Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jacob’s Prediction About Reuben and His Tribe - Genesis 49:3-4:


Reuben, you are my first-born; My might and the beginning of my strength.  Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.  Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it – he went up to my couch.”

Reuben was clearly Jacob’s firstborn in terms of being ‘first out of the womb’ of his first wife, Leah.  His name means, “see, a son”.  Jacob truly was proud of him.  He calls him his ‘might’ and the ‘beginning of my strength’.  Parents are wired by the Creator in a way that gives them renewed strength and life from each of their children.  Each one is truly a gift from God that has the incredible capability of being a source of both motivation as well as emotional wellbeing for his or her parents.  It is interesting, but sad, how today many marriages are held together because of the children, perhaps for this very reason.  And then when the kids are grown up and gone, the marriage falls apart.  Older parents have their energy renewed when visited by their children.  Some of us even get our energy from seeing our grandchildren.  I cringe when I hear some folks who are legally grandparents want very little to do with their grandkids, arguing, “we’ve been there, done that; now it’s our turn to enjoy life; our kids can have all the challenges of raising their own kids.”  That just breaks my heart.

Jacob also comments on Reuben’s personality, indicating his is like boiling or uncontrolled water that is dangerous, or at least unstable, inconsistent, and needs to be mastered.  It is that trait of Reuben’s that got him into trouble with Jacob and causes him to lose his pre-eminence in his birthright and inheritance.  Various parts of these now had to be divided or allocated among Jacob’s other sons, but all in accordance with God’s plans.  While Israel recognizes Reuben’s pre-eminence in dignity and power, it is the pride associated with these that caused Reuben’s loss.  Jacob also foretells that Reuben “will not have pre-eminence” in the future implying that he and those of his tribe that follow him will not be successful.

You will remember Reuben was the one who, as we read in Genesis 35:22, had sexual relations with Bilbah, his father’s concubine and the servant of Jacob’s second and most beloved wife, Rachel.

In this passage here, Jacob refers to that as Reuben going to his bed and defiling his couch.  A circumstance such as this, not only defiles the marriage bed, but also has implications for relationships (his couch).  Still, Jacob when he heard about it had not said anything that is recorded at the time, but clearly he had not forgotten.  It all comes back now, some several decades later.  Jacob did not then and does not to his dying day, disown his son for his actions, just simply takes away some of the benefits he otherwise would have had.  One lesson for us as parents is that there needs to be consequences for the inappropriate behavior of our children, but we are never to disown them.   And the second lesson for all of us here is that as forgiven as we might be in life, from both man and God, when we cause harm to others, we must realize that wrong actions and decisions have their consequences.  Then, we must accept them and make the best of what we still have – we are still children of our Heavenly Father.

The story of Reuben to me is a story of the fall of man.  He was indeed born to be pre-eminent in much including his birthright and inheritance, but his choices caused him to lose it all.  Yet, his father did not disown him.  He had lost much, but he still had a position in the “children of Israel”.   Mankind in general has had a similar experience, on a global level.  That is the story of creation, the fall, and the redemption of mankind.  But many of us have had a parallel journey at a personal level.  Some of us have reached a stage in life that is similar to Reuben’s – we have made errors; we have lost what could have been; we no longer qualified for the responsibilities that God may have set aside for us because He prefers men and women of stability and integrity.  But all is not lost.  God still owns us as His sons and daughters.  As we draw closer to Him, He gives us purpose and roles in His plans for mankind.  We need to accept what has been, realize we have been forgiven, and then proceed to accept His leadership in moving forward.

Still others are at an early point in life; at a stage where no undoable mistake has been committed or action taken.  If you are there, I recommend you adopt all necessary actions, including and especially prayer, which will discipline you in a way that does not allow you to fall and thus lose whatever ‘pre-eminence’ God has in store for you.  I pray it will be so with us all.

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