When we were on a camping holiday once, we struck up a friendship with the couple on the next pitch. They told us a tale about taking a youth group away for a short break. A couple of little local lads – brothers – took great interest in the fun and games that the group were enjoying. One day, while the group was out on a ramble, the two brothers sneaked in to their lodge through an open window, and discovered some fun awaiting the group on their return – a whole load of ready-filled water balloons! Why wait for the others to get back??? They popped every last one of those balloons, and instead of having fun, our friends and their youth group returned to find a terrible soggy mess to clear up.
Two lads together! Mischief! That’s what Jacob had discovered in Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-7). Partners in crime. They had probably egged each other on from childhood, and continued to encourage each other to ways increasingly violent as they got older. Jacob had been horrified to hear of how they had tricked and murdered Shechem, his father, and all the males of the city, after Shechem had dishonoured their sister (Genesis 34). Now, on his deathbed, how could Jacob find a blessing for these two? Interesting to note that his curse was not on his sons, however evil they had become, but on the anger that gave birth to their vile actions.
Still, he did not find a blessing for them, instead he distanced himself from them, and disassociated himself from their actions (v6). And he also proclaimed a distancing of them from one another – Simeon’s land was southernmost, bordering only Judah, while Levi’s tribe was given no land of its own, but a few towns in each of the others’ territories. Divide and rule. That’s how Jacob managed it.
We are very strongly influenced by people we spend a lot of time with. So I guess we need to check out who we pal up with, and who our kids are palling up with too. What influences are we most affected by? Are they for good, or harm? And it may not just be human ‘friends’ – what about computer games, or TV, the books or magazines we read, or the staffroom chatter? We need to think carefully about who or what we allow to shape our thinking. We need to disassociate ourselves from toxic relationships of any sort, and align ourselves with people and influences that lead us in a right direction, if we don’t want to miss out on any of the blessings God has for us.