Sunday, 29th November 10.30 am Order of Service

WELCOME

HYMN Praise to the holiest in the height

1 Praise to the Holiest in the height,

and in the depth be praise:

in all his words most wonderful,

most sure in all his ways.

2 O loving wisdom of our God!

when all was sin and shame,

a second Adam to the fight

and to the rescue came.

3 O wisest love! that flesh and blood,

which did in Adam fail,

should strive afresh against the foe,

should strive and should prevail;

4 And that a higher gift than grace

should flesh and blood refine,

God’s presence and his very self,

and essence all-divine.

5 O generous love! that he, who smote

in Man for man the foe,

the double agony in Man

for man should undergo;

6 And in the garden secretly,

and on the Cross on high,

should teach his brethren, and inspire

to suffer and to die.

7 Praise to the Holiest in the height,

and in the depth be praise:

in all his words most wonderful,

most sure in all his ways.

PRAYER

READING – Genesis 33:1-12, 18-20 and – 34:1-14 and 25-31

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.

Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

8 Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”

“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.

9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”

18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

Dinah and the Shechemites

34 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. 3 His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”

5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home.

6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

8 But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. 9 Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”

11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”

13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males.

25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

SERMON – God’s Plans

Jacob’s Meeting With EsauWhen Jacob saw Esau and the four hundred men approaching, he divided his entourage again. He showed his love of Rachel and Joseph by putting them last – out of harm’s way. Esau’s greeting was totally unexpected. Jacob had expected revenge from Esau, or at least heavy bargaining and appeasement. But, seemingly in response to Jacob’s prayer, Esau had had a change of heart.

The change in Esau is depicted graphically in his eager excitement to see his brother. All of Jacob’s plans and preparations are as nothing in the light of Esau’s joy. Ironically, the four hundred men accompanying Esau turned out not to be for battle with Jacob’s household and for taking his spoils, but for safeguarding the final stage of Jacob’s journey. Once again Jacob is portrayed as one who has gone to great lengths to secure his own well-being but whose efforts have proved pointless. Jacob continued to scheme and plan; yet God’s own plans ultimately made Jacob’s worthless.

Jacob at ShechemAs Jacob left Canaan in ch. 28, he vowed that if God would be with him and watch over him so that he returned to the land “in peace” he would give to God a tenth of all he had (28:20-22). Now Jacob has returned “safely” to the land of Canaan. God had been faithful.

Jacob returned to Bethel in ch. 35 and built an altar there (v. 7). No mention of a “tenth” to the Lord. But perhaps the erection of an altar here and in ch. 35, along with the offerings, represented his “tenth.” It may be also that the “hundred pieces of silver” represent a part of that “tenth.” The portion of land purchased by Jacob plays an important role in the later biblical narratives. This was the land where the Israelites buried the bones of Joseph (Jos 24:32) and thus represented their hope in God’s ultimate fulfillment of his promise of the land.

34:1 The Dinah story is to reiterate the portrait of Jacob as a man who planned and schemed for what appears to be his own ends, but who in the end actually accomplished God’s purposes.

In this story, God’s purpose in setting apart the descendants of Abraham comes into jeopardy with the proposal of marriage between Dinah and Shechem. Twice we are informed that the purpose of the marriage was that the family of Jacob should become “one people” (vv. 16, 22) with the inhabitants of Canaan. This runs against Abraham’s warning (24:3), Rebekah’s fear (27:46), and Isaac’s command (28:1).

This story brings out the theme that God works through and often in spite of the limited, self-serving plans of human beings.

2-4 Though the Hivite boy genuinely loved Dinah, the point is that he lay with her, apparently against her will, and thus humiliated her. Simeon and Levi’s final words express clearly how they viewed the situation: “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (v. 31).

5-24 When Jacob heard what had happened to Dinah, he waited for the return of his sons. Jacob’s scheming seems to have been in his genes – now his boys become schemers. Jacob’s last words to Simeon and Levi concerning the events of this chapter were very harsh: “Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger. . . . Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!” (49:6-7).

In ch. 17 the rite of circumcision was to be a sign (v. 11) of the unity of the covenant people and their separation from the rest of the nations. Circumcision was not limited to Abraham’s descendants but was rather given as a sign of one’s joining in the hope of God’s promises to Abraham. It was, in fact, a sign given of the covenant promise that Abraham would become the father of “many nations” (17:5). But in the way the sons of Jacob carried out the request that these Canaanites be circumcised, it shows a curious reversal of God’s intention. They offered circumcision as a means for the two families to become “one people.” The Canaanites were not joining the offspring of Abraham; rather, the descendants of Abraham were joining with the Canaanites. This point is stressed in Hamor and Shechem’s report to their countrymen: “Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours?”

25-31 Jacob’s rebuke of his sons in v. 30 express his final judgment on their actions. That their reply stands as the last words of the narrative shows that their motive had not been mere plunder but the honour of their sister.

SO…What are we to make of this sorry chapter?

There are various lessons we can learn from God in His Word here.

Perhaps the most obvious lesson is with regard to scheming. How often we imagine that our sceming and plans are better than God’s. How often we imagine that God needs our help (even if it means deception and cunning) if His will is going to come to pass. But NO. God NEVER needs our clever human scheming to bring about His purposes.

On the contrary, we are throughout this story being encouraged to TRUST in our God absolutely. He is SOVEREIGN – He is King – He is in control of everything; and we must trust Him in everything. We might be tempted to look after our most precious things (like Jacob puting his favourite wife and son at the back of his entourage – to keep them safest); we might be tempted to take revenge on the enemies of God.

But the stand-out thing here is not fear of a brother or the rape of a sister, it is in 33:19-20 where Jacob demonstrates his hope in God. He purchases a piece of land, trusting God’s promises for the future of his descendants. God was working out His great promises – and Jacob trusted God, not just for his own lifetime – but for the future generations of his family. God had promised – and God would fulfil His promises. It was always thus – and still is the case that our promise-making God keeps his promises.

PRAYER

Hymn God is working His purpose out

1 God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year,

God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near;

nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be,

when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

2 From utmost east to utmost west wheree’er man’s foot hath trod,

by the mouth of many messengers goes forth the voice of God,

‘Give ear to me, ye continents, ye isles, give ear to me,

that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.’

3 What can we do to work God’s work, to prosper and increase

the brotherhood of all mankind, the reign of the Prince of Peace?

What can we do to hasten the time, the time that shall surely be,

when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea?

4 March we forth in the strength of God with the banner of Christ unfurled,

That the light of the glorious gospel of truth may shine throughout the world.

Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin, to set their captives free,

that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

5 All we can do is nothing worth unless God blesses the deed;

vainly we hope for the harvest-time till God gives life to the seed;

yet nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be,

when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Benediction

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