Good evening everyone. Great to see you all. Please keep your bibles
open at Genesis 33-34, and if English isn’t your first language then
you are more than welcome to follow along online, this message is
available to read at citychurchmanchester.org/sermon-text.
Now today we’re going to talk about a difficult subject. We’re going
to be talking about sexual abuse, and sexual assault, because, as I’m
sure you noticed when it was read a few moments ago, the central
incident in our passage is the rape of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob.
Now, given that this is a difficult subject, I want to just preface what
I’m going to say with a couple of comments.
I’m not a doctor. Neither am I a qualified counsellor, or psychologist,
or psychiatrist. I’ve never been a victim of sexual abuse myself, and
I’ve had limited interaction as a pastor with those who have,
although I’ve had some. But that certainly doesn’t mean I know
everything there is to know about this subject. And so I’m
approaching this with humility, and with an absolute desire to love
you guys and have you leave here encouraged in Jesus. But I know
that I’m dealing with some really difficult things, things that for some
of you are very real, that cause you significant pain, and so, if I say
something in the next few minutes that’s stupid, or wrong, or that
hurts you, please forgive me. My goal right now is to serve you well,
that we would leave here knowing more of the goodness of God, and
the healing that is offered to all of us in Jesus Christ. So, that being
said, would you pray with me?
The pollution of beauty
Beauty is a big deal to us, isn’t it? We love beautiful things. We
admire beautiful people. We take walks in beautiful countryside. We
take pictures of beautiful food and beautiful buildings. We decorate
our houses to make them beautiful. We spend lots of money on
beauty products, and beautiful clothes. Even if you’re not into
aesthetic much, you might love beautiful cars, or beautifully
designed computer code… or something… I dunno! But I think that
beauty is for sure something we all value, and we miss it when it’s
When we lived in Phoenix, we missed the beauty of the UK
countryside. Phoenix is a great place to live, but it’s not the most
beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s in the desert, and it’s kinda…
brown. But there was a park near where we lived with a lake in it. It
wasn’t much to look at, but it was the best we could find, and we
often used to take the boys for a walk there to feed the ducks. It was
our beauty spot, that we’d go and enjoy. And one day, we showed
up and the water, which was usually clear, was a cloudy white
colour. And as we stood on the edge of the pond we could see dead
fish floating in the shallows. And the smell was awful. And it was a
really sad moment, because something beautiful had been ruined.
Someone had polluted it.
And that is how God describes sexual abuse in Genesis 34. It’s the act
of taking someone’s sexuality, a glorious, beautiful gift that God has
given, and polluting it. Dinah is described in verses 5, 13 and 27 as
being defiled by Shechem. The author uses the Hebrew word tame
(ta-may), it describes something pure and beautiful being polluted.
And the result of that pollution, for Dinah, is that her glory is turned
into shame. When in verse 2 the NIV says that Shechem raped her,
the word there means “humiliated”. He shamed her. He took what
was beautiful and glorious, and pure, and made it a source of deep
shame in her life.
And we hate that, or we should. It’s disgusting, it’s violating. And we
long for the recovery of beauty, we want shame to be covered, glory
recovered. And that’s why the gospel is such good news for survivors
of sexual abuse. Because Jesus loves to make the broken beautiful.
He loves to clothe the shameful in glory. But in order to get there, we
need to first recognise where we are. We need to understand the
foundational nature of sexual abuse.
And our passage today shows us that sexual abuse is a reality in our
world because our world is polluted by sin.
Our world is polluted by sin
If you remember back a couple of weeks, Jacob has been told by God
to return home. And specifically, God wants Jacob to come back to a
place called Bethel. The name means, the house of God, and it’s
where Jacob first met God when he was running away from his
brother Esau. But, at the end of chapter 33, when Jacob finally gets
free, when he finally has a chance to choose where to live he first
goes to a place called Sukkoth, and then, he goes to a place called
Shechem, where he buys land and sets up an altar. He’s close to
Bethel, approximately 20 miles away, but he’s not there.
And notice that in the entire story, God is not mentioned once. The
unmistakeable implication is that Shechem is not God’s city, and so
Jacob, and his family, should not expect the city to be characterised
by God’s just rule.
Now understand me when I say that. Expecting injustice is not the
same as accepting it. We should never accept sexual abuse as
something normal in our lives. Indeed, our experience of abuse
should cause us to yearn more and more for justice.
