What can we learn from the small decisions and compromises that people in the Bible made and what happened as a result?
Genesis 33 & 34
The Danger of “Small” Things
Have you ever thought about how “small things” can set the course of our lives, sometimes in ways we never intended.
James, in talking about the tongue, said, it is a small member—a little part of our body, but he went on to say that it’s like the rudder on a ship. It sets the course of our lives (Jas. 3.4-5).
What about other “small things”? What about small decisions, small compromises, small indulgences, small thoughts, “small” sins? How do they affect our lives and the lives of those we love?
In chapter 33 Jacob, now called Israel, continued on toward home after the reunion with his brother Esau after twenty plus years. But on his way, Jacob set up temporary homes first in Succoth and then in Shechem.
Genesis 34 contains a very sad story. Jacob’s daughter Dinah had decided to go into town “to see the daughters of the land.” She ended up being raped, which in turn, lead to the brutal slaughter of all the men in the city of Shechem. Even though Shechem, the young man who raped her, professed his love for and desire to marry her afterwards, it didn’t change what was done.
Dinah, possibly 15 or 16 at the time, appears to be Jacob’s only daughter. Was she the apple of everyone’s eye, especially her mother’s? While it is possible she left the camp without her father knowing, it is unlikely she did so without her mother’s knowledge.
The text says she wanted to see the daughters of the land. Maybe to see what was in fashion, how they dressed, how they wore their hair. Maybe she didn’t just go “to see,” but to be seen. How did she end up unsupervised in a pagan city? Was she spoiled?Did her parents have trouble saying “no”?
Shechem was apparently, the son of the city’s founder. Verse 19 says, “He was more honorable than all the household of his father.” The word “honorable” is translated “respected” in the NASB. It comes from a root word meaning “to be heavy, weighty or burdensome.”
It doesn’t mean he was honorable or respected in the best sense of the word, but that he was influential. Daddy’s boy carried a lot of clout! That would explain how he could talk the other young men into being circumcised (34.13-17), the condition Dinah’s brothers gave before they would allow Dinah to marry Shechem.
Was he, perhaps, an ancient version of the “affluenza” teen we read so much about a year or so ago? Look at what he said to his father after the rape, “Get me this young woman as a wife.” He sounds like a son who was accustomed to getting what he wanted. What may have seemed like “small” indulgences to his father had huge consequences.
Often, “small choices,” if not filtered through God’s principles, can lead to an attitude of entitlement. Many of our children today think they are entitled to the latest video games, the latest cell phones, etc.
What kind of adults, what kind of husbands and wives are we setting them up to be? If a son or daughter is given everything he or she wants and is allowed to think “it’s all about me,” how can we expect them to suddenly be husbands and wives who live out Philippians 2.3-4 by prefering others as more important than themselves? Instead they have been conditioned to be selfish and demanding.
And what about Jacob’s sons? What small thoughts became murderous ones lived out in an act of revenge? Sometimes we think it’s ok to “just think about” something as long as we don’t “do” it. But Jesus said that whoever has sinful anger in his heart is already guilty (Matt. 5.21-22). We can certainly understand the anger over the rape of their sister, but that doesn’t justify revenge (Rom. 12.19).
What about small compromises, how do they lead to big changes? Look at the progression of our TV viewing for an example. When the I Love Lucy Show first appeared, Lucy wore pajamas and she and Desi slept in twin beds. Prudish by today’s standards … maybe … but look at prime time TV today! We didn’t get there over night. It was a series of small changes and compromises!
The theory of evolution has gradually become accepted as fact because of a steady stream of “small” untruths. Try to find a children’s book about dinosaurs, for instance, without the words “millions and millions of years ago.” Small seeds planted from the time children are old enough to listen to a story or pick up a picture book.
Take the area of homosexuality. We’ve gone from it being illegal, to not mentioned, to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to tolerated, to accepted, to a “right,” to making it illegal in some situations to even speak against it, and it isn’t over yet!
And how did we get from marriage being a sacred institution to anything goes? How did we come to justify living together if it is more beneficial financially? Or less of a commitment? Or more convenient? One small step at a time!
What “small” compromises, “small” indulgences, and “small” decisions are setting the course of your life and your children’s?
Let’s pray that all of us would look first at our own lives. Where are we making “small” compromises which are not pleasing to God? What are we allowing our children to do so they can get ahead in school, or have friends, or be popular, or because we don’t want them to be deprived or not be “our friends”? Let’s be faithful to God and, “… make it our aim (our goal) … to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5.9).
Today’s Other Readings:
Being in a Small Minority
Sometimes when we take a stand for what is right, we find ourselves in a small minority, but we need to remember what this psalm tells us—that God maintains our right and our cause (v. 4). Paul echoed that thought when he wrote:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8.31).
Wisdom & Discretion
This passage says that wisdom and discretion will cause us to walk in our way securely and protect us from the onslaught of the wicked. How might wisdom and discretion have prevented the sad sequence of events in Genesis 34?
“Caught” Doing Good
In this passage the religious leaders wanted to “catch” Jesus doing something that was illegal, like healing someone on the Sabbath. I know some of you are in jobs where you live with the concern that someone will “catch” you speaking the truth or sharing the gospel. While we need to obey those who are in authority over us, that authority stops if we’re being asked to sin. I pray that God will give you wisdom to know where that line is.
Lord, help us to live lives which are pleasing to You. Help us see where we are making seemingly “small” compromises which can have “big” consequences. Help us make a difference in the world we live in, on our jobs, in our homes, and in our personal lives, in Jesus name, amen.
What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in 2017? I would love to have you join me on this journey through the Bible. Just sign up for the BIBLE IN A YEAR daily posts so you don’t miss a single one!
Sign up now and receive a copy of “Prayer for Busy, Imperfect Pray-ers: 5 Strategies to Jumpstart Your Prayer Life.”
You can also SIGN UP FOR SPECIAL “CHRISTIAN LIVING” posts, including the new series “A Marriage Make in Heaven?”
I sometimes LINKUP with these blogs:
Mondays Making Your Home Sing Musing Mondays Darling Downs Diaries The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking
Tuesdays Testimony Tuesdays Purposeful Faith Tuesday Talk
Wednesdays Messy Marriage Christian Blogger Linkup A Wise Woman Builds Her Home Seeking God in All I Do Coffee for Your Heart Women of Intention
Thursdays Frog’s Lily Pad Booknificent Thursdays 3-D Lessons for Life
Fridays Missional Women Grace & Truth Faith & Friends
Sundays Spiritual Sundays
This post may contain affiliate links, but I only recommend books and resources that I believe are theologically sound and beneficial to the reader. Thank you for supporting this blog and ministry by supporting my links!
“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.