My Day of Distress (Genesis 34-35)

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It is good to have confidence in where you are going when you die, but it is also important to have confidence in where you are going when you are alive and in desperate need of help. One of my favorite hymns is “Trusting Jesus” by Edgar Stites. It is a hymn of faith as the author proclaims His unshakeable trust in Jesus in the midst of life’s storms. The refrain is: “Trusting as the moments fly, Trusting as the days go by; Trusting Him whate’er befall, Trusting Jesus, that is all.” It takes faith to trust in Jesus “whate’er befall”. This is the lesson that Jacob has been learning. He said of the Lord that He has “answered me in my day of distress. He has been with me everywhere I have gone” (Gen 35:3). Our prayer is that in our day of distress we will confidently entrust everything to Jesus; trusting that He will preserve us one day at a time.

A Day of Grief and Anger (Genesis 34)

Where do you go for help on a day of pain and suffering? Chapter 34 speaks of a day of distress in Jacob’s family. We learn in this chapter that Dinah (Jacob and Leah’s daughter) has been raped by a man named Shechem. Also, Shechem has decided that he wants to marry her and is keeping her forcibly in his house. Jacob learned what had happened and he remained silent until his sons returned from working in the fields. Dinah’s brothers were understandably “deeply grieved and very angry” (34:7). When Shechem’s father Hamor asked for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife, Jacob’s sons devised a plan for revenge. They would not allow Dinah to marry Shechem until the men of Shechem were circumcised. This was a deceitful plan because after the men were circumcised, two of the brothers—Simeon and Levi—avenged their sister by murdering the men who were still in pain.

A Day of Grief and Death (Genesis 35:8, 16-20, 27-29)

Where do you go for help on a day of grief and death? As Jacob and his family traveled, “Deborah, the one who had nursed and raised Rebekah, died and was buried.” We know that Deborah was greatly loved because Jacob named the place of her burial Allon-Bacuth—which means “Oak of Weeping”. Sometime after this, Rachel “began to give birth, and her labor was difficult.” The birth was so difficult that Rachel began to die. When she was told that she was having a son, “with her last breath she named him Ben-oni”—which means “Son of My Sorrow. Sometime later, Jacob made his way back to see his father Isaac just as he was dying. “Isaac lived 180 years. He took his last breath and died.”

A Day of Grief and Betrayal (35:21-26)

Where do you go for help on a day of grief and betrayal?? Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son from Leah. Reuben “went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard about it.” Bilhah was the maid of Rachel who was given to Jacob as a wife/concubine. Bilhah was the mother of Jacob’s sons Dan and Naphtali. This was a sinful act against God because it was sexual immorality. It was also an act of betrayal and disrespect against Jacob because Reuben seeking to usurp the headship of the house from Jacob. Reuben’s plan failed because 1 Chronicles 5:1 tells us even though Reuben was the firstborn “his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, because Reuben defiled his father’s bed.” Jacob mentioned this betrayal in his last words to the sons. Concerning Reuben, he says, “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the firstfruits of my virility, excelling in prominence, excelling in power. Turbulent as water, you will not excel, because you got into your father’s bed and you defiled it—he got into my bed” (Gen 49:3-4). The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.

Our Daily Bread (Genesis 35:1-7,9-15)

Jacob is preserved on every day of distress because God is faithful every day. The Lord told Jacob to return to Bethel. This is significant because of Jacob’s vow when he was at Bethel previously. Jacob’s vow was: “If God will be with me and watch over me during this journey I’m making, if he provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s family, then the Lord will be my God” (Gen 28:20-21). Now Jacob says to his family: “Get rid of the foreign gods that are among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. We must get up and go to Bethel. I will build an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of distress. He has been with me everywhere I have gone” (Gen 35:2-3). We can endure every day of distress because of God’s faithfulness (revealed every day). Whom shall I fear? Trusting Him whate’er befall! Trusting Jesus, that is all!