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Forgiveness: Are You Gen 33 or Gen 34?

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Forgiveness

Are You Gen 33 or Gen 34?

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Forgiveness: Are You Gen 33 or Gen 34?

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We’re called to a higher calling. We are called to be converted Christians in an unconverted world. We are called to forgive our fellow man when we are wronged, and we are tasked to let go and let God take care of our problems. We can’t afford to stew on the wrongs, to allow anger and resentment to build until that root has grown entrenched.  The book of Genesis contains two stories of wrongs done and two very different responses to those wrongs. One of the responses is godly, the other is ungodly. As you go out into the world, focus and analyze your interactions with others, in particular with those that just rub you the wrong way. Are you doing your part? Are you Genesis 33 or Genesis 34?

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Forgiveness and Genesis 33 & 34 If you’re a news junkie like me, you likely watched the coverage the evening of May 1st, 2011 with a morbid curiosity. As the information slowly leaked, first from Twitter, to Facebook, then finally to the mainstream online media, the nation as a whole was on the edge of their seats waiting for the press conference. The announcement by President Obama that Osama Bin Laden had been killed was met with a collective sigh of relief in much of the world, anger and vows of revenge in other parts, and within the United States a pervading sense of celebration was growing, particularly in those locations where Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had struck 10 years earlier. The news coverage focused on the celebrations in New York City where a number of the cities inhabitants had taken to the streets, draping themselves in American flags, standing on cars and chanting U.S.A. repeatedly.

My Facebook feed lit up with comments on the situation, the majority of which expressing joy and excitement at his death, with a very isolated few calling for a measure of calm and civility in dealing with his death. I was torn. I remember 9/11, remember waking up to the news reports as the planes slammed into the towers, remember the aftermath, and all of the emotions that went along with it. Sadness, Anger, Grief, and a whole host of others played out in the days following the attacks. All the while, the man who perpetrated it was in hiding for 10 years, was the cause of two wars which have collectively killed over 3,000 U.S. Troops, and now that man was dead – tracked by the C.I.A. and killed by U.S. Forces in a nighttime raid on a compound outside of Abbottabad Pakistan. How should I feel about it? Should I rejoice? Should I celebrate? I know it’s cliché, but it is a valid question here… What Would Jesus Do? I think we all know the answer to this question. Osama Bin Laden was a man with the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands, yet we know that God sees him as one of his own children, just like he sees us.

Bin Laden is no more a sinner than we are. There isn’t hierarchy in sin. Murder is lying is adultery is dishonoring our parents, we’re all guilty. God is calling some now, and some later, and it’s feasible that he will respond well someday when his mind is opened and he is given the opportunity of true understanding. Brethren, Christ preached a message of forgiveness to all men, and a love for our enemies. Not just in one instance, but multiple instances throughout the Bible, in fact the word Forgive is used 58 times in the bible in 51 separate scriptures. Recently, I came across an example in the book of Genesis that I found fascinating. Two accounts, two different circumstances, two different responses. The word forgiveness was not used here, but the two chapters relate stories that are a complete dichotomy in forgiveness. What was most interesting to me, was they were back to back. One right after another. Genesis 33 and 34. Let’s turn over to Genesis 33 and read the account presented there. We’ll pick up the story of Jacob and Esau meeting for the first time since their parting on not so good terms. Genesis 33:1 Genesis 33:1And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children to Leah, and to Rachel, and to the two handmaids.
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Genesis 33:1 Genesis 33:1And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children to Leah, and to Rachel, and to the two handmaids.
American King James Version×
And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau was coming, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. Genesis 33:2 Genesis 33:2And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph last.
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And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. It appears as we examine this, that Jacob wasn’t sure how this was going to go. He separated the children, amongst Leah, Rachel and the handmaidens, and as we can see, organized them so that the children with the handmaidens were at the front of the group, and his favored wife and children at the rear of the column. At cursory glance, Jacob was worried Esau might attack the group, so he put his most favored wife and children at the rear of the column so they might escape if it came to blows. Genesis 33:3 Genesis 33:3And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
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And he himself passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Jacob steps in front of the column, bowing sincerely seven times. The targum of Johnathon, a Talmudic text claims all the while praying to God for deliverance. While we can’t be certain from the biblical example, it does seem he was concerned at what might happen. What wrongs had Jacob committed against Esau.

