Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Instead Of Revenge Hold On and Pray For Peace

Color this scene in your mind. A large family. Your mom is Leah. Your dad is Jacob. You are the sister to twelve brothers. Twelve brothers. Brothers who are protective. Dinah went out into the land to do some visiting for the day. Nothing like a visit with friends to make your heart dance. Dinah's day had begun wonderful. She may have given her mother a kiss goodbye. Shouted to her dad, "I will see you this evening for dinner". She may have even had a little ribbing from her brothers about being off with the girls for the day.

But, somewhere along the way, Dinah's day was clouded in fear. She was raped and held captive. Her rapist and captor was Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country. Shechem saw what he wanted and he took it without permission. Without thought he changed this young girl's life forever. I can feel her fear deep in my bones. I can see her cry out for her dad. I can see her wanting nothing more than her momma's arms wrapped around her.

Jacob hears of this. No doubt his heart is breaking for his daughter. I can imagine anger rising up. He wanting nothing more than to have his daughter back in safety and this jackal punished. But something happens here. Jacob's sons are all out in the fields. Jacob in his anger knows he must take a few moments and calm himself. Maybe Jacob takes these moments and prays for his daughter and he too prays for wisdom. He knows he can't act too quickly. He mustn't make the wrong choice and lose his daughter forever.

See, for Shechem this was normal behavior. He spoke sweetly to Dinah. He believes he loves her. So, in his love he takes her to be his. This is not the custom of Jacob's family. Jacob patiently waits for his sons to return from the fields and then shares with them what has happened. Oh, I can see Dinah's mother, Leah, just beside herself. Now as the brothers gather, anger flares and they want nothing more than revenge. They don't stop to think and pray as Jacob did. They act quickly.

There is a meeting. One side shares what they want and the other shares what they too must have. Jacob's sons share that before they can give Dinah and all the women in their family to them all the men must first be circumcised. Shechem and his father agree. Shechem cannot see past Dinah and his desires to have her as his wife. I'm not sure if Leah is able to hear any of this, but I can imagine her just saying, "Please, just get Dinah back home safely". She wouldn't want her sons retaliating. But revenge was the only thing on the brother's minds.

They have formed their plan. Shechem and the men of his family are all circumcised. On the third day they are all in pain. (Poor things) Simeon and Levi each take a sword and killed all the males in this family. They even kill Hamor and Shechem. They remove Dinah from being held captive and return her safely home. These sons go and plunder the city. They take all the live stock and now they too capture all the women and children and bring them back with them.

Can you see Jacob standing outside as he sees them all traveling home? His eyes meet Dinah's and he is so grateful his daughter is home. He opens his arms wide. But he is disappointed in his Levi's and Simeon's behavior. Oh my, he cries, "What have you done?" Now Jacob is terrified. This is not what he wanted. He is now fearful things will be worse for his family. Others will now come upon them and what will God think?

God and Jacob have a conversation. God protects Jacob. He tells him to pick up and move his family.

This story comes from Genesis 34-35.

I read over this story and have pondered it all morning. I tried placing myself in Leah's or Jacob's position. What would I have done. Well, it's time to be honest. I would have been filled with anger and ready to act. I'm not so sure I would have had the wisdom of Jacob to stop and pray and think. As he took this time he was rewarded with blessings from God. Jacob showed patience and character. Too many times in life I have acted too quickly and without thought. My actions only made the situation worse. Instead of bringing peace to the situation I created a whole new set of problems because I acted foolish.

Now that I am older and wiser I can look back upon these situations and see that if I had only waited upon the Lord things could have had a totally different turnout. He in fact could have turned it all around, bringing peace to the situation. Anger becomes a sin when we act upon it. I am learning now that when I become angry I need to go to the Lord and lay it down before Him. Asking Him to replace my anger with peace and calm. Asking Him to give me His wisdom and the knowledge to know what to do with it.

Revenge is not something that should be in our hands. Is there really any good that comes from revenge? Do we seriously feel better after we have acted out in anger? I know from my experiences I have not felt better, but have felt saddened by my outburst. Ashamed at my behavior. Wishing I could go back in time for a do over. But we don't get to go back and change things. What we do have is grace. What we can find is forgiveness. We can reach for our Savior and in a humbleness that comes from a growing faith we reach out to those we have hurt with our actions.

I think that's what I'm learning. It's never too late to reach out. But before my humble heart must cry out to God for forgiveness, I am learning to first go to Him. I can share everything with Him. He already knows the circumstance at hand. I am to pray and wait. Yes, waiting is hard, but in waiting comes understanding. In waiting comes peace. In waiting we are able to think more clearly. One of the biggest things I am learning is to pray for the one who has offended me. I cannot pray and seek revenge at the same time. Praying brings us to a place where we completely trust in the Lord.

If your facing a situation today that brings you to anger, slow down. Stop and pray. Pray until you can get up not having anger flaring from your nostrils, but peace flowing from your heart. Wait until the Lord gives you the wisdom you so need in this time of unrest. Our Lord has a way of working everything out for His good. He can turn ash into beauty. He can bring peace to the worst situations.

Remember, there is always someone watching our actions. Our behavior speaks loudly about what is lying in our heart. The more we keep an open line to the Lord, the more we grow to look like Him. It's not easy. It isn't easy to face enemies. It isn't easy to let anger go. But friends, if we don't, our heart becomes hardened. We push away from God and those very people in our lives that we love are pushed aside as anger takes root. Nothing good comes from anger. Revenge causes us to give up our godly character in exchange for foolishness that only brings disgrace among our name.

Remember who you are today. We represent our family and most importantly we represent our Lord. Our behavior should reflect the love we have for Him. Our behavior is a choice. Forgiveness is not giving approval. It's allowing peace to flow through your heart and to extend the same grace the Lord gives us each and every day.

"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing." 1 Peter 3:8-9

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:9-21

"Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1


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