(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Genesis 42
mark this: Genesis 42:37-38 —
Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.” But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you…”
Poor Reuben. Nobody ever seems to listen to you. You were Jacob’s firstborn son (1)! You had such promise. But even as the eldest, you were never a natural leader. You couldn’t stop your closest brothers Simeon & Levi from going upon a murderous rampage (2). When your brothers decided to nix Joseph, you knew in your heart it wasn’t right. You tried to cook up a little scheme to rescue Joseph, make the other nine look bad, and perhaps get back into Papa Jacob’s good graces, but that didn’t work either (3). Nothing ever seems to work for you.
And then there was the whole incident with Bilhah (4). Nothing like crashing your father’s harem to add dysfunction to an family that was already on the edge. The worst part about it was that even after this, your father did and said nothing- which is exactly what you feel like. You’re no longer just an embarrassment, you are a ghost. Nobody talks bad about you, in fact, no one talks to you at all. And now once again, you find your voice, your promises, your vows not just turned down, but not even heard.
Is there room in the kingdom for the nobodies?
I sure hope so, because Reuben is so typical of so much of humanity. Weak. Inconsistent. Wanting to do what is right but not able to. Full of sin, skeletons in the closet and shame. Reuben’s life is a mess, not because of one fatal mistake, but a whole lifetime of weakness. His life is an example of one of the most subtle of dangers of sin- passive drift.
Don’t forget, the vast majority of people on this planet are not ax murderers or serial killers or terrorists. The vast majority are not militant atheists who want to wage war on everything that has to do with God. The vast majority are like Reuben, quietly and passively floating down the river of life. They generally don’t rock the boat (at least not that often). They make good neighbors and co-workers (or at least not bad ones). They have nothing personally against God (except that they are personally against any real involvement by Him in their lives). They are neither seekers nor rebels spiritually, they’re just a-passing through.
But in the end, it is the folks who are most like Reuben who are the most in danger of eternal loss. As CS Lewis pointed out, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones (5). “
The only hope I have for Reuben is the same hope I have for myself. Even a life that was as consistent as a sloshing bucket of water (6) can be a life that is redeemed.
You see Reuben, even after everyone else gave up on you, your brother Joseph forgave you. Even all the junk you pulled or failed to pull off, God was able to work good out of it (7). So cheer up Reub, you miserable failure! All your mistakes serve as a means to further show just how amazing the grace of God really is.
(1) Genesis 29:32
(2) Genesis 34:25
(3) Genesis 37:21-22
(4) Genesis 35:22
(5) Quoted from Mere Christianity
(6) Genesis 49:4
(7) Genesis 50:19-21