He had negotiated him away from his birthright, had been the favored child of Rebeccah, had ultimately tricked him out of his blessings, and then took off because of his fear that Esau might kill him. Esau had every right to be angry with Jacob, and Jacob may have been very concerned that this might be it, he was slowly approaching Esau and 400 armed men, with a caravan of women and children he was responsible for. What happened? Genesis 33:4 Genesis 33:4And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
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And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. What an incredible statement. Esau RAN to meet him and embraced him, falling on his neck, kissing him and weeping. This is an incredible outpouring of love and forgiveness. Notice, no mention of the wrongs Jacob had committed. Let’s continue the story. Genesis 33:5 Genesis 33:5And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with you? And he said, The children which God has graciously given your servant.
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And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are these with thee? And he said, The children whom God hath graciously given thy servant. Genesis 33:6 Genesis 33:6Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.
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Then the handmaids came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. Genesis 33:7 Genesis 33:7And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.
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And Leah also and her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

Genesis 33:8 Genesis 33:8And he said, What mean you by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.
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And he said, What meanest thou by all this company which I met? And he said, To find favor in the sight of my lord. Jacob had sent an advance of cattle and flocks, a whole company of animals ahead of him as gifts to Esau, and now Esau is inquiring about the company that was sent, “What do you mean by all the animals?” and Jacob replies, to find favor in your sight. The word favor here is the Hebrew word, Khane, which is translated ‘grace’. Undeserved favor. Jacob recognized that he didn’t deserve it, he was asking for grace, for forgiveness. Genesis 33:9 Genesis 33:9And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that you have to yourself.
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And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; let that which thou hast be thine. Genesis 33:10 Genesis 33:10And Jacob said, No, I pray you, if now I have found grace in your sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen your face, as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.
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And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found favor in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand; forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. Genesis 33:11 Genesis 33:11Take, I pray you, my blessing that is brought to you; because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
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Take, I pray thee, my gift that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it. Jacob succeeds in giving to Jacob the flocks he intended, in a way paying him back from the bounty that God had provided for him. Genesis 33:12 Genesis 33:12And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before you.
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And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. Genesis 33:13 Genesis 33:13And he said to him, My lord knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.
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And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and that the flocks and herds with me have their young: and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die.

Genesis 33:14 Genesis 33:14Let my lord, I pray you, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goes before me and the children be able to endure, until I come to my lord to Seir.
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Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on gently, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. Genesis 33:15 Genesis 33:15And Esau said, Let me now leave with you some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needs it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.
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And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find favor in the sight of my lord. Genesis 33:16 Genesis 33:16So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir.
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So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. Genesis 33:17 Genesis 33:17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
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And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. Genesis 33:18 Genesis 33:18And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
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And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city. Genesis 33:19 Genesis 33:19And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
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And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for a hundred pieces of money. Genesis 33:20 Genesis 33:20And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.
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And he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel. We see at the end here that Jacob and Esau part ways. Esau heads for Seir, and Jacob settles in Shechem. He recognized that he and Esau had gotten off to a good start, but that continuing their relationship in close proximity probably wasn’t a good idea.

In fact, as the Old Testament progresses, Israel and the Edomites clash frequently. They struggled in the womb and were destined to struggle, and that wasn’t going to change overnight… but as of the moment of Chapter 33, all was right in the world, the transgressions of the past were forgiven, and the two men met as brothers. Now in chapter 34 of Genesis, we see the dichotomy. The story of Simeon and Levi and the men of Shechem. Genesis 34:1 Genesis 34:1And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.
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And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. Genesis 34:2 Genesis 34:2And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.
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And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her; And he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her. In chapter 34, we see a recounting of the sexual assault of Dinah, the daughter of Leah after she left the camp to visit with the women of the land of Canaan. Genesis 34:3 Genesis 34:3And his soul joined to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spoke kindly to the damsel.
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And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. Genesis 34:4 Genesis 34:4And Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.
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And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. Genesis 34:5 Genesis 34:5And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.
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Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; and his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they came. We see that Shechem fell in love with Dinah, and wished to marry her, so he sends his father to Jacob to work on a deal.

