A Faithful God Among Unfaithful People
“So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.” – Genesis 35:2 NLT
These two chapters continue to document the sad saga of mankind’s downward spiral into sin and and depravity. As we follow the lives of God’s covenant people, we are exposed to the flaws and failures in their lives as well as the lives of the others inhabitants of the planet. And the picture is not a pretty one. Chapter 34 begins with the rape of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, by Shechem, one of the “princes of the land.” Dinah is probably 14-15 years old when this tragedy occurs. Having defiled this young girl, Shechem begs his father to get her for his bride. No shame. No remorse or regret. Just unbridled lust. His actions lead the sons of Jacob to seek revenge. And like their father, they do so by deceit. They trick their enemies, convincing them to agree to have all the males in their community circumcised. Three days after going through this ritual the men of Shechem’s family are slaughtered by Simeon and Levi. Then the rest of the sons of Jacob loot the city and take everything in it. Revenge, greed, murder, deception. Sin breeds sin – both inside and outside of the family of God.
Then right in the middle of all this wickedness, God enters in. He calls Jacob to return to Bethel, where God first confirmed His covenant with him (Genesis 28:10-19). But before Jacob can obey, he has to instruct his household to do a little housekeeping. “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes” (Genesis 35:2 NIV). I find it fascinating that Jacob has to instruct his own family to purge their tents of any and all foreign gods. This would have included the household idols that Rachel had stolen from her father (Genesis 31:19). Jacob collects all the idols, rings, amulets, and other cultic tokens and then hides them under a tree which was near the city of Shechem. Notice that he doesn’t destroy them, he just conveniently hides them until they return from worshiping God. In the face of God’s faithfulness we see the constant faithlessness of men. The passage seems to infer that Jacob had every intention of returning to that tree and digging up the idols and pagan trinkets and returning them to their rightful owners. He was working both sides of the street, keeping his relationship with Yahweh intact, but also hedging his bets by allowing the worship of other gods as well.
Yet in spite of the unfaithfulness of men, God once again confirms His covenant promise to Jacob, reminding him of his recent name change and confirming the promise made to Jacob’s grandfather years earlier. “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:11-12 NIV). God is faithful. God is a covenant-keeping God who never fails to keep His word, regardless of the fickleness and failings of fallen men. He tells Jacob that He is God Almighty, El Shaddai, the mighty or overpowering One. He is great, powerful, strong, and in complete control of any and all circumstances. Yet He is gracious, merciful, and faithful. It should be a comfort to us that in the midst of all the sin and corruption surrounding us, there is a God who loves us faithfully and fully. He will do what He has promised to do. He will never fail us or let us down.
Father, You are faithful in spite of my unfaithfulness. You stay true to Your word, even when I tend to break mine. I can count on You to be there for me, even in the middle of all the sin that surrounds me. Thank You for reminding me that You are the almighty God, powerful and true. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men