What about Reuben?


(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

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among the garbage and the flowers

The Word for today:
Genesis 41:14-57

“Joseph had ample reason for self-pity, rage, anger with God, and revenge. He had immense reasons to become enslaved to victimhood. But there is not a “poor me” hint anywhere in the entire Genesis account of Joseph. Though enslaved, Joseph chose to reject the slavery of self-pity and victimhood.” (1)

Through it all, he believed that the LORD was with him.
See the incident with Potiphar’s wife: the story is bracketed by the reason for Joseph’s success in 39:2, 21, 23:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. (Genesis 39:2)

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. (Genesis 39:21)

The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper. (Genesis 39:23)

Your Bible says the same about you:
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
(Matthew 1:22-23)

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)


Never once, whether in prosperity or adversity, had Joseph doubted God. Ripped out of his house at 17, hauled down to Egypt, one thing after another happening to him–and yet he believed God was with him. He had sensed and appropriated God’s presence in every circumstance.

Among the garbage and the flowers…
“Joseph’s life teaches us that life is full of inequities and unfairness and tragedies. But it also teaches us that we have a great God who is with us, working amidst the rich compost of human life to do his will.” (2)


(1) and (2) — Quoted from “Genesis: Beginning and Blessing” by R. Kent Hughes

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the things that never happened

The Word for today:
Genesis 40:1-41:13

mark this: Genesis 40:23–
Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Joseph, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, is thrown into prison.

There he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and his baker. Predicting that the butler would be set free and restored to his former position, Joseph asked just one favor in return:
In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.  (Genesis 40:13-14)

But the butler is so elated with going back to his job and being in favor with Pharaoh again that he forgets all about poor Joseph.

In spite of the discouragement, Joseph believed that God was moving in his life, and the fruits of his faith were apparent. He was faithful in every relationship of his life. He was faithful to Potiphar. In prison he was faithful to the keeper of the prison. He was faithful to God, always giving Him the glory. We will see later on that he will be faithful to Pharaoh, and he will be faithful to his own brothers. Joseph’s faith made him faithful.

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. He feels forgotten, forsaken. To the natural eye, it looks like his prayers have not been answered.

But Joseph saw with the eyes of faith. He saw right through the little “No’s” to a bigger “Yes.”

God wants to leave him there for a purpose. Suppose the butler had said to Pharaoh, “There is a prisoner down there who is innocent. He should not be there—he has been falsely accused. And he interpreted my dream for me. I sure would appreciate it, Pharaoh, if you would let him out.”

If Pharaoh had let Joseph out, he would have been at home in the land of Canaan at the time that Pharaoh needed him to interpret his dream. But God wants to keep him nearby, and prison is a convenient place to keep him. There will be no difficulty in Pharaoh’s finding him when he needs him.

Because it is impossible (for us) to know the things that didn’t happen, it is impossible to calculate the benefits of God’s “No’s.”

But the things that never happened may prove, someday, to be the best things that ever happened to us.


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Joseph: a prophetic picture of Jesus


josephs-dream 2

The Word for today:  Genesis 38, 39

There is no one in the entire Old Testament who is more closely a type of the Lord Jesus Christ than is Joseph.

(A type of Christ in scripture is a prophetic picture of the Christ to come–or a prophetic picture of the conditions of his coming kingdom.)

There is so much resemblance between Joseph and Jesus that we’ve constructed a chart which will alert you to some of these parallels.   As you read, be on the lookout for these remarkable prophetic illustrations of Jesus!

Joseph—a type of Christ:

Joseph              Parallels                                         Jesus

37:2       A shepherd of his father’s sheep           John 10:11, 27-29

37:3       His father loved him dearly                      Matt. 3:17

37:4       Hated  by his brothers                              John 7:4,5

37: 13,14     Sent by father to seek his brothers   Heb. 2:11

37:20      Others plotted to harm him                      John 11:53

37:23       Robes taken from them                            John 19:23,24

37:26       Taken to Egypt                                         Matt. 2:14,15

37:28       Sold, by his own, for the price of a slave    Matt. 26:15

39:7         Tempted                                                      Matt. 4:1

39:16-18  Falsely accused                                         Matt 26:59-60

39:20       Bound in chains                                         Matt. 27:2

40:2,3      Placed with two other prisoners (one saved, one lost)   Luke 23:32

41:41       Exalted after suffering                                Philemon 2: 9-11

41:46       30 years old at beginning of public recognition      Luke 3:23

42:24; 45:2,14,15; 46:29    Both wept                         John 11:35

45:1-15    Forgave those who wronged them           Luke 23:34

45:7          Saved their nation                                       Matt. 1:21

50:20        What men did to hurt them, God turned to good  1 Cor. 2:7,8


*Miraculous births;

*Coat of many colors set him apart–Christ separate from sinners;

*Joseph ruled over brethren;

*Christ presented Himself as Messiah and was ridiculed;

*Both raised out of the pit (grave);

*Both mocked;

*Delivered to the Gentiles;

*“Numbered with the transgressors;”

*Seemingly died (or so his father thought) and was “brought to life” again as a triumphant king instead of a suffering servant.

*Both had Gentile “brides.”

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amazing, abounding grace–part 2

The Word for today:
Genesis 37

mark this: Romans 5:20 —
But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

When we look at its panoramic whole, we see that the prevailing theme of Genesis is grace.

Yesterday, we saw God’s grace in the lives of Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. Today we will conclude by looking closely at our most popular hymn–John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.”

Grace means that God is good even when we aren’t. God’s grace is what saves us:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What Ephesians 2:8-9 means, when stripped of its theological terminology, is that God didn’t save me because I am good, he saved me because he is good.

Grace upon grace.
We usually focus on saving grace, as in John Newton’s hymn:

“Amazing grace!–how sweet the sound–that saved a wretch like me.”

But there is much more in the word ‘grace’,  as the rest of the hymn bears out.  The second verse sings of preparatory or, as the theologians say, prevenient grace:

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

Newton’s third verse is about sustaining, enabling grace:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snare, I have already come;
’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

And the final stanza is about glorifying grace:

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”



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