Notice that throughout this initial communication, it states that “Jacob held his peace.” Genesis 34:6 Genesis 34:6And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to commune with him.
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And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. Genesis 34:7 Genesis 34:7And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had worked folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter: which thing ought not to be done.
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And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done. Genesis 34:8 Genesis 34:8And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.
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And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you, give her unto him to wife. Genesis 34:9 Genesis 34:9And make you marriages with us, and give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to you.
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And make ye marriages with us; give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. Genesis 34:10 Genesis 34:10And you shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade you therein, and get you possessions therein.
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And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. Here’s the attempt at a deal. Look, I know my son did something horrible here. But he longs for her, he loves her. Just give her to him as his wife. You can have our daughters, we’ll intermarry, and we’ll all dwell together, we can trade, we’ll all get possessions, we’ll all grow wealthy. Genesis 34:11 Genesis 34:11And Shechem said to her father and to her brothers, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what you shall say to me I will give.
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And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find favor in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. Genesis 34:12 Genesis 34:12Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as you shall say to me: but give me the damsel to wife.
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Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.

Here we see the request just like we saw in the last chapter. Shechem requests to Jacob and his sons directly, “Let me find FAVOR in your sight.” Let me find grace, grant me forgiveness. I will pay whatever you ask. I’ll do whatever you want. In comes Simeon and Levi at this point. The Midrash holds that Simeon and Levi at this point are actually only 13 and 14 years old, and were clearly very quick thinking and conniving, as their response is full of guile. Genesis 34:13 Genesis 34:13And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:
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And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father with guile, and spake, because he had defiled Dinah their sister, Genesis 34:14 Genesis 34:14And they said to them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach to us:
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and said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us. Genesis 34:15 Genesis 34:15But in this will we consent to you: If you will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;
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Only on this condition will we consent unto you: if ye will be as we are, that every male of you be circumcised; Genesis 34:16 Genesis 34:16Then will we give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.
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then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. Genesis 34:17 Genesis 34:17But if you will not listen to us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.
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But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. Hamor and Shechem bought the goods hook line and sinker. Within Simeon and Levi, there was no consideration of forgiveness, no favor. They plotted and planned, and produced a premeditated plan of revenge.

Genesis 34:18 Genesis 34:18And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son.
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And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son. Genesis 34:19 Genesis 34:19And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honorable than all the house of his father.
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And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was honored above all the house of his father. Genesis 34:20 Genesis 34:20And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,
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And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, Genesis 34:21 Genesis 34:21These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.
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These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for, behold, the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Genesis 34:22 Genesis 34:22Only herein will the men consent to us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.
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Only on this condition will the men consent unto us to dwell with us, to become one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. Genesis 34:23 Genesis 34:23Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of their's be our's? only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.
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Shall not their cattle and their substance and all their beasts be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. Genesis 34:24 Genesis 34:24And to Hamor and to Shechem his son listened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.
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And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

Genesis 34:25 Genesis 34:25And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took each man his sword, and came on the city boldly, and slew all the males.
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And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city unawares, and slew all the males. Genesis 34:26 Genesis 34:26And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.
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And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went forth. Genesis 34:27 Genesis 34:27The sons of Jacob came on the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.
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The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. Genesis 34:28 Genesis 34:28They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,
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They took their flocks and their herds and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field; Genesis 34:29 Genesis 34:29And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
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and all their wealth, and all their little ones and their wives, took they captive and made a prey, even all that was in the house. They didn’t just stop at Shechem. It was him who sinned against Dinah, but they didn’t stop there. They killed his father, every man in the city, looted and plundered the wealth of the city, captured all of their flocks and herds, and made captive their women and children. This is not forgiveness, this is judgment, revenge and cold blooded murder. I can fully understand the desire to protect family, and what was done to Dinah was absolutely horrible, but this isn’t the way.

