************ Sermon on Genesis 34 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 11, 2014

Genesis 34
"How to Deal with Sin"

Our Scripture reading starts with Dinah. She went out to see the women of the land (Gen 34:1). The Hebrew suggests that this was a one-time event, not a regular occurrence. Maybe she was curious. Maybe she was bored. Maybe she was lonely. We aren't told. But this innocent act ended in disaster. In a series of three quick verbs we are told what happened next: Dinah was seen, Dinah was taken, and Dinah was violated (Gen 34:2). Instead of seeing the women of the land, Dinah was seen by one of the men of the land; and, not just any man; she was seen by Shechem, the son of the ruler of the city (Gen 34:2). Shechem saw Dinah. Shechem took Dinah. Shechem violated Dinah. It was lust at first sight that ended in rape.

The sudden lust, however, was transformed into love and tenderness. So, Shechem asked his father to make the necessary arrangements that Dinah could be his wife.

Maybe your reaction is the same as mine: What is this story doing in the Bible? Is there anything redemptive in this story? Is there anything inspiring or uplifting that we can get out of it?

And, I am left with a lot of questions. For instance, whatever happened to Dinah? Did Shechem get her pregnant? Did she marry? Did she bear children? Did she live to a ripe old age? Was she happy? Was she sad and bitter? Whatever happened to her?

Genesis 34 tells us about three different reactions to the rape of Dinah. As we look at these reactions on this Lord's Supper Sunday we are reminded that there is man's way and there is God's way of dealing with sin.

I Jacob
A We begin by looking at Jacob's reaction to the rape of Dinah his daughter. Most fathers would move heaven and hell to protect their daughters. One father here was telling me all the questions he asks of young men wanting to date his daughter. His intent is to scare and intimidate. As far as I can tell, it works.

So, what was Jacob's reaction? He "kept quiet about it" until his sons came home. Jacob said nothing. Jacob did nothing. Jacob did not protect his daughter. Jacob let his daughter down.

Keep in mind that Dinah was Leah's daughter; she was the daughter of the wife Jacob did not love. I wonder what Jacob's reaction would have been if Dinah had been Rachel's daughter.

Jacob's lack of reaction contrasted strongly to the reaction of his sons, who were filled with grief and fury. Don't forget, the majority of them were full brothers of Dinah. How would they have reacted if Dinah was Rachel's rather than Leah's daughter? They correctly declared that such a disgraceful thing should not have been done (Gen 34:7). But disgraceful and despicable things happen regularly in a fallen world.

B Let me remind you of how Jacob, and Dinah, got into this situation – we looked at this last time. Jacob was not fully obedient to God. Jacob was called by God to return to the Promised Land; it was understood by all involved that Jacob was to return to Bethel – the place where he saw the vision of the stairway and the angels and made a vow to God. Instead, Jacob first stopped at Succoth, outside of the land (Gen 33:17). Then Jacob stopped at Shechem, twenty miles short of Bethel though it was in the Promised Land (Gen 33:18). As I said last week, in doing this Jacob showed only a half-hearted obedience to God. Jacob, for whatever reason, made compromises.

It is striking to me that even while Jacob was pretending obedience to God, he kept up a form of religion by building altars to offer prayers and sacrifices (Gen 33:20).

In Dinah's rape we see the consequences of Jacob's half-hearted obedience. If Jacob had gone to Bethel this would never have happened. If Jacob had gone to Bethel, Dinah would have remained pure and untainted.

Satan loves to tell the people of God that we can make compromises and it won't hurt us. Satan loves to tell us that sin won't hurt us. But Satan is a liar and the father of lies. For when we listen to Satan's counsel and give in to sin, all too often the consequences are awful – as we see in the case of Dinah and her brothers.

You may wonder, Why does God allow us to fall into these kinds of situations? The reason is God loves us too much to let us get away with sin. So, He disciplines us as a loving father; He wants to wean us from our addiction to sin. This means that sometimes He allows us to experience the weight of sin so we may turn away from it. In the case of Jacob, the weight of sin involved rape, deceit, pillage, and murder. All of this happened just because Jacob stopped twenty miles short of full obedience.

C Now, did Jacob keep quiet because he knew he was to blame? I doubt it. A look through Scripture tells us Jacob had a pattern of keeping quiet in the face of sin. In the very next chapter we are told Jacob did nothing when his oldest son Reuben slept with his concubine Bilhah (Gen 36:22).

And, at the end of our chapter, after the murder of the people of Shechem, Jacob finally breaks his silence. But his speech is filled with personal pronouns: I, me. Again, Jacob says and does nothing about sin. Instead, he mentions the negative impact that the sin might have on him.
(Gen 34:30) Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed."

