Genesis 34 narrates the darkest hours of Jacob’s life. Not only in terms of things that happen to him, but also in terms of his own sin in response to those things. His only daughter, Dinah, is raped. Jacob responds with what seems like apathy – clearly the rotten fruit of favoritism (Dinah being Leah’s daughter, the unloved wife of Jacob). Jacob then seemingly gives his daughter away to be married to the man who took advantage of her – a wicked Canaanite no less! In the same chapter, in response to what happened to Dinah, Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, end up killing every single man of the city in which Dinah was taken. Not only that but all of Jacob’s sons plunder the goods, women, and children of the city. Jacob’s response? Astounding selfishness and lack of concern about Dinah, or the wicked thing that his sons have just done.
This has to be the greatest hour of failure in Jacob’s entire life. The astonishment increases when we take into account that these events take place immediately following Genesis 32 and 33, in which Jacob is blessed by God after wrestling with Him face to face; and in which, after 20 years, Jacob is finally reconciled to his brother Esau, who shows incredible mercy and forgiveness toward Jacob. Genesis 32 and 33 is probably the peak of Jacob’s life, and it is followed by the deepest and darkest valley one could imagine.
Yet, the most astounding thing during this time in Jacob’s life is not Jacob’s failure, but God’s faithfulness. In the pit of Jacob’s shame, God was not ashamed of Jacob. “Jacob I have loved…” God says. God was faithful to Jacob because God loved Jacob. That must be some kind love.
Jacob failed his daughter, his wives, his sons, himself, and God; but God did not fail Jacob. God did not renege on His promises to Jacob, His blessing on Jacob, His acceptance of Jacob, His approval of Jacob, or His presence with Jacob. God’s favor did not waver.
Immediately following Genesis 34, God tells Jacob in chapter 35 to go to Bethel and make an altar there. Jacob speaks to his family about this, saying, “…let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone”(Genesis 35:3). Later in the chapter, God appears to Jacob again and blesses him (again), and renames him, Israel (again).
This is astounding. God’s response to the darkest moments of Jacob’s life is continued faithfulness and more blessing. No anger, no silent treatment, no punishment, no disappointment – blessing. This is how God responds to sinners upon whom He has set His love: with grace. This type of faithfulness and blessing isn’t available for good people; it is only for sinners.
Christian, this is how God loves us in Christ. God remains radically steadfast to all of His promises to us in Christ. I once heard Paul Washer remark, “What happens when a Christian sins? God keeps on loving him.” This moment in Jacob’s life is the perfect example of what happens when a Christian sins. God kept loving him. Christian, God will keep on loving you. This is how we can learn from the darkest hour of Jacob’s life: in our darkest moments, the steadfastness of Christ shines the brightest. When we sin and our commitment waivers, God doubles down on His commitment to us in Christ. In the pits of sin, we find the depths of mercy. This should astound us.