Genesis 34:30 Genesis 34:30And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, You have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.
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And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me, to make me odious to the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and, I being few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and smite me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. Genesis 34:31 Genesis 34:31And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
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And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot? Even after the fact, they felt that their revenge was justified; they saw nothing wrong with their actions. Simeon and Levi paid a price for this sin, when they were given the blessings in Genesis 49, Simeon and Levi did not receive land of their own, they weren’t cut off from the overall familial blessings, but they were divided. Genesis 49 and we’ll read in verse 5 the ‘blessing’ given to Simeon and Levi. Genesis 49:5 Genesis 49:5Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
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. Genesis 49:5 Genesis 49:5Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
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Simeon and Levi are brethren; Weapons of violence are their swords. Genesis 49:6 Genesis 49:6O my soul, come not you into their secret; to their assembly, my honor, be not you united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they dig down a wall.
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O my soul, come not thou into their council; Unto their assembly, my glory, be not thou united; For in their anger they slew a man, And in their self-will they hocked an ox. Genesis 49:7 Genesis 49:7Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
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Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel. Simeon and Levi didn’t have connected territory from that point forward. Simeon settled in the lower corner of Judah, and Levi was spread throughout the tribes of Israel.

The two were dangerous together, their counsel was unwise. What I find most interesting about these two accounts, is that they are back to back examples of forgiveness, or the lack thereof. The first account is what you should do; the second account is what you are not to do. We in the United Church of God have just come out of the biggest trials to face our church in 15+ years. When the dust settled, two organizations stood where there once was one. United ceased to be United. There were a lot of tempers, and emotions, and words flying back and forth, a lot of grieved individuals. Some folks left, many without saying goodbye, they were there one weekend and gone the next, and emotionally, it hurt. It grieves us to continue to tear the body of Christ apart. It is emotionally painful, and due to interconnection of families and the sensitivities that go along with division, our human nature allows us to be driven by emotion. The question becomes HOW do we deal with those emotional hurts? Are we Esau? Or are we Simeon and Levi? Are we willing to let it go and move forward, or do we plot and plan? We have to be so careful of our emotions when we deal with problems; we have to be careful that we don’t allow our anger and resentment to take root, because if it does, we’ll never get it out. Esau could have let his anger and resentment stew for the 20 years they were apart. He could have allowed his murderous rage to boil, he could have held the grudge and bided his time until he saw Jacob again… and maybe he did.

We really don’t know, what we do know is that when the chips were down and it was time to act, he acted in a forgiving manner, he didn’t hold the grudge. How about ourselves? Do we hold grudges? My dad could hold a grudge. He had grudges against people that wronged him 15+ years before. I loved my Dad, but frankly, a number of the reasons he’d quit talking to people for good were completely ridiculous. Someone said this or that. This guy looked at him wrong, or so and so never said Thank You after he helped him with his car… Needless to say, my Father didn’t have many friends. I can recall back to the folks my dad talked with on a regular basis, and I think I could count them on one hand. one night, one of them said something on the phone that made him mad, and he just hung up, and never talked to him again. He a few years later, and I don’t think my Dad even attended the funeral. At that point, that left him with a single person that would have anything to do with him outside of our family. In the end, there was really no one but our family… He had allowed what we often term in the churches of God a ‘Root of Bitterness’ to develop, and he died alone. That’s no way to live. Let’s turn to the scripture that discusses this, Hebrews 12:15 Hebrews 12:15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
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, and we’ll start in verse 14.

Hebrews 12:14 Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
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Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord: Hebrews 12:15 Hebrews 12:15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
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looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled; In order to be peaceable with all men, it requires you to let go of the little frustrations that we have with each other, the small things. There are a series of novels with the titles of, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” And when it comes to our human relationships, we need to keep that in mind. The little things really aren’t important, we need to let it go. Otherwise, you can stew upon those things, and they dig at you, and eat at you, and pretty soon you’re upset, and bitter about it, and can be defiled by the results of that anger and frustration. The resulting root of bitterness can be nearly impossible to get out. This is what I saw in many on both sides near the end of the most recent split. People were so entrenched on either side, even if someone had said, let’s truly reconcile, the chances of it happening would have been slim. Once that root is present, you can clip the stem and leaves, but the root continues to live, it never dies, never recedes, and like many weeds, can take over. Jesus knew this, which is one of the reasons that he talked so much about forgiveness and loving ones enemies. The concept of forgiveness was an integral part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and it is imperative that we understand the importance of the act of forgiveness.

