The Shoulder City

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a city called Shechem, which means “back or shoulder.” And a man named Abram came to Shechem, to the oak tree. And the Lord appeared to him there and spoke to him saying, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So Abram built an altar to the Lord there, on Shoulder City. (Gen 12:6-8)

Abram had a grandson, and his name was Jacob. Jacob traveled and also arrived at the city of Shechem. And he decided to buy the land there, which cost him 100 pieces of money. So he built an altar to the Lord there, called it “God, the God of Israel,” he pitched his tent there on Shoulder City. (Gen 33:18-20)

Jacob had a son, and his name was Joseph. Joseph was the beloved son of Jacob. One day, Joseph went searching for his brothers among the land of Shechem. But since they were jealous of him and hated him, they threw him into a pit and left him to be kidnapped. (Gen 37:1-36) But the Lord was with Joseph, and he prospered. The Lord gave him success in everything he did. And God restored Joseph to his brothers and father. Before Jacob died, he blessed Joseph and told him, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers.” (Gen 48:21) And Joseph believed the promise that he’d return to Shoulder City.

Before Joseph died, he spoke of the promise. “God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on an oath to Abraham, Issac and Jacob.” Then he said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from his place.” Then he died and was placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Gen 39:2,4; 50:24-26)

There was once also a man named Moses. And after 430 years of slavery in Egpyt, Moses led the people into the promised land (the one that had been promised to Abram). And as they left Egypt, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath.” And the bones of Joseph, coffined in Egypt for 430 years, now traveled with the people on the way to the promised land. (Ex 13:19)

Along the journey, Moses mentored a young man named Joshua. Tens of years after Moses died, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and surrounding cities, and physically brought the people into the promised land. And Joshua saw the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram. Then Joshua died. “And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver.” (Josh 24:32) After hundreds of years, Joseph’s promise was fulfilled, and he was returned to Shoulder City.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus had to pass through Samaria. And he came to a town called Sychar (formerly known as Shechem) near the plot of ground Jacob had given to Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus was tired so he sat down by the well to rest. A woman came at that time to draw water from the well. She came around noon, — the hottest time of day when no other women would be around — so she could avoid ridicule and shame. For you see, she had been living a shameful lifestyle. But she met Jesus there at that well in Shechem. And he gave her living water. And he shouldered her burden. (John 4)

He brought restoration at Jacob’s well. Joseph had been left for dead and kidnapped in one of Jacob’s wells. But Joseph had been restored and his bones now rested near that well. And hundreds and hundreds of years later, in that land — the land that was promised to Abram and his desendents — God once again appeared in Shoulder City. He brought healing, restoration and salvation.

Where is your Shechem? Where is the place where God first appeared, and made you a promise? Where is the place you built an altar of remembrance, acknowledging God for who he is? Where is the place where you promise seemed to have died, but it was really just stolen from you? Where is the place God will return you to, because he doesn’t lie? Where is the place that future generations will come to be restored and healed, where his spirit will quench all who thirst? Where is the place he will shoulder for you, where he will carry it on his back?

Where is your Shechem?

Go back to your Shechem. Meet Jesus there. Let the dry bones speak…let the living water wash over you. Go back. Go at the noon hour if you have to, but go. Go and be restored.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields them all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” – Deut 33:12

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