When God is Absent
Sin, Rape, Dinah, Godlessness
From time to time we run across a passage in the Bible that I would call a “stinker” passage. It is a passage that when you read it you immediately say, “what in the world am I supposed to learn from this?” This passage would qualify as a “stinker” passage. This chapter records a sordid account of sinful humanity. But like every other passage in the Bible we need to remember Paul’s words, “ALL scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, correction, and for training in righteousness.” In other words, there are some things we can learn from this passage.
This passage is unique in the Bible because the name of God is not mentioned at all in this chapter. Now, we know that the Bible was not written as chapters . . . chapters were added later for ease of use. But . . . we do know that in this entire account (which makes up this chapter), God’s name is absent. In the book of Esther God’s name is absent. However, all throughout the book of Esther we see the fingerprints of God. This is not the case in Genesis 34. In this passage we do not see God’s name OR His influence. This is a passage filled with sin, excess and godlessness.
Before we draw some lessons from the text, let’s make sure we have the facts of the account straight.
- Dinah was the seventh and final child and only daughter of Leah and Jacob. Because she was a child of Leah and a daughter it is likely that she was not among the “favorites”.
- Dinah was probably around 14 or 15 years old in this chapter. Josephus, the Jewish historian contends that Dinah was heading to one of the pagan festivals of Shechem.
- It is possible that this was not Dinah’s first visit to Shechem. It is likely that Hamor had seen her before. Dinah, quite frankly, might have enjoyed the attention of the town’s most eligible bachelor.
- Shechem raped and also apparently kidnapped Dinah. In verse 26 we read that Dinah was taken from Shechem’s house. We do not know if Dinah was held against her will or not.
- When Jacob heard about the situation he did nothing. It may have been because he didn’t care enough or it could have been that he didn’t know what to do.
- Shechem did want to make Dinah his wife. We are told that he “loved” Dinah.
- Shechem and Hamor approached Jacob to arrange a marriage. They were willing to pay any bridal price and to welcome the family as part of their community.
- The brothers of Dinah set up the people of Shechem telling them that they could not possibly allow their sister to marry into an uncircumcised people on religious grounds.
- Either out of love, fear or out of a desire for the economic benefit imagined by the joining of the two families, the men of Shechem all were circumcised.
- While in the pain and immobility following their circumcisions, the brothers of Dinah killed all the men of Shechem and then looted the town and took the women and children.
You will surely admit that this is a vile story and one we would rather not address at all. In fact, many would ask why the Bible would record such a sordid affair. The answer to that question is twofold: first, the Bible is an accurate record of what people are really like. Second, this passage can teach us from the negative example. Let’s look at some of the lessons.
GOD IS ABSENT BECAUSE COMMITMENT IS HALF-HEARTED
It is likely that the very fact that Jacob is at Shechem gives us some indication as to why these things happened. When God told Jacob to return to the land of his fathers, it is most likely that God was telling Jacob to head back to Bethel. This is where Jacob first met God (and saw the staircase to Heaven). Jacob called it the place where God resided. Do you remember the deal Jacob made? He said if God would protect and provide for him he would return and build an altar to the Lord. God is directing Jacob back to that location. Notice that after this chapter God tells Jacob to “Go up to Bethel and settle there.” (35:1)
I think Jacob knew what God wanted him to do but he does not go to Bethel. He heads home as God commands but he takes a liking to the area near Shechem and makes his home there. In other words Jacob stops short of obeying God fully. He is half-hearted in his obedience.
Let’s be honest, Jacob certainly continued to be religious. He continued to seek to serve God in many ways. But the areas of his life that were unattended were the very areas where Satan attacked! William Gurnall, the author of THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOUR wrote: “Sins of commission are usual punishments for sins of omissions.. He that leaves a duty may soon be left to commit a crime . . . when we are idle, we tempt the Devil to tempt us.” In other words: when we become lackadaisical about our commitment to the LORD, we are inviting the Devil into our lives.
It is easy to forget that God commanded that we are to “love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength.” God does not ask us to serve Him at a level that we find comfortable and acceptable . . . He calls us to follow fully.
