In verse 1 of Genesis 49, Jacob says to his sons: “gather yourselves together that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.” We call the statements that follow “blessings,” but that isn’t always the case. Jacob is making pronouncements regarding the future of his sons based on their past actions, but they are not always positive. Sometimes, they sound more like a curse than a blessing, as in the case of Simeon and Levi, which we will read today.
Please read Genesis 49:5-7.
The defining action of Simeon and Levi is their defense of their sister Dinah. We read this story in Genesis 34, where Shechem rapes Dinah and then desires to marry her, so he sends his dad, Hamor, to make marriage arrangements. “The sons of Jacob” are so angry about the treatment of their sister that they deceive Hamor into circumcising his entire village before he can unite their peoples in marriage. It appears that all of Jacob’s sons were involved in this deception, but then Simeon and Levi take it a step further by attacking the city while all the men are in pain from being circumcised, and murdering every man. We then again see “the sons of Jacob” all coming in and plundering the city. But it was only Simeon and Levi that wielded the sword and actually committed the murders, and it is only Simeon and Levi that get reprimanded by their father after the event.
Jacob still holds this sin against Simeon and Levi and desires to separate himself from them. In his “blessing” on them, he declares that they are violent and he wants to be separate from them! He actually goes so far as to curse their anger!
Notice that he does not specifically curse them, just the defining aspect of their character. If they could control their anger, there would be no punishment on them. But because their anger defines them, Jacob predicts that they will be divided throughout Israel. This of course comes true later, when Israel enters the promised land: every tribe is given an allotment of the promised land except for Levi, who is divided up among his brothers and given different cities, spread throughout the land, in which he can live.
This pronouncement on Simeon and Levi should cause each of us to examine our own actions. What is the predominant aspect of your character? Is it anger? Bitterness? Gossip? Lies? Selfishness? Greed? Sexual immorality? Jealousy? Drunkenness Cowardice? Idolatry? These are but a few of the works of the flesh for which men are condemned in Scripture (specifically in Galatians 5 and Revelation 20).
When we examine our own lives, we tend to be easier on ourself than others. For instance, when someone else tells a lie to our face, we think of them as a liar, but when we tell a lie to someone else, we justify it as being “just a little white lie.” Try to avoid this bias and honestly view your actions from someone else’s perspective: are you defined by the works of the flesh?
Or does your life reflect the fruit of the Spirit? Truth, edifying speech, peace, kindness, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving, wisdom, praise, and submission to others? The Scripture is full of lists of fruit of the Spirit; these are a few found in Ephesians 4-5. Do they reflect your character?
If the Spirit of God is living in you, then your life will be defined by the fruit of the Spirit. You can live your life around God’s people, even be considered a brother or a sister in God’s family, but if your life is defined by the works of the flesh, then it is a strong indicator that you are not actually part of God’s family.
At some point, Jesus will bring all of our hearts into the light and we will be judged based on whether or not we have trusted in Him. But for now, we can examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. If our life reflects the fruit of the Spirit, then it provides assurance that we are in the faith. But if our life reflects the works of the flesh, even if we seem like we are a part of the family of God, self-examination should provide a wake-up call for us.
Don’t be like Simeon and Levi, and live your life thinking that you are part of the family of God, only to be reminded when it is too late that your life is defined by works of the flesh. If you do, then you too will be forever cursed instead of blessed.
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