As we celebrate Chinese New Year, there are so many things to give thanks for. We thank God for the family that He has given us, the roof over our heads, the jobs that supply our needs, the community that we’ve planted ourselves in. Yet, for everyone who has, there are many other who have not.
Perhaps rightly, as we celebrate a festival that’s all about abundance and prosperity, we should consider especially those who are in a place of lack. What can be sadder than to return home on Chinese New Year’s Eve to an empty house? Or to look around the reunion table, and see an seat empty that should’ve been filled. Or perhaps to be found under an ever-looming shadow of depression. While some are celebrating, others are shackled to their struggles inwardly.
Genesis 34 is a strange chapter, the strangest in the Book of Genesis, in my opinion. It’s a chapter of one tragedy after another, and all began when Dinah ‘went out to see the daughters of the land’. Innocuous to us today but fraught with danger in Jacob’s day. Abraham and Isaac both lied about the marital status of their spouses because they knew the dangers associated with the womenfolk. There was no rule of law in those lands – the strong make the rules.
Shechem abducts Dinah and rapes her, and it sets off a chain of pain, deceit, murder, violence, and pillage. There are no winners in this chapter. In fact, search carefully, and you’ll find it hard to determine who the villains and heroes are. Dinah wandered off to where she was not supposed to. Shechem displayed moral duplicity. Simeon and Levi rampaged with unbridled violence. Jacob stood impassively silent on the sidelines, failing to act in any manner. The rest of the sons seized the opportunity to profit and enrich themselves. There’s nothing redemptive in this chapter – just a dark stain of the evil that people are capable of.
The only half-light we see, ultimately, was with Shechem. Compare this episode to the one in 2 Samuel 13 – yet another act of violence against women. Amnon rapes Tamar. He runs the gamut of most rape cases – after he has satisfied himself and had his way with Tamar, his lust for her turns to hatred. He now hated her more than he had loved her. But with Shechem, it was not so. He genuinely loved Dinah and acted quickly to satisfy the deceptive requirements that Jacob’s sons had placed upon him.
What then is the point of this chapter? That error begets more error? That silence in the face of crisis is the best means of driving it to catastrophe?
I’d like to take a more Tour d’horizon view. Perhaps, in the midst of God’s massive constructive work of establishing purpose and redemption, He wants to place a view before us of the fallen state of man – a simple portrait of the disasters that pervade this world when we’re left to our own base, primordial instincts. Even the family of promise is unable to escape the clutches of sin’s effect. If perhaps to inject impetus within us to understand the need to strive for God’s order, grace, and redemptive influence to flow through us.
The Bible deems it fit that we should always hold before us a vista of the pain, injustice, corruption, neglect, errors, violence, and robbery that afflicts our society. For, in so doing, we may be pressed towards the one Solution named Jesus Christ, and offer ourselves like that colt – bearing the Saviour upon our lives.
This Chinese New Year, let’s not only have eyes to see the celebration that’s going on around us. Keep a page open to sense that all may not be well. For in so doing, our need for Christ will be greatly accentuated.