“Does obedience lead to reward?” asks Coty Pinckney in a sermon, “Obedience and Tragedy”
Last week we saw the dangers of putting off obedience. When Jacob returned to the land of Canaan after 20 years away, he should have returned to Bethel, the place where God had first met him. And he should have returned to his father. He does neither, spending ten years in Succoth and near Canaanite city of Shechem. In consequence of this delayed obedience, the ugly events of Chapter 34 take place: Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped, and the city of Shechem is then raped by Jacob’s revengeful sons, Simeon and Levi.
So we concluded:
- Obey promptly.
- Trust God, even when obedience seems foolish.
- “Know that your greatest joy comes in that trust and obedience”
In today’s text, Jacob at long last obeys God. He returns to Bethel, and afterwards returns to his father.And having obeyed, what happens?
- Do they all live happily ever after?
- Does all the family have great joy now that their father is walking in obedience?
- Does Jacob now live in peace, without the stresses and strains seen in the last few chapters?
Not at all. As we shall see, the story of Jacob’s obedience is followed directly by the stories of two tragedies, and bracketed by the deaths two elderly people.
Why does God do this? Doesn’t He want to encourage us to obedience?
If you want to teach obedience, don’t you tell stories in which disobedience is punished and obedience is rewarded? Did your parents tell you stories like that when you were young? So why doesn’t God tell us stories like that?
My friends, God’s goal is not to bribe us into obedience. If that were His goal, He could accomplish it easily. After all, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The whole earth is His.
And those of you who are parents know that bribing children into obedience works temporarily, but utterly fails in the long run, for it does nothing to change the child’s character, to change the child’s inner desires.