. The point: it does not seem that God’s people were as perfect as the Sunday school stories make them out to be. To be sanctified (or set apart) as God’s people did not mean they were holy.

To put it slightly differently, being in community with God does not equate holiness. It does not equate perfection for a human standpoint.

So my friend’s question is quite valid. Why is he not much different than before? Why are his struggles today similar to five years ago? This is not an issue of salvation, but rather what it means to be sanctified.