Let’s see Christ’s own words on the subject, if you’d turn with me please to Matthew 18, we’ll begin in verse 21 with a question that Peter asks Christ regarding forgiveness. Verse 21. While you’re turning there, I’d like to give you some background. Jewish teaching on forgiveness is an interesting study. Jewish law commands that you are to forgive someone when they ask for it. Period, in fact, in Jewish teaching it is actually a sin NOT to ultimately forgive someone, as they believe that you cannot be forgiven by God until you have been forgiven by your brother, so forgiveness is something in the Jewish faith that is not taken lightly. Sins against God are between you and God, but sins between you and your fellow man are between the two of you, and need to be worked out between the two of you first. The Jewish teaching of the time was based upon Amos 2, where God outlines forgiveness for the various lands of the area. 3 times they are forgiven, then the fourth time, there was no pardon, instead they were punished. The Jewish leaders of the time took that as the way to deal with things. So 3 times, you were to ask for forgiveness, notice in Matthew 18, he illustrates the process. They’re instructed to go to their brother once, then again with witnesses, then with additional witnesses… 3 times, and then their duty to ask for forgiveness was done and if there were still no forgiveness the sin was on the other man. According to John Gill’s Exposition of the bible, it worked the other way too, they were taught to forgive another person only 3 times for the same transgression done to them, and after the 3rd time, they were no longer obligated to forgive them. This was the pervading teaching of the time until Christ’s teaching comes along in Matthew 18.

Let’s pick up Matthew 18:21 Matthew 18:21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
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, just following the instructions that Christ gave the disciples regarding reconciliation and forgiveness. Matthew 18:21 Matthew 18:21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
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Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? The disciples knew that forgiveness was important to Christ, they had heard it before. Peter’s saying here, how many times should I forgive my brother’s sin? Seven times?? He threw out a number well above the 3 that was instructed thinking, number of completion, clearly that’s going to be it. No more than 7. Matthew 18:22 Matthew 18:22Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
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Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Imagine his surprise when Christ came back and said, what might as well have been infinite at that point. No, 70 x 7 times. In other words, as many times as it takes you are to forgive your brother. We often joke that we only have to worry about 490 times, after that – man you better watch out, but when we are wronged, we are required to forgive them. That is what God expects of us. He expects us to put aside our egos, he expects us to put aside our personalities, our attitudes, and be the Christian that he is asking us to be. Brethren, this life is a practice run. We have so many lessons to learn, and one of those lessons is how to forgive, so that we are able to receive forgiveness ourselves. Jesus continues here in talking with the disciples in a parable so they would understand.

Matthew 18:23 Matthew 18:23Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
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Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants. Matthew 18:24 Matthew 18:24And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
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And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents. Matthew 18:25 Matthew 18:25But for as much as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
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But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. Matthew 18:26 Matthew 18:26The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.
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The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. The servant has wracked up some debt. Owes the boss some money, and doesn’t have it. “Check’s in the Mail” sort of situation. The lord had him brought unto him and told him he owed him quite a sum of money. 10,000 talents is a significant chunk of change. He didn’t have the money to pay back, so the Lord ordered him to be sold, his wife, his children, everyone because the payment had to be made. The servant started begging and pleading, and requested, and notice this wording. “My Lord, have patience with me, I will pay you all of it.” We’ll go on in vese 27… Matthew 18:27 Matthew 18:27Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
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And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

