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erasing a mistake

January 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 33:16–35:29; 1Chronicles 2:1-2

A Costly Mistake

Some mistakes can be easily erased—others cannot. Perhaps you are working on your taxes. You know one error could be very costly so you consult a tax specialist. A moral fault, however, can cost you your family—it might be forgiven but can't be erased.

Whether financial or moral, mistakes can affect us and our families. Sometimes this can be devastating. What can we do about it? In today’s Bible reading, Jacob makes a devastating error. This happens because he looks after his own interests instead of those of God and his family.

Jacob does not return to his native land as God told him to; nor does he go to Seir as he told his brother (Genesis 33:16-20; Genesis 35:1). He ceases his journey and settles in Succoth, near the city of Shechem, in the opposite direction of Seir. Perhaps he fears living too close to his brother. Besides, Succoth is a good place for his livestock; he is lured by the good grazing land. Jacob is looking out for his business interests, not the interests of God or his family.

Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, goes to visit the Canaanite ladies of the land in Shechem. She becomes acquainted with Shechem, the son Hamor, ruler of this area. He is obsessed with her and rapes her. If Jacob had been in the place where God wanted him, this probably wouldn't have happened. Fathers must lead their families in righteousness, and this means protecting them as well as providing for them. If we are married, are we looking out for the interests and protection of our family or are we seeking our own interests?

When Dinah's brothers discover their sister has been violated, they are angry and seek revenge. Jacob's sons have learned how to deceive from the example of their father. They tell the Shechemites that the only way they can give Dinah to Shechem as a wife and join with them as a people is if they become like the sons of Jacob and circumcise all their males. Gladly, they give in to the cultural ritual to share all the riches Jacob has acquired. After three days, while they are sore, two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, kill all the males, capture all their females and children, and loot the city. Although God allows Jacob’s sons to act with revenge for this evil crime against Dinah (more...), the situation was handled deceitfully and viciously, and could have caused Jacob a lot of trouble with his other neighbors.

The LORD gives the solution to Jacob: “ Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau (Genesis 35:1). Today, God promises forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life to all who call upon him for their salvation (more...).

Jacob smartens up—he knows he has made a costly mistake and this time it has hurt his family and reputation. Full devotion and obedience to God are necessary for his blessings, not half-hearted commitments. Jacob's full commitment to the LORD is shown when he tells his family to get rid of their idols (which they had probably gotten from the people of Shechem), purify themselves and change their clothes (Genesis 35:2-4).

What about us? Have we realized that full dedication to the LORD means getting rid of idols (anything that is more important to us than God), purifying ourselves by turning to him from our sin, and changing our clothes (meaning our ways and habits)? How can God give us his blessing if there is no genuine change of heart and loyalty? Full commitment to the LORD leads to his blessings.

God rewards Jacob's new loyalty by protecting his family from their neighbors. He causes the fear of the LORD to fall upon them—no one pursues them (Genesis 35:5). At Bethel he renews his covenant of blessing with Jacob and officially changes his name to Israel. Jacob means deceiver. Israel means God fights—he rules. The Almighty will fight his battles; he does not need to deceive to win. In God's grace, Jacob is also allowed to arrive home before his father dies, and in a spirit of unity he and his brother Esau bury their father. Isn't the LORD good? Let's praise him for his wonderful grace! Let's beware of our weaknesses and turn from our sins. Let's trust our Almighty God and live a life of full obedience and devotion.

Lessons to Live By

  • Beware! Mistakes can be costly. Do as God says.
  • Fathers must lead their families in righteousness, and this means protecting them as well as providing for them.
  • The LORD promises forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life to all who will call upon him for their salvation (more...)
  • Let us repent of our old ways and live a life of total obedience and devotion to God. This is the way to his blessings.

Focus Verses

Romans 13:13-14 (NIV)

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson we begin the life of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob. Favoritism causes Jealousy. How do we Overcome Animosity in our family, business, or ministry?

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