Posts Tagged ‘Attitudes’

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:7-10 – UNBELIEVABLE!

Was it while they were on their way, that anger erupted, and they plotted their plan for vengeance?

“Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done” (Genesis 34:7 NLT).

Jacob sends a messenger to his sons and they come immediately. Shocked and angry, at least they recognize that pedophilia and rape was something that should never be done; a disgrace! Finally, someone actually cares about what happened to Dinah and they are concerned for her personal well-being. Taking it as an offense to them as a family, they identify with her. Where is Jacob in all this?

JACOB, where is your leadership?

Jacob doesn’t say anything! Not a word. He doesn’t seem to take part in any of the proceedings until later, when murder gets in the way of his reputation and standing in the community.

“Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Why is Dinah still at Shechem’s house? Perhaps if Hamor had brought Dinah back to Jacob, humbly apologized for his son’s criminal actions, spelling out an agreement for terms of discipline, offered a huge amount of compensation and an assurance that he would not tolerate such actions in his community, it might have gone down a little better. Hamor, if only…

HAMOR, what are you thinking?

Hamor speaks nothing of his son’s behavior and instead points to the economic and community benefits of intermarriage. Unbelievable!

A child marriage is Hamor’s way of turning an awkward situation into an equitable arrangement. Wanting to put the whole incident behind him, Hamor just wants to carry out the wishes of his son and get a good trade deal along the way. Win-win, … except for Dinah.

It annoys me that some commentaries actually agree with Hamor’s suggestion! What kind of planet are they on?

Hamor is on-a-roll. He says, “In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”  (Genesis 34:9-10)

The economic advantages are significant. But still, not once is any consideration for Dinah taken into account. He wants friendly relations with Jacob, but Dinah’s rape is just a catalyst for his business transactions.

Settle down, trade, be partners with us, assimilate.

Abraham and Isaac had encouraged their children not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Xenophobia? Obviously not. Jacob had settled in the area, bought land, traded. He had set up an altar as a witness to his faith in God. It was not a hatred of other people groups, but a healthy disgust of their wicked cultural and religious influences which would put them in danger of compromising and defiling the heritage of their faith in God.

This story is so unsettling and so is the Christian commentary I have been reading on this chapter of the Bible.

I am left with so many questions. How do I show leadership when I am needed the most? What kind of compromises to my faith am I willing to make that may put the Christian heritage of my family at risk? How much do I water down my sinful attitudes and actions? Am I willing to call out evil for what it is? When it comes to the crunch, do I treasure the welfare of those around me or my own interests?

There is no wisdom here with Jacob, with Hamor and certainly not Shechem. Where is justice, leadership, wisdom and compassion when it is needed? The anger of Jacob’s sons proves later to have no God-given boundaries. 

Perhaps the author paints with a palette of black in Genesis 34 but the canvas is primed with light and gives me opportunity to clearly perceive the contrasts. Genesis 34 invites me to show compassion and love, especially to my own family, to apply wisdom, leadership and responsibility when I see evil, to treat people with respect and show repentance when I have wronged them, to be willing to pay the consequences and make reparation when needed, and not to compromise my faith. Most of all it invites me to ask for God’s wisdom, to include Him in my responses when confronted by those who accept the defiling influences of the world in which we live. Some serious things to think about here.

James 1:21 (NLT) says So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:1-2 – JEALOUSY IS A TERRIBLE COUNSELOR

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor - Image created by Ross Cochrane

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Envy © by Ross Cochrane

Envy sees a world of better things
She vies against a sister with protracted claws
And leaves her grieving, graceless, loveless, insecure.
Self flaying tail of pain, flings it’s stings.
Hateful, harmful hooks take hold and cling. Her jaws
Will maul trust and make truth a prisoner.

Poor in counsel, jealousy lays blame,
Inciting Cain to kill, closing heavens doors,
Her sick soul still seeks a shameful cure.
Yet victory for her will still remain
Unsure.

Jealousy is a terrible counselor. She leaves you feeling isolated, insecure and grieving over your loss. You are incited to inflict damage on those you love. Jealousy turns you against Trust; a gracious and truthful friend who helps you understand your attitudes. Trust helps you to see your blessings and celebrate the success of others and helps you believe for the best. She is the mother of Patience.

 

Is she planning to commit suicide or is she simply expressing that her sole motivation in life is to have children? Rachel sees her sister and pleads with Jacob, “Give me children or I’ll die” (Genesis 30:1). She doesn’t plead with God and so far there is no mention that Rachel places any trust in the promises God has made to her husband. Is God providing her an opportunity to trust Him by keeping her childless?

Jacob has grown up in a competitive environment with his brother Esau, so he understands the dynamic of sibling rivalry. Now, through his bigamy, he creates an even greater environment for competition between his wives. Jealousy turns up because she is invited and Jacob acts as if she is an unexpected gate-crasher. Jealousy whispers lies about Leah and introduces Rachel to Blame. Jealousy and Blame test Jacob’s conflict management skills to the max.

Proverbs 14:30 (NLT) says “… jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” Proverbs 27:4 (NLT) says “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NLT) says “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” Far from being happy and proud for her sister and the blessing of children, she creates a catfight. Rachel’s motive for intimacy with Jacob is not intended to develop her love for him, but to feed her jealous battle with her sister.