The lord here is moved with compassion, he let him go and forgave him the debt. This isn’t a ok, you can pay me later, this is a, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ 10,000 talents is equivalent in today’s dollars to several million if we’re talking silver, billions if we’re talking gold. It was a serious amount of money then as well. That was the point of this parable. The lord WROTE IT OFF. He had compassion and forgave him the debt regardless of the amount. Let’s pick up the story again in verse 28. Matthew 18:28 Matthew 18:28But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that you owe.
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But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay what thou owest. Matthew 18:29 Matthew 18:29And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and sought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.
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So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. Matthew 18:30 Matthew 18:30And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
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And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due. Here the servant assaults one of his fellow servants for 100 schillings, which really is pocket change when it comes down it. This is the same servant that was just given a free pass by the lord. He clearly didn’t learn the lesson. The lord in this example had given his servant grace, (undeserved favor) and forgave the debt, and then the servant went out and treated his fellow man in a wicked manner. How do we treat our fellow man? Do we ask for forgiveness and not give it to others? Do we ask for mercy and not extend it to others? We see what happens to the servant in verses 31-34.

Matthew 18:31 Matthew 18:31So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done.
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So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Matthew 18:32 Matthew 18:32Then his lord, after that he had called him, said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me:
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Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: Matthew 18:33 Matthew 18:33Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?
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shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee? Matthew 18:34 Matthew 18:34And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.
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And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. The Lord was angry, because he forgave that incredible debt, yet the man wasn’t capable of forgiving the smallest debt of another. He delivered him to the debtors prison until he could pay it all. 10,000 talents was a lifetime of work. He was not going to get out anytime soon. Then we see the final take home message of this parable. Verse 35. Matthew 18:35 Matthew 18:35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
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So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts. We’re told that if we expect forgiveness from God, we had better extend forgiveness to our fellow man. Forgive and you shall be forgiven – that is the lesson we are to learn while we’re on this planet. That is what we’re given a chance to practice while we’re here.

Forgiveness is not a suggestion, it’s demanded, its part of the lesson we have to learn, and part of the walk that we undergo. It’s not easy. Some people have had horrible things that have happened to them, in cases of abuse, or death of a loved one at the hands of someone else, there are situations that often feel like it’s IMPOSSIBLE to forgive the person for their part in it. It might seem impossible, but we are duty bound to forgive them. Matthew 5. We’ll see the instructions of Christ nearing the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5, and we’ll pick it up in verse 43. Matthew 5:43 Matthew 5:43You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
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Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: Matthew 5:44 Matthew 5:44But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
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but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; Matthew 5:45 Matthew 5:45That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
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that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:46 Matthew 5:46For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same?
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For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? Matthew 5:47 Matthew 5:47And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?
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And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? Anyone can love people that love them in return, that’s easy! In fact, that doesn’t take any change of character, doesn’t take any work, it is automatic. What’s tough is to love those that hate you. To love the people that take advantage of you, that persecute you, that make your life difficult, who try to kill you…

Verse 45. (read again) God sends rain on the just and unjust, sun on the good and the evil. They are all children of God. They will all have the same opportunities at the end time that we have, they will all have the same choice and opportunity. Osama bin Laden will be raised up during the 2nd resurrection, and will be given the opportunity to understand, his mind will be opened, and it will be his choice at that point. He is a child of God, just as we are. While he may have heard the name of Christ, it is clear that he was not being called at this time. He was likely the most hated individual of the past decade. Loving only those who love us is easy, and Christ uses examples of two groups of people not well liked by Jews at the time. Publicans and Gentiles. Saying, if you only love and treat your brethren well, what reward will you have. What more have you done than others? Gentiles and publicans do the same thing. This would be the same as saying today, that Muslim extremists love their own as well, but hate everyone else. What is your reward if you do the same? Brethen, we’re called to a higher calling.

We are called to be converted Christians in an unconverted world. We are called to forgive our fellow man when we are wronged, and we are tasked to let go and let God take care of our problems. We can’t afford to stew on the wrongs, to allow anger and resentment to build until that root has grown entrenched. The book of Genesis contains two stories of wrongs done, and two very different responses to those wrongs. One of the responses is Godly, the other is Ungodly. As we leave the shelter of our church services today and head back out into Satan’s world, focus and analyze your interactions with others, in particular with those that just rub you the wrong way. Are you doing your part? Are we Genesis 33 or Genesis 34?