Each spring, as soon as the ice was off the Pembina River, a group of friends and I would put our canoes in and take a little canoe trip.
The point, of course, was that with the spring runoff, the water was flowing quite fast and often over its banks and it made for a fun and fast ride down the river.
The enjoyment was going with the flow, not against, it which would have been a lot of work.
In fact, whenever I plan a canoe trip, I always try to find out which way the water is flowing so that I don’t have to work as hard.
When it comes to canoeing, going with the flow is the best way to go.
When it comes to life, however, that is not the case.
Our society often flows in a direction away from God and God has called us to go against the flow.
Many of you have probably seen the posters of the “Christian” fish going against the flow.
That describes our life.
This morning we will look at three stories in Genesis - one helps us think about the direction of the flow of the surrounding society, the second warns us of the danger of compromising with that surrounding culture and the third encourages us to go against the flow.
They are interesting stories, but if we were to make a movie of them, they would probably have to have a restricted label, however, this is the Word of God.
An Immoral Culture Genesis 34
!! A. The Story Of Dinah And Shechem
The first story takes place in Genesis 34.
Jacob and his family - his four wives, eleven sons and one daughter and all he had - had moved back to the promised land and were living near the city of Shechem.
One day, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, went out to visit the women of the land.
One day when she was visiting, the son of the ruler of the land, whose name was Shechem, saw her and the Bible uses three words to describe that he raped her.
Following that, it says that he loved her.
When Jacob found out about this, he said nothing until his sons came in from the fields.
Shechem and his father, Hamor, came over to Jacob’s place and Shechem asked if he could marry Dinah.
Jacob’s sons heard about this and they were very upset at what Shechem had done and so they answered deceitfully and said that the only way they would permit this marriage was if all the men of the city of Shechem would be circumcised.
He was so in love with Dinah that he agreed and went back to his people to persuade them that this was a good idea.
He convinced them when he said to them, “Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours?
So let us give our consent to them...” They agreed and on one day, they were all circumcised.
Three days later when they were still in pain, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, went to the town of Shechem, killed all the men and plundered the city.
When they returned home, Jacob was deeply concerned about what they had done and was afraid that other Canaanite people would attack them.
The brothers, however, responded by saying, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
!! B. The People Of The Land
Dinah “went out to visit the women of the land.”
What kind of people were they?
We have already learned from previous stories that the family of God were not to marry Canaanites.
Abraham had warned his servant, in Genesis 24:3, do not get a wife for Isaac from among the Canaanites.
When Esau married some of the Canaanites, in Genesis 26:34, 35, they were a source of grief to his parents, Isaac and Rebekah.
Later when the law was written down, the children of Israel were warned, in Deuteronomy 7:3, 4, “Do not intermarry with them.
Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.”
The story of what happened to Dinah reveals that this concern was justified.
The action of Shechem is looked at with significant horror.
The three words used to describe what Shechem did to her, in verse 2, are that he took her, he lay with her and he humbled or mishandled or afflicted her.
After he had done this, he spoke to his father about it, wanting to marry her, and there is no indication that his father thought it was a bad thing.
Dinah’s brothers, however, were horrified.
Their horror and that of the writer of the Bible is clearly revealed in the way the event is described and reported.
In verse 5, the writer says, “his daughter had been defiled.”
In verse 7, the brothers are described as being “filled with grief and fury.”
Their anger is reported to be because Shechem did “a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter - a thing that should not be done.”
Then in verse 13, the explanation of their deceptive talk is justified “because their sister had been defiled.”
This is repeated in verse 27 and when they defend their slaughter of the Shechemites to their father in verse 31, they say, - “should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
There are some other things which we might note as we try to understand this story.
Some might think it honourable that Shechem wanted to make things right by marrying Dinah, but when we read later that the brothers had to remove their sister from his home, we see that after he violated her, he continued to confine her.
Although the action of the brothers in killing all of the men of the town was rather violent and hardly justifiable, it seems it may have been the right thing when we consider that Hamor and Shechem were looking to profit from Jacob and would probably not have done so nicely.
Although it is hard to accept the violence of the slaughter, the action of the brothers arose out of their zeal for righteousness in the face of a society that was not righteous and this is one of the main points of the story, it reveals the immorality of the culture surrounding Israel.
Like Dinah, there are many ways in which we go out and “visit the people of the land.”
We have relationships, business dealings and all kinds of contact with the society around us.
We view the media of the culture around us.
We vacation and work in it and we attend school and university in it.
There are many ways in which it is a good culture and we can relate quite nicely and normally with that culture.
But there are also many ways in which we realize that the culture around us holds values that are not the values of righteousness.
The discussion of the redefinition of marriage in parliament this week reveals that.
The promiscuity which is often viewed in the media reveals it, as does the lack of integrity and the consumerism.
Just like the culture surrounding Jacob and his family we also live in a culture which is not morally righteous.
Compromised By The Culture Genesis 38
What happens when we live in such a culture?
A second story, found in Genesis 38, reveals the danger.
!! A. The Story Of Judah And Tamar
One of the sons of Jacob, Judah, left home and went to live in another place.
There he met a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua, and married her.
From everything we have already discovered about marrying a Canaanite woman, we know that this is a sign of trouble.
The story moves quite quickly at this point and we find that his wife had three sons - Er, Onan and Shelah.
Judah got a wife for Er whose name was Tamar.
But, Er was an evil man.
It is interesting to note that in Hebrew Er is evil backwards.
Er was his name and he was “ra” or evil.
Therefore, God put him to death before they had any children.
There was a law that if a man died without having children, his brother should take his wife and have children with her.
The first child born would be the heir of the brother.
The reason for this was to carry on the family name of the brother.
According to this law, which was common in Israel and also in other cultures around, Er’s brother, Onan, took Tamar as his wife.
But Onan refused to have children with Tamar because he did not want to give his brother an heir.
God saw this evil and also put Onan to death.
The third brother, Shelah was too young yet so Judah told Tamar to go to her father’s house and remain a widow there until Shelah grew up.
But Judah was afraid that Shelah would also die and so did not give him to Tamar as a husband.
Some time later, Tamar realized that Judah was not going to do what he had promised.
She found out that Judah was going to another area to shear some sheep and she went into the region dressed as a prostitute instead of a widow.
She had a veil on and Judah did not recognize her, but had relations with her.
When he did, he offered to pay her one goat.
As a pledge of his promise to pay her, he gave her his staff, seal and cord, which was equivalent to giving her his credit card.
He left and when he sent the goat, with his friend Hirah, they discovered that she was not there any more and could not collect.
This was somewhat embarrassing to Judah, but he did not pursue it and so gave up recovering his property.
Some time later, he found out that Tamar was pregnant.
In anger, he pronounced the sentence of death on her for committing adultery.
When she was being brought out to be killed, she indicated that the person who had made her pregnant was the man who owned the staff, seal and cord, which were, of course, Judah’s.
Judah realized his wrong and she was spared.
As a result of the relationship between Judah and Tamar, twins were born.
!! B. Compromised By The Culture
In Genesis 34, we saw that the culture of the Canaanites was not a righteous culture.
In this story, we see why it was dangerous to live among them and that is because Jacob’s son, Judah, was compromised by the evil around him.
The evidence of the evil of compromise is seen throughout the story.