It is essential that we take time to evaluate our own commitment level? How do we do that? We need to examine our priorities. Does that mean that we should declare our list: Jesus First, Family Second, Self third? No . . .I don’t mean to recite the priorities you claim you have, or think you should have . . . we must look at our real priorities. How do we do this? Look at your calendar, look at your checkbook, look at what you want to do when you have free time. These are the things that show you what is really important to you.
If you want God to have a prominent place in your life you have to place Him in that place. You need to give Him the first of your time and attention. You need to read the Bible, you need to make time for prayer, you must spend time thinking God’s thoughts and doing God’s work. Yes, we are all busy. And because we are all busy, the issue of priorities is more important than ever. We make choices every day about what we will give ourselves to and who we will allow to influence our lives and heart. Make those choices carefully. If we choose poorly we our putting ourselves, our families and our ability to impact our community at risk.
WHEN WE LIVE WITHOUT GOD, WE BECOME SLAVES OF OUR PASSIONS
When we begin to drift from God, our value system becomes distorted. The things we should hate, we begin to love. The things we should love we lose interest in. Notice in our text how evil becomes attractive.
- Dinah longs to visit the women of the land
- Shechem seems to see nothing wrong with “taking” Dinah
- The sons of Jacob think nothing of destroying an entire community for the sin of the one man.
Look at the common denominator here: The one constant is that these people are all being led by their passions. It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to see that same thing taking place today.
- people are angry because someone cut them off on the highway so they kill the other driver.
- a person lusts for someone other than their husband or wife and call their actions justified because they have “fallen out of love”.
- we want what we want when we want it so we live under a mountain of financial debt.
- students get mad because they are excluded from a group so they kill their classmates.
- a pregnancy is inconvenient, so we terminate it
- someone makes an honest mistake and we take legal action to close their business.
We are constantly bombarded with people who are governed by their passions and feelings in show after show on television. Commercials encourage us to buy what we cannot afford, rebel against anyone who stands in our way, and to party, party, party. The news reports one sordid piece of immorality, justification and cover-up after another in our public officials. States increasingly rely on gambling for their state revenue. We are working hard to make it socially acceptable to take your own life. Now, here’s the baffling question: “Why are we surprised at the disregard for human life and the lack of control in the people around us?”
Evil has become attractive to much of our society. When God is absent it is not surprising that the world goes the way of the Devil. But don’t miss something here! These are not just pagans that are being sucked into the Devil’s playground, these are also God’s children! When God is placed in a secondary position in our lives we find that the appetites of the world begin to govern us. We may not even see it happening. But before long,
- we no longer see anything wrong with “sex outside of marriage” or people living together, or people cheating on their spouses. “Oh, it’s probably not the best way but . . . that’s the way it is.”
- we find ourselves agreeing that what the Bible calls sin may be better viewed as simply an alternate lifestyle.
- we no longer notice the way the constant exposure to sin and impurity in the media is numbing our hearts and minds. We find ourselves “enjoying” shows that promote godlessness. We don’t even notice when God is treated with disrespect.
- we find it easy to separate “our spiritual life” from our daily living.
- we begin adopting the idea that right and wrong are issues of personal preference rather than Divine decree.
- we begin viewing our involvement in the ministry of the church as an elective activity like every other extra curricular request for our time.
- we squander time with meaningless amusements.
When we are led by our passions we find that we often disengage our mind. We evaluate little, we are led easily astray. We are what the world would call “suckers”. We become gullible and make the Devils job very easy for him.
WHEN GOD IS ABSENT THE HOME LOSES ITS INFLUENCE
Notice the way Jacob sidesteps his influence.
- He does not put up any boundaries for his daughter
- He says nothing when she is violated
- He lets his sons handle King Hamor when seeks to make things right
- He does nothing to reign in the violence in the heart of his sons.
- When the events are all over Jacob wrings his hands and bemoans what his sons have done to HIM. We can see from our perspective that the sons did nothing . . . Jacob did it to himself by abdicating his role as parent.
