Our DETOURS from God’s DESTINED paths have DEADLY consequences: Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I." But they said, "Should he treat our sister like a harlot?" (Gen 34:30-31)
After Jacob ran away in fear of his life from his brother Esau to his uncle Laban’s home in Padan Aram (28:2, 5), he remained with his uncle for twenty long years serving him faithfully by taking care of his sheep. His cunning uncle cheated him after seven years by giving him his elder daughter Leah that he had not desired to marry. Jacob was made to serve Laban seven more years in order to marry his younger daughter Rachel, after which, he served six years for his flock. During this period, Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times (31:41) that speaks clearly to us that it is much better to serve God than humans (Psalms 118:8-9).
Now after twenty years, God tells Jacob to return to his inheritance, the land of his fathers and his family. Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family" (31:3, 13). The land that Jacob was to return was Bethel, which God had promised to give him twenty years ago: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants" (28:13). From his side, Jacob had promised God that one day he would return to Bethel, and set up a house for God upon the very stone that he had set up as a pillar and worshiped Him (28:18-22).
As Jacob started his journey from Padan Aram to Bethel, he had to settle his differences with his uncle Laban and his elder brother Esau, but God protected him and his family miraculously. In fact, God’s promise was that He would be with Jacob (31:3b) and true to His word, God protected him from Laban (31:24) and provided him angels along the way (Gen. 32:1). Jacob should have continued on his journey to Bethel without any stops or detours. However, we see that when Jacob came to the city of Shechem, he pitched his tent before the city (Gen. 33:18), and thereafter bought a piece of land property in order to settle there permanently (v. 19).
This stop and detour proved to be a very costly mistake for Jacob! As a result of Jacob’s tent pitched so close to Shechem, Jacob’s daughter Dinah ventured out to seek female companions from Shechem (34:1). She caught the eye of Shechem, the prince of the country, who forcibly raped her (v. 2), and then made a plea to marry her being insanely attracted to her (vv. 3-4). His father Hamor then made a formal marriage proposal to Jacob and his sons (vv. 5-10), and Shechem was ready to give anything that Jacob and his sons wanted (vv. 11-12). The sons of Jacob appeared to be honorable and asked that everyone in Shechem be circumcised in order to join Jacob and his sons in their Abrahamic covenant (vv. 13-17). This proposal was accepted by Shechem, his father Hamor and all the male inhabitants of the city got circumcised on the same day (vv. 18-24).
Thereafter, matters became worse when Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, took matters in their own hands and killed all the males in the city of Shechem (vv. 25-26) and then plundered the city as well as taking the women and children captive (vv. 27-29). One single detour and wrong decision resulted in rape, treachery, murder of innocents and plunder of a city. What a tragedy! God then had to speak to Jacob again and redirect him back to Bethel, his original destination for his journey (35:1).
Let us understand that our detours from God’s destined paths have deadly consequences! Another example is when during the birth of Jesus Christ the wise men detoured from their journey to Bethlehem, and stopped by in the palace of King Herod in Jerusalem to inquire about the newborn king (Matt. 2:1-2). This detour caused the slaughter of countless male children in Bethlehem all of whom were under two years old (Matt. 2:16-18).
When we detour from God’s destined path during our journey of life, the results may not be as tragic as in the case of Jacob or the wise men. However, our misdirection will undoubtedly and adversely affect our lives and the lives of many others who are connected to us in some way. Instead, let us look straight ahead at Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and run our race with endurance as we journey towards our final destination (Heb. 12:1-2).
"Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil." (Prov. 4:25-27)