"Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness, they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel."
In response to the rape of their young sister, Dinah, Simeon and Levi plot and exact revenge on the men of Shechem. There is a part of me, to be quite honest, that cheers their fierceness in defending their sister. But Jacob was dismayed at their violence. It would have been one thing to demand justice from the perpetrator. It was another thing to exceed the eye-for-eye bounds of justice in pouring out their fury on an entire city. Jacob, from his deathbed, has not forgotten their behavior. And he offers his blessing. But his blessing sounds more like a curse.
But Simeon and Levi are sheep of God's flock. And He is the Good Shepherd. Turns out theirs is a story of hope amid the consequences.
Consider Simeon. He is destined to be scattered because of his violent anger. Yet we find Simeon nestled right inside the territory of Judah. Simeon's storyline will find him alternately defending the tribe of the Messiah and being protected deep within its bounds.
Our stories find us there, too. Our lives are laid before before Him with Whom we have to do. He will bring judgment; He will remove middle ground. We are, in essence, cornered by God. But we are carried by God, too. When we stray out of bounds, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to come get us. He lifts us to His shoulders and brings us back. And sometimes, sometimes, He buries us deep within the Messiah's boundary.
Can't get out...
But when I calm down enough to think,..
Surrounded by strong arms.
Not pinning me down...
Wrapping themselves around me...
Maybe being hemmed in by this Messiah isn't such a bad deal...
Consider Levi. Scattered indeed. Of all the tribes, Levi is the only one who doesn't get any territory. Their inheritance is the Lord.
Yeah, yeah, God's my passion.
Not really. Though they did have an occasional good day, like the time they rallied to Moses against the golden calf, Levi's commitment is, shall we say, rather spotty.
Levi, who made such a show of strength in Genesis 34, will be beholden to the rest of the tribes for sustenance and shelter.
Levi will be the ransom for the firstborn.
Levi, who intentionally spilled the blood of Shechem, will administer the cities of refuge.
Cities of refuge, which offer shelter to the unintentional spiller of blood, but turn over the cold-blooded killer for justice...
Daily reminders of what should have been for Levi,
Of the mercy of God...
Of not getting what was so justly deserved...
Oh, and Shechem, the very site of Levi's vicious carnage?
That would be one of the refuges.
More importantly, Levi will deal in bloodshed in a whole new way.
Rams, bulls, goats, sheep, pigeons, turtledoves...
Blood running down the altar, down their garments...
Everywhere the sights, sounds, smell of death...
I will show you what you must suffer for My name...
And every day they would be the ones to make intercession for the people.
God did not give Levi the boot after Shechem. But he did have a plan for them.
He carried that sheep back into the flock.
And up there, on His shoulders, from that perspective, Levi saw the cost of sin.
Levi did the work of atonement...
Levi did the work of inspection...
It was Levi who went into the Holy of Holies...
To face a holy, holy, holy God once a year.
Life up on His shoulders. Sometimes we do time up there.
Some of us more than others.
So next time you blow it, and He hoists you up, yeah, you might lose some independence.
Yeah, you might be getting a ride that the other sheep all see.
But He's not casting you out.
He's holding you close.
And maybe you'll get a glimpse, just a small glimpse, of life from God's perspective.
That's a sweet ride.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10
(Many thanks to my elders, Brett and Craig, for helping me connect some of these dots.)