One of the first indicators of a culture in trouble is a loss of parental involvement and leadership in the home. When there is no guidance from the home it should not surprise us when our children live aimlessly. When there is no discipline in the home it should not surprise us to see children who have trouble focusing in life. When respect is not taught at home, we should not be surprised when respect is not shown at school, toward civil authority, or towards God.
We know from later texts that Jacob showed favoritism in his home. He valued the children of Rachel more than the children of Leah and the handmaids. The result was certainly a sense of anger and alienation. It is easy to play favorites but it is also destructive and foolish.
I know it is not popular to set up standards of behavior for our children. I know it is difficult to discipline your children because there will always be someone who is willing to scream “abuse”. But if we do not lead our children in the ways of God . . . the world will lead our children in the ways of the Devil. If we do not point our children in the ways of faith and holiness that leads to Heaven, the Devil will get our children so preoccupied with the world that they will sin and dance as they head to destruction.
1. Good Intentions do not Justify Sin. Shechem may have meant well . . . but he did what was wrong. Murders may have been acting as a result of their social upbringing, but that does not excuse what they did. God does not stutter. Wrong is wrong.
Today Christians are attacked as narrow minded, judgmental, arrogant, because we claim that there is a standard of truth that does not change and is not subject to the whims of public opinion. We live in a day that seeks to sidestep God’s directions and standards on every turn. If we hold to His standards we will risk being vilified in public. If we disregard His standards, we risk the fires of hell. Which choice will you make?
2. Closing Our Eyes to the Problems Before Us Will Not Make the Problems Go Away. Jacob tried that. Jacob seemed to feel that if he said and did nothing when he heard about Dinah, the problem would no longer exist. The result was disastrous.
This is the common approach today. Christians are notorious for sticking their heads in the sand. The key to overcoming cancer (or any disease) is early detection. If we ignore the warning signs the problem grows and eventually can rob us of our lives. The same is true here . . . we must address the problems early and fully or our society will disintegrate into an even more barbaric society.
- We can write letters to networks, and officials registering our protest for sinful pandering to evil
- We can interact with the things around us and refuse to sit silently while our Savior is dragged through the mud.
- We can register our complaints in the voting booth
- We can train our own children with the values of God
- We can turn off the Television
- We can devote ourselves to the things of God.
3. The Wisest Course of Action is to Not Live Without God One of the things that bothered me as I read this passage this week is that is didn’t shock me as it once did. It’s a horrible story but it is easier to shrug off than it used to be. Why? Because it sounds too much like the evening news!
This should sound an alarm inside of us. We must constantly be watching to make sure that our devotion is true and our commitment is full.
- We must make time for prayer, Bible Study and worship
- We must make Christ, not the television, the center of our home
- We must be disciplined in every area of our living because we realize that every area of weakness is an open door to the Devil.
We need to decide whether we are going to be with Him or against Him. We have to get off the fence and decide who will receive our allegiance. Half-hearted commitment is more dangerous to us than no commitment at all. People who have half-hearted commitment think they are doing fine while all the time they are sliding toward Hell.
This is a daily battle. It’s not a matter of leaving here today determined that you will “live for Jesus”. It is a decision that must be made every morning . . . and in every decision you make. The sooner we realize we are in a battle, the better.
4. Finally, we need to remember that God is the one who saves us. It is astounding isn’t it that God takes this family of Jacob and turns them in to the heads of the twelve tribes who ultimately became the nation of Israel? The God who took this group of rebellious misfits and turned them into His agents can do the same for you.
God can (and will, if you ask Him), turn your life around. He can guide you, protect you, and lead you to eternal life. This love is not based on what we have done for Him (thank heavens!), it is based in His character and His grace. You and I can know a personal revival in our hears and lives if we will seek and follow Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It doesn’t matter where we have been in the past . . . what matters is where you stand now.
And God can change our country. In fact, it is only God that can change our country. And unless I miss my guess, God will bring about that change one heart at a time. And if this is true, then the real issue today is not what God is going to do about the violence around us. It is not about what God is going to do about the rampant immorality. The question is personal. The real issue then is this: What will you allow God to do in you?