Earlier on this week, I said to a friend I felt like I was living life on “the easy setting” I’m settle living in my parent’s flat, I walk 5 minutes to get to university. I’m blessed with talents in maths, logic, speaking and leadership, all things that will make my life so much easier. What’s more I have God watching my back, and an army of fellow Christians to turn to for advice and encouragement when things aren’t so straight forwards.
Life is not easy. It’s not fair, it’s not just or simple. Life,is, quite frankly, a bitch. Bad things happen to good people, and then good people suffer. It just doesn’t seem right. It’s not fair.
Sometimes I wish bad things happened to me instead of my friends, instead of strangers. I recognise that I have a good, comfortable life, and strangely, I wish I didn’t. I wish that I was the one to suffer instead of my friends. It doesn’t seem fair that people have burden after burden stacked upon them, until breaking point. It makes me angry sometimes, to see that other people are beaten down and broken.
In the passage here, two brothers see their sister beaten down, broken. They don’t stand for it. They act. They take a stand.
The first four verses speak of a prince, of sorts, who sees young Dinah, and wants her. He takes what he wants. It’s horrible. Afterwards, he falls in love with her. How twisted is that? He rapes her, then falls in love, and asks his father to arrange a marriage.
Jacob finds out, and boy, is he mad. His sons are out in the field, so he does nothing, he just plans. He doesn’t want to act when his closest allies, his sons, strong fighters, aren’t with him.
The sons, Dinah’s brothers and half brothers find out what has happened, so they return home, to consult with their father. To decide on a plan of action. It was wrong. It was brutal, and now the brothers are angry. Very, very angry.
The brother’s know they can’t attack them men responsible directly, they aren’t strong enough, it would start a blood feud. An eye for an eye. So they lie, they say “You can only marry our sister, if you are all circumcised like us.”
Shechem, is head over heals with his victim Dinah, so he goes to be circumcised straight away. A process that is extremely painful. He and his father convince all the men in the city to do so, so that the family of Jacob, and his workers could marry into the village. Meaning Jacob and his wealth would be linked with the city, making it more powerful, richer and generally better off.
While all the men are still suffering from having the operation, two of Dinah’s brothers attack the city. Two men against a city you say? Well, two men against a city that is crippled. They take the city to pieces. Killing all the men.
While the cities of the time where no Edinburgh, with it’s nearly 500,000 occupants, it would have been much, much smaller, we’re talking closer to 100 than 1000. That’s still a lot of men to kill.
They take their sister, and leave the city. At this point, the rest of the brothers come across the slaughter and start looting. They take everything of value. Everything.
Jacob was not pleased. You can imagine that might could be a result of the killing spree, and it was. Indirectly, he was more worried about the consequences of the sons actions. Now, Jacob could be facing a war with the people of the land. Which would not be good.
The two brother’s responsible for the murders didn’t repent. They simply said “We will not allow our sister to be treated like a prostitute.”
Jacob’s sons fight dirty here. Very dirty, they cheat, they lie and the kill. None of these things are socially acceptable, to say the least. So what’s to learn? We have a rapist, a few murders, looters and liars as the main characters here. It comes back to how we respond to things. What do our characters do right?
Well, the family comes together (for a while) and support each other. That’s a good thing, when life throws you a curve ball it’s important to stick together, lean on your family and friends, support each other. That’s how we cope.
When faced with an injustice, don’t fight by yourself. Go to your brother, your sister, and fight with them. Two voices together are louder than two apart.
Perhaps one of the key lessons here is this; if you’re going to temporarily cripple every man in your city, don’t do it all at once.
Which, translates rather neatly into don’t rely on just your fellows. Humans are human. We screw up, we make mistakes. So, when it comes to looking for support, lean on somebody who never lets go of you. When it comes to facing down those stronger than you, ally yourself with the biggest power around. When it comes to thinking things through, and not destroying your defensive force, bounce your ideas off the greatest military campaigner in the world, discuss your theories with the best known philosopher in the whole of history. Trust in the one who will never let you down.
Jesus promised to be all of these things. Jesus never lets go. He is never overcome. He doesn’t make mistakes.
So when it comes to responding in troubled times, don’t be rash. Don’t make a mistake you will regret.
Remember, life is not a mystery. It’s not a game. It’s not something to be wasted or thrown away. Life is to be lived.
Life is living in Christ.