But we have to grasp the reality that sexual abuse is symptomatic of
a deeper problem. Humanity doesn’t want to be ruled by God. We
don’t want Him to have authority over us, we don’t want his laws to
stop us from doing what we want, and so we reject God and live life
our own way. The Bible calls that sin. And in rejecting God’s rule, we
also reject His justice. We are sinful people, living amongst sinful
people. We live in Shechem. We don’t experience the perfect rule
and justice of God in our lives.
And so we read in verse 1 of chapter 33;
Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit
the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw
her, he took her and raped her.
Rape is a horrifying product of sin, of rejecting God. And to address
it, we have to deal with sin and the effects of sin to recover what is
beautiful. The lake needs to be cleaned. The pollution removed.
But, let me just pause right now to say this very clearly. To any
Dinah’s in the room:
It’s not your fault
One of the most common consequences of sexual abuse is that those
who have been abused feel guilty, which is not the same as feeling
shame. Shame is a profound sense of the loss of beauty, but guilt is a
belief that it is in some way your fault. That actually, had you done
something differently, you wouldn’t have created this devastating
situation that is causing so much trauma in you own life and the lives
of those around you. And it’s could be easy when we start linking
abuse to sin for you to start feeling super guilty, and thinking that
God is mad with you for something you’ve done.
So hear me loud and clear. This is not Dinah’s fault. All she does is
visit the city to make some female friends. That is not wrong. That
doesn’t make you guilty.
Because it was Shechem who sins. He takes her, like an object to be
grasped and owned. Motivated by his own lust, he shames her. He
violates her sexuality, it was not his to take. Shechem has guilt.
Shechem was wrong. Dinah was not.
And it’s so important for you to try and disassociate the shame that
you feel with feelings of guilt. Guilt and shame so often go together.
Shechem, for example, should feel ashamed, because he is guilty.
But Dinah – you feel shame, the loss of beauty, but it’s not your fault.
It’s not your fault. And recognising that is an important step on the
journey to healing. But it’s only the first step. Because there are lots
of ways of dealing with sexual abuse, many of which are deeply
unhelpful. And we see three such ways exemplified in this passage.
Firstly, Shechem and Hamor hide it.
They hide what they’ve done. So Hamor comes to Jacob and his sons
in v8 and says;
“My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her
to him as his wife. 9 Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and
take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the
land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”
His seeks unity without repentance. No “sorry”. No recognition of
guilt. He’s trying to hide the abuse that’s been committed, to cover
up the shame of the situation by pretending everything is ok.
Shechem does the same thing. He speaks kind words to Dinah, in
verse 3, and he offers gifts to her family, in verse 11, but no apology.
He’s hiding what he’s done, he’s not acknowledging guilt.
But here’s the truth, trying to play happy families when there has
been no real repentance of sin, doesn’t fix anything. In fact, it just
perpetuates a cycle of abuse. Because notice, they’re still trying to
exploit the situation. Shechem just wants Dinah as his possession,
and when they pitch the deal they strike with Jacob’s sons to the
other men in the city, they say in verse 23;
Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals
They’re thinking about what else they can gain from this situation.
Let me say again what I said a moment ago. In order to recover
beauty, sin must be dealt with. If it isn’t, the stench of pollution will
That is true if you are a perpetrator of sexual abuse here this
evening. I assume there are several here tonight. Whether you
assaulted someone yourself, or you approved of it by viewing
pornography. You’re guilty, and rightly ashamed. You need to stop
hiding it, and deal with.
But it’s also true for survivors too. Because there’s another way of
hiding what has happened. Abusers hide it, but secondly, survivors
bury it, to try and carry on with their lives.
One of our friends was abused as a child, and for many years she
kept silent about it like nothing had happened. And then stuff just
started to go wrong. She found she wasn’t coping like she thought
she was able to. And she started seeing that some of her coping
mechanisms weren’t healthy anyway. The pain that she was hiding,
in an effort to live a normal life, was coming out.
One of the most striking things in this passage is Jacob’s silence. To
this point in his life he’s been a man of action, always keen to put
into motion the next plan he’s thought up. But now, in one of the
greatest moments of pain and humiliation, he says and does nothing.
It’s his sons who speak on his behalf, assuming the position of
Dinah’s father. They even say in verse 17,
But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our daughter
The NIV translates it sister, but actually the word there is daughter.
Her actual father has been rendered mute. He’s almost incapacitated
by the tragedy. But it’s not just that he’s stunned into silence. He has
a strategy. His great goal is to find peace. When we’ve been violated,
when we’ve received a deep wound, our flesh screams out for
comfort and peace.