Jealousy and Rage have an infamous history. Jealousy incited Cain to kill his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Jealousy embittered Sarai against her servant Hagar (Genesis 16) so much so that she sent her into the wilderness to die with her child. Jealousy encouraged Lot to move away from Abraham (Genesis 26) choosing the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot almost lost his life. Jealousy fed king Saul’s obsessions and insecurity against David. He tried to kill David (1 Samuel 18). Jealousy builds a gallows for Haman who attempts to use it to murder Mordecai (Esther 5:13). Government officials swayed by Jealousy throw Daniel into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Jewish leaders provoked by Jealousy (Acts 13 and 17) force Paul to leave town. The religious leaders prejudiced by Jealousy’s deceit crucify Jesus (Matthew 27:18). Jesus is well acquainted with Jealousy’s snares. Jealousy and Rage have an unpleasant association with Death rather than new life.

Rachel listens to the whispers of Jealousy. She wants the status of motherhood and Jealousy has told her that it is a stigma to have no children. Jealousy has made her more concerned with what others think of her than what God thinks of her. If Hannah, who lived many years hence, could have counselled Rachel perhaps the outcome may have been different (1 Samuel 1:11), but instead, a family of children, born in the midst of Jealousy and tension, grow up with distorted values? One day Jacob’s sons, intoxicated with Jealousy’s wine, will sell their brother Joseph into slavery. Jacob’s bigamous relationship was destined for such grief.

“Then Jacob becomes furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asks. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” (Genesis 30:2 NLT).  

This is their first recorded fight and Jacob is furious with Rachel, as if his fury can quench Jealousy’s influence. “Am I God?” he shouts. At least he realises his limitations. He realises that children are a gift from God. Does he also realise that God has deliberately withheld children from Rachel (Genesis 29:31)? He implies as much. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” acknowledging God’s part in all this. Is he implying that God is judging her? Is it just that he wants to blame God when backed into a corner like so many people do?

Perhaps Jacob is seeking to bring Rachel abruptly to her senses, making her aware that God gives life and that she should stop associating with Jealousy and take counsel from Him. Is he furious because the wife he supposedly loves does not have faith in God? Not that he should talk. He doesn’t pray either, so is his faith also waning? Since Rachel has succumbed to Jealousy’s irrationality, a lecture on theology isn’t going to help. If only both of them got down on their knees and prayed, it might help quell Jealousy’s fire and assuage Jacob’s Rage.

The invitation that God gives to me is to take counsel from Trust, to make choices of life rather than death, to allow the Cross to deal with Rage and Jealousy. Lord, bring Your perspective to my attitudes. Trust invites me to see my blessings and celebrate the success of others. Trust helps me believe for the best and develop patience. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:15-20 – CHARACTER VS REPUTATION – A Parable

“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow” (Lincoln).

When the light peeked over the mountain and shone down upon the forest glade, there in the faint mist of early morning stood a beautiful fruit tree and its shadow. The shadow would dance gracefully in the mist and as the mist cleared it stretched out upon the earth, full length. It boasted to the tree of how extensive it was but by midday and on rainy days it was humbled again. The tree pointed out to the shadow. “You are only a shadow. You have a distorted view of yourself. Without the light I would not grow and without me you would not grow and recede each day. Don’t think more highly or lowly of yourself than you should. Remember that you represent me but you are not me.”

The shadow did not understand and was insulted by what the tree was trying to say. It was not content to merely “represent” the tree. It wanted more. In the morning when the shadow stretched full length it said, “I am more important to you than you may think. Without me your influence would not be extended to the far corners of the glade. Without me many would not know that you exist! I make you known and give you credibility.”

The tree was concerned about the shadow’s sense of self-importance. It replied “You can certainly stretch the truth about me to others, but you cater to the textures of the personality of all that you are with. Tainted and painted by what you are projected upon, you will always depend on others to shape you, taking on their preconceived ideas. In the end your influence is immaterial when describing my character. Your influence has no substance.”

The shadow began to pout. It found some of the lowest, darkest and most secret of corners and began gossiping and whispering unkind tales about the tree. There was no substance to what the shadow said but others gave the far-fetched tales substance. It was cold and lonely in the shadow of the tree for a time and during the winter months the shadows edges were more and more faded, blurred and indistinct.

As winter became spring the light around the tree defined the shape of the shadow in more truthful terms, but the shadow still did not shed any light at all upon the real character of the tree. Those who spent time on the dark side of the tree were intimidated. “Why are you so arrogant, so black and white in your attitudes” they said to the tree.

“You will never discover anything about me when you listen to stories of those who lack light and who walk in darkness” said the tree. “Walk in the light and look up into my branches and you will have a much more accurate assessment of who I really am. Your views at present are shaded, dappled, two-dimensional silhouettes, mere projections, and only an inadequate outline of what I offer.”

One day in the early stirrings of spring, the glade was suddenly washed in light as God looked down upon the tree. He had recently painted the tree with autumn colours, golden ochers, burnt umbers and raw siennas, a spectrum of brilliance, and with the gentle breath of His Spirit it’s leaves were scattered in the breeze, only to be replaced in the Spring with luscious buds. Unseen in the heart of the tree, far beneath the textured surface of the bark, He fashioned and formed another growth ring. He spoke gently to the tree “Some will pass by and walk within your shadow and see only a dark outline of who you are but I have looked upon your heart. I see that when the winter seasons have left you bare and barren, that deep inside of you there is the dream of Springtime fruit.”

And with these words, soon the tree was heavy with sweet, tender fruit, brilliant in ripe colours, flaring in the light in contrast to the thick deep greenery of its newly formed leaves. And God said “Yes, just as you can identify the character of a tree by its fruit, so you can identify the character of people by their actions. Walk in the light as I am in the light” (See Matthew 7:20 and 1 John 1:7)

Pastor Ross