Jacob is one of those people who conveniently turn a blind eye to sins involving family members. I have seen this all too often in the ministry. These people get upset about the sins of others and become mysteriously quiet when it involves their own family. Or, even worse, they vigorously defend the sinful actions of their children and grandchildren. Or, they bury their head in the sand so they hear no evil and see no evil. Or, like Jacob, they only think of themselves rather then the sinner's need for repentance.

I think you all know this is not God's way of dealing with sin. The Lord's Supper is a reminder that God doesn't tolerate or minimize or defend sin – regardless of the person doing it.

II Hamor and Shechem
A The second reaction laid out by Scripture to the rape of Dinah is that of Hamor and Shechem.

After taking advantage of Dinah, what did Shechem do? Shechem proposed marriage to Dinah. If this was Hollywood, the movie would end at this point and the couple would live happily ever after.

Let's think about this fairytale ending. What was being suggested was far more than a single marriage proposal. Hamor was suggesting the formation of a single community. The people of Israel and the people of Shechem were to live peacefully together as one people, intermarrying with one another and sharing a common destiny. This almost sounds like a speech at the United Nations or at a Miss Universe contest. Hamor was offering a shortcut to possessing the land through intermarriage. The land would be theirs without shedding a single drop of blood.

B Yet, this is exactly what could not happen and must not happen. The history of God's people is a history of being called to be separate, holy, and different. So, early in history, God separated the line of Seth from the line of Cain. Later, God separated Abraham from country, people, and family – including Lot. Jacob was separated from Esau. The children of Israel were set apart from the Egyptians and were told to keep separate from the Canaanites.

In the light of this bigger picture, it is clear that Jacob and his sons could not accept what Hamor was offering. The land was to be received by grace through faith and not through intermarriage with the inhabitants. Their calling was to be a distinct community.

Don't we have the same calling? In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul calls us not to be yoked in marriage with unbelievers. Quoting from 2 Samuel, he says,
(2 Cor 6:17-18) "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (18) "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

Unbelievers can join with us through the process of repentance, conversion, and baptism. But we cannot join with unbelievers without polluting and defiling ourselves with the ways of the world.

For this reason, I am so proud of a company like Hobby Lobby. The Obama government is forcing them to join with the world and support abortion. The owners know, as Christians, that they must stand up and be different.

So, then, what Hamor and Shechem proposed also isn't God's way of dealing with sin. We don't deal with sin by joining with the world.

III The Sons of Jacob
A This brings us to the reaction of Jacob's sons. As I already mentioned, they were filled with grief and fury. And in their grief and fury them came up with a deceitful strategy. We see here that Jacob's sons learned well at their father's knee (don't forget, Jacob means "deceiver"). Children inherit the sins of the parents, often in greater measure. Jacob deceived his father in order to steal his brother's birthright (Gen 27:35). He deceived Laban in the care of the sheep (Gen 30:25-43). He deceived Laban by fleeing, so to speak, in the middle of the night (Gen 31:17-22). And now Jacob's sons deceived Hamor in order to murder the unsuspecting people of Shechem (Gen 34:13-14). Knowing this, I am always surprised that Joseph's brothers only sold him into slavery because they were capable of so much more.

Even worse, Jacob's sons wrapped their deceit in the cloak of religion. I already mentioned that Jacob maintained his religious practices while stopping short of full obedience; his sons went the next step and used religion to help them destroy their enemies. What violence and what sin has been carried on in the name of religion. Wars have been fought and massacres committed in the name of Christianity, as well as other faiths.

B Let me backtrack and say something that hit me as I was reading the form for baptism last Sunday. In the address to the parents it says, "We must, therefore, use the sacrament for the purpose that God intended ..." What is the purpose that God intended for baptism, for circumcision, for the Passover, for the Lord's Supper? They are all means of grace intended to strengthen and encourage us in the faith. They are all meant to point us to the Gospel promise to forgive us our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ's one sacrifice finished for us on the cross. Now, notice what Jacob's boys did: they turned the means of grace into a means for revenge. They turned something holy into something despicable. They used something that spoke of God's love and turned it into an instrument of hate.

We don't deal with sin by seeking revenge and by misusing the sacraments. This, too, isn't God's way of dealing with sin.

Let me sum up. God doesn't deal with sin by doing nothing – like Jacob. God doesn't deal with sin by joining with the world – as was proposed by Hamor and Shechem. God doesn't deal with sin by seeking revenge – like Jacob's sons.

So, then, what is God's way of dealing with sin?

On this Lord's Supper Sunday you all know – or should know – the answer to this question.
(2 Cor 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God does not ignore sin – He put it on Christ. God does not join with the world – for Christ had no sin. God does not seek revenge by killing all – rather, the One died for all. This is what we remember and celebrate in the Lord's Supper this morning. This is God's way of dealing with sin.
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