Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jacob’s Household Responds To His Leadership -- Genesis 35:4

So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.

Notice once again the Bible does not record any challenge to Jacob’s leadership from his family. All we read is their immediate response to his instructions. That must have been a joy, a big relief, for Jacob.

Can you imagine the scene? Foreign idol gods were being brought from all over the household. But the text also mentions they were giving up their earrings. Why earrings? In the East, there is a pagan connection to earrings for many wore them as charms or in honor of their pagan gods and at the very least, earrings were seen as objects of superstition. These they seem to have given up willingly on their own, perhaps being convicted in their hearts that they should. They wanted their “going home to God” to be as complete as possible. In hindsight, we can well wonder whether indeed this scene could have occurred much earlier in the life of Jacob, had he taken the lead as he now was doing. They could have gone “back home to God” sooner and saved themselves much disgrace and troubles.

Finally, the verse tells us that Jacob took all these things and hid them under a particular oak tree. Why not destroy them, Jacob? There is a possibility that Jacob hid these things in a place that would be unknown to those in his household that had given them up. He wanted not only to help separate his household from these things, but also to ensure that there was little opportunity for them to return to them. The majestic oak tree in the area was indeed a respected landmark. Perhaps it was the same tree that his grandfather patriarch Abram had originally pitched his tent (Genesis 12:8; 13:3). There, in what was deemed to almost be sacred ground, he hid the rejected objects believing no one would dare disturb the ground to uncover them.

We don’t know why he did not destroy them. Perhaps given the circumstances, it was the wisest thing to do. Sometimes, we just need to make it difficult, not impossible, for people to return to their idolatry if they so choose. God does not want anyone to be forced into a “no choice” situation. He wants us to “come back home to Him” willingly and voluntarily, knowing that we must continuously rely on Him to keep us from going back to “disturb the ground” to pick up the idols we once adored.

Evil and pagan worship does not disappear from the face of the earth just because we have come home to God. It still exists. Our task is to be walking continuously with God away from it.

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