Often when I’m reading this portion of Scripture, I notice that at the end of chapter 33, Jacob does something different than what he’d said he would do. He told his brother he was coming home. Instead, he got as far as Succoth, about a day’s journey short of going home, and settled there. Not quite the Promised Land. But close. I find myself wondering about this change of plans.
But then chapter 34 starts and I get caught up in Dinah’s tragic story. Jacob forgotten.
It occurred to me that just because a chapter ends and another begins doesn’t mean they’re not connected. So I pulled out some commentaries to see what others think about it. Here is a synopsis of my study:
To begin with, the Lord, in 31:3 told Jacob to go “back to the land of your father and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” Jacob kind of did that. He got just inside Canaan, like a kid who puts his toe on the line he’s told not to cross. Then, and this is what hit me, he had the audacity to buy land, makes shelters, and build an altar to God, naming it “The God of Israel.” Did he think if he named the altar after God, God would be appeased and overlook the disobedience Jacob was committing?
I’m wondering if a person can sort of obey God. Can someone ask Jesus into their heart, yet hold on to a sin or two? Can a Christian go to church, give generously, yet harbor hatred toward a brother, and still be considered obedient? Is God ok with our outward display of partial obedience?
Let’s look at the result of Jacob’s actions. His daughter was violated, his sons committed mass murder and theft. And in the end, God told him to keep moving and do what He’d told him to do in the first place. All of that heartache could have been avoided if Jacob had obeyed from the start.
As I read this portion of Scripture I am challenged to check my level of obedience. I believe God is telling me that having a measure of obedience is disobedience. And there are serious consequences for holding back on God.
And I am reminded that God doesn’t demand total obedience because He is a buzz-kill, or some control freak. God knows that there are blessings that come with total obedience, and He is anxious to pour those blessings over His children. God knows that when we obey Him we are spared from the heartaches that come from disobedience. And He wants us to live lives free from those heartaches.
Just obey Me, He tells us. Then see what life can really be.