The Heart is a Dangerous Place – Bible Study – Genesis 34-35

Written by Dave Urbanski

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It’s safe to say that after Sunday’s study on Genesis 34 — a difficult and sobering passage of Scripture — we’re all taking stock of our hearts.

There was a rape. There was an attempt to selfishly brush it aside and mask it with tenderness. There was a deal between factions that was full of deceit and treachery. There was vengeful murder on a large scale. And there was a reckoning of the heart amid the untold carnage and damage.

Pastor Scott introduced us to a number of human hearts on display in Genesis 34. The first is Shechem, a pagan and the son of Hamor. Shechem raped Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. If that wasn’t awful enough, Shechem thought he could make it all better though tender feelings for Dinah — and a desire to marry her (as if that could fix anything). So he asked his father to make it happen, and Hamor thought he could make a deal with Jacob to give Dinah to Shechem in marriage — in fact they would enact a kind of “trade”; Hamor’s daughters to Jacob’s sons, and vice versa. One big happy family, right?

But it was not to be.

Instead Jacob’s sons dealt with Hamor and Shechem deceitfully, making circumcision for all the males in Hamor’s city a condition of the deal — and then afterward when all the men in the city were “sore,” Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi drew their swords and killed all the men in the city, including Hamor and Shechem, and took back Dinah. What’s more they stole everything in the city, taking “their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.” 

Simeon and Levi — the second and third hearts on display in Genesis 34 — didn’t enact justice. No, they carried out deceit, murder, revenge, and theft. A completely over-the-top punishment that didn’t fit the crime.

Jacob — the fourth heart on display — was not pleased by his sons’ actions, telling them that they’ve brought “trouble” to him. But all Simeon and Levi could say in response was, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” Yet amid his trouble, Jacob in chapter 35 demonstrates that his heart is open to God’s leading — and he listens to the Lord, who tells him:

“Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.

Four hearts on display — and four outcomes based on where those hearts were directed.

Shechem’s misdeed demonstrates the dangers of the power of male sexuality when it is not in line with God’s “one flesh” design in marriage according to his guidance. Shechem was selfish. Levi and Simeon took justice into their own hands and ended up killing every male in a city and plundering it. Their hearts were set on vengeance and acted out in anger. The hearts of Shechem, Levi, and Simeon show what can happen to any of us if we don’t allow God’s Holy Spirit to continually fill us and show us the way. When we let worldliness to creep in, we can be consumed with sinful tendencies that we’re soon acting out — and then we’re in a dangerous place.

But Jacob’s heart is open to the Lord’s leading. He listens to God, travels to where he’s instructed, and — once again — builds an altar to the Lord. A physical reminder to serve God always in the deepest part of his heart.

We must do the same.

As the Lord instructed Jacob, for the sake of our spiritual health, we must do away with everything that gets in the way of communion with God and continually renew our hearts so they stay open to him.

What words are God speaking to you right now? No matter what you’ve done or thought, the Lord is waiting for you to come to him in repentance so he can fill you up again with his love and grace. 

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