In Genesis 34, Leah’s daughter, Dinah, is raped by Hivite Prince Shechem. Infatuated, Shechem bargains with Jacob and his sons to make Dinah Shechem’s wife. Jacob’s sons tell Shechem he can’t have Dinah unless he and their men are circumcised. The Hivites agree. They will benefit by mingling with the Hebrews: flocks and possessions will be shared (Gen. 34:23). But things didn’t turn out as they expected: “On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords, went into the unsuspecting city, and killed every male” (Gen. 34:25). The rest of Israel’s sons joined Simeon and Levi in plundering the city.
Circumcision depicts the cross: “You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12). When we believe, we come into Christ’s death and resurrection. He put off the flesh through death and left it buried. He rose separate from the flesh. To us in Christ, the Spirit appropriates the separation from the flesh effected through the cross.
Shechem shows the soul that makes the cross a means to selfish ends. It seems insane that anyone could dream of personal gain when they hear Jesus say, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Yet this is what Shechem and the Hivites heard: circumcision would be a means to greater prosperity. How dark are our hearts that we can twist the cross of Christ into an instrument of personal gain?
Perhaps this is the person Paul has in mind when he talks about those “who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain” (1 Tim. 6:5). There are certainly those in every generation who become wealthy by fleecing the Lord’s flocks.
Some may teach the cross to become important, to impress others with their “depth,” or gain admirers. Others value religion because it gives them status in their families or social circles.
Maybe we sacrifice a lot or give because we want to be recognized for “selflessness.” There is no better photo-op than charity.
There are many ways to adopt an outward “Christianity” that serves self-interest. Shechem and the Hivites were circumcised in their bodies but not their hearts. Circumcision of the heart was God’s deeper purpose: “The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live” (Deut. 30:6). Circumcision of the heart results in loving the Lord.
Loving the Lord means valuing Him and who He is for His own sake. Making someone a means to selfish ends is the antithesis of love. “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). How can we go through the motions of laying down our lives? Adopting a semblance of sacrifice to personally gain has nothing to do with Christ who laid down His life so that others would gain. It is an affront to God and everything He is.
The Lord desires those that *love* Him, that value what He does. The Lord wants us to choose the cross to love as He loved: “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Sacrifice must come from love of God and others.
Shechem didn’t consent to circumcision because he joined to God and His people. He did it for his own gratification. The end of that was destruction. If we enter into the circumcision of the cross without truly joining to Christ or His people, our souls will not survive when the Spirit brings the cross within. We will not experience resurrection in ourselves. We will know spiritual destruction. If our interests lie with the flesh, everything we are will be cut off when the cross cuts off the flesh. Shechem discovered this on the third day. The third day should be a day of resurrection, a day of life out of death. But when death and self-gratification actuate a person, the third day is the day they stay buried.