Saturday, 15 January 2011

Need An Eye Test?

Genesis 34-35 Leah had become Jacob's wife by her father's deceit. She was the first to bear Jacob children too, but Rachel was the true bride and "vice president" of the covenant with Jacob. Joseph was her firstborn, the heir of promise (remember the recurring theme of a barren womb). What follows is the story of how all Leah's sons, the older brothers, disqualify themselves from the rights of being the "firstborn"- the heir of promise.

Shechem, a local boy,  rapes Dinah. A bad, bad thing to do, but not unredeemable. Simeon and Levi (the observant ones amongst you will have noticed that so far in Genesis, brothers have played a significant role in the giving of their sisters to their husbands) negotiate with the locals. If they are going to fraternise with these Shechemites, Simeon and Levi want nothing less than full conversion as symbolised by the demand for circumcision. The locals agree, a small price to pay to come under the blessing of such a mighty and influential household!

Whilst they are still recovering from the trauma of circumcision, Simeon and Levi, (probably with the help of the hired hands that they themselves employed) went into the city and slew all the men. Then their brothers, not ones for missing out on a good deal, pile in after them for a bit of looting !! (We're not told which brothers went, but my guess would be that Joseph wasn't among them.) Jacob is understandably livid and frightened at what the consequences might be!

Simeon and Levi here disqualify themselves from being the heirs of promise. They display highly unrighteous judgement. They should have either:
  1. Welcomed the Shechemites as co-heirs of the promise, since they had  become Christians (been circumcised ) - counting them as brothers of the same hope or
  2. Refused to be joined with them and raised the city to the ground, burning it completely - not taking any booty for themselves, like at Jericho.
Instead they deal treacherously, using their religious rites of passage as a means of weakening Hamor and co. before enacting a bloody revenge and all for the sake of personal gain and glory. Like great uncle Laban, they then have the gaul to pretend righteous indignation on the part of their sister, protesting they had done nothing wrong.

Not long after, Reuben would disqualify himself by sleeping with one of his father's concubines. The sex was less the issue (although it was an issue), it was more the fact that he had shown total disregard for his father's authority.

Jacob presumably was left wondering if God would look favourably on his household after the great wickedness of his sons in using God's covenant sign as a means of self-enrichment, so has a huge accountability group meeting. Note that you don't need to be big and strong to intimidate people - holiness that comes from the accompanying presence of God is just as intimidating - if not more so.

He returns to Bethel and there God graciously reconfirms the promise, Simeon and Levi haven't disqualified the whole household by their gross misuse of  the covenant sign, of which God had graciously made them the custodians. He then finally returns to his father, Isaac, but would bury the delight of his eyes on the way.

Psalm 15 Praise God for Jesus. The only righteous one, who judges rightly and through whom we can dwell on the "holy mountain" (symbolic of Eden / Jerusalem) - the place where God dwells with his people. He is the only one who can truly fulfil the law on our behalf.

Matt 6:16-24 Eyes are the organs through which we perceive and make judgements about the physical world. If you have good eyesight you can navigate and interact with the physical world well. (Moreover, much of who we have become has been shaped by what we see around us. If you don't believe me, ask a blind person what they think of all those fashion trends you & I feel obliged to follow. :-)

Spiritual eyes work on the same principle, if they are good ie they can see Jesus clearly, then we exercise good spiritual judgement, and our spiritual bodies will be wholesome and reflect his "Kingdom fashion trends" by not putting any real value on accumulating glory in this world.

Acts 9:1-19 A great example of (Matt 6) a man with dark eyes and a dark heart was Saul, but Jesus graciously intervenes in his life. Had Ananias been a man like Simeon or Levi, abusing God's seal of promise, he probably would have drowned Saul in the baptismal pool in revenge for all his crimes against God's people then nicked his wallet, but he isn't and I don't know about you, but it's a tear-jerker of a moment for me when Ananias says the words "Brother Saul..." What incredible power of reconciliation there is in the Gospel. Mortal enemies become friends!!

The problem is not that we live in darkness - that is away from God's revelation, God's truth is shining forth from every part of creation. The problem is we have made ourselves blind.

Meeting the living God in Jesus is, in every sense, an eye-opening experience.

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