And when he finally does speak to his sons at the end of the story in
verse 30, that’s all he wants. He’s scared that even the fractured
peace he has will be taken from him.
You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the
Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few
in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my
household will be destroyed.”
Jacob is mastered by a desire for self-preservation, and so he
suppresses the rage and grief that he must have felt. And he says
nothing. Peace must be his at all costs.
But he tries to gain it without healing. Without addressing the deep
pain in his life. And when we ball it up, when we pack it deep down
inside and try to forget that it’s there, to live like nothing ever
happened, and pursue peace by pretending that nothing bad has
Eventually, the pain will erupt. It comes out in destructive
behaviours. It affects our mental health. It comes out in flashbacks,
and panic attacks, and any number of other negative ways. Pain
must be dealt with, wounds must be healed, or suffering will
continue, and increase.
And it does here, as Jacob’s sons fill the vacuum left by their father,
and seek to rid themselves of their own misery by lashing out.
When we’re hurting, one of the most natural responses is to lash out
and cause a huge amount of pain to others. There’s a deep desire in
us for retribution. To regain what was taken from us by taking it from
Verse 7 says that Jacob’s sons were shocked and furious, because
Shechem had done an outrageous thing by sleeping with their sister.
They have no intention of making peace with Shechem and his
father, but instead hatch a plot to murder them. They say in verse
We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that
you become like us by circumcising all your males.
So every man in the city was circumcised. And then on the third day,
whilst they were incapacitated, Simeon and Levi killed them all. And
the younger brothers looted the city, taking the women, children and
all their possessions for themselves.
This is not justice. It’s revenge. In fact, it’s abuse. Shechem needs to
pay for what he has done. But in the end, the corpses of every man
in the city are piled up in the streets, their genitals mutilated, and
their wives and children taken into slavery.
You see, if our cry for justice is not satisfied, we can actually become
abusers ourselves. We hurt people around us to medicate our own
pain. And all the time, the pool is becoming more, not less, polluted.
We’re still as far away from recapturing the beauty that we lost as
we ever were.
But the bible offers us hope this evening, and it offers us a different
way of dealing with the pollution of sexual abuse. It gives us hope
because it shows us how beauty is recovered. The message of the
gospel tells us that Jesus Christ was defiled, Jesus Christ became
polluted, so that we might become beautiful again. God the Son
waded down into the pollution of our lives to take it upon himself.
And that’s good news for survivors of sexual abuse, and
perpetrators, because Christ deals with the dual problem of the guilt
of our sin, and the shame that we feel.
So on the cross, Jesus took on himself the guilt of sexual abuse. He
paid for it all, so that sexual abusers who trust in him won’t face the
condemnation of God. And he calls all who come to in faith to step
into the light, to stop hiding, to deal with the consequences of your
actions, and experience his transforming power of grace at work in
your life. Christ came for the guilty. He meets you as you are. His
grace isn’t cheap. But it is worth it. He takes our guilt, but he also
removes our shame.
On the cross, Jesus was utterly humiliated. He was shamed before
the crowds, crucified naked, his sexuality exposed for the world to
mock and laugh. And he did that so that your shame might be
The prophet Isaiah looks forward to what Jesus would do and wrote;
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has
clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of
his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and
as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
If you have put your faith in Jesus, He changes places with you, so
that your shame becomes his, and his glory becomes yours. He
doesn’t change what has happened to you. But he gives you what is
his. He recovers the beauty that was stolen, and makes you glorious
again. And he does that in the sense that God looks at you and sees
you as beautiful, but he also does that in the sense of changing the
way you feel about yourself.
God the Holy Spirit lives in you to subjectively bring home to you the
change that Jesus has made. So the apostle Paul writes in Romans
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
God the trinity is working for restore your beauty, to remove your
shame. And that’s an ongoing process, you won’t ever experience
the full effect of this until you stand before God face to face. But
know this, let it give you hope:
One day, we will live in a city of glory, purity, and righteousness.
Jesus will be there, and if you have faith, so will you. And your
beauty will be restored, your wounds will be healed. We live, today,
for that day. And as we allow God to apply the work of the gospel to
our hearts, we begin to experience the transformation that will one
day be ours because of Jesus.
It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to stop burying the past. It’s time to
stop lashing out. God has more for you than that. Come to Jesus, and
let him heal your wounds, as his grace removes your guilt, and
clothes your shame.