Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Genesis - Why Reuben gives me hope...

And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? Genesis 37:29,30

When I say I want to grow spiritually, I don't just penny ante about the business. So this week I've added a new aspect to my day.

At work, we're allowed to wear headphones to block out our obnoxious neighbors entertain ourselves while we work. Typically, I'm listening to music or a Matt Chandler sermon - seeing as my pastor from my "home" church has yet to put his sermons on cd for me *hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge*, but this week I've finally implemented something I'd been thinking about for awhile: BibleGateways Audio Bible.

In short, I'm listening to a book of the Bible a day. Tomorrow, Leviticus. Yeah. I'm as thrilled as you would be.
But it also explains why you got two posts on Genesis back to back. :)
There was a third post to be had from Genesis though, but I just couldn't figure out what it was.

You see, as I was listening to the story of Joseph suffering the betrayal of his brothers, there was something about it that really bugged me but I just couldn't quite put my finger on it. Tonight, as I thought about it again it suddenly hit me.

It's Reuben. His little part gets just two quick verses, but those two verses caught me.

The brothers are watching Joseph coming towards them and begin plotting to kill poor Joe and toss him into a pit. However, Reuben hears of the plan and suggest they not go so far as to kill the boy, but instead just throw him in the pit and leave him there. Reuben plans to go back and get Joseph out and return him safely to their father.

Instead though, after they put him in a pit, some traders come along and they sell Joseph to the traders.

Reuben, apparently unaware of what's going on, goes back to the pit to pull Joseph out and discovers him gone.

That's where that verse above comes into play. Reuben rips at his clothes and wonders what on earth he's going to do. (paraphrasing)

Why does that mean something to me? Why do I appreciate that verse?
Because God didn't have to put it in. He could have just left it at how awful the brothers were, how they faked their brothers death, and put him in a pit, and sold him. But there was one brother in the crowd, and God thought it was worthwhile to mention his desire to help the brother. God thought it was important to show someone that's in a bad crowd, and that doesn't intend to follow what the crowd is doing, but finds himself far in over his head.

It's not too often in my life I've followed a crowd. But every once in a great blue moon I've found myself in a crowd that left me uneasy, and feeling "wrong" and as though I shouldn't be there.

I've got to tell you, never once in my life did I imagine that God cared that I didn't feel comfortable there. I've always imagined God saying "Get out you idiot" (or something to that effect) and when I didn't, well... I got what I deserved.

Maybe it wouldn't mean anything to anyone else in the world, but once I figured out what was bugging me about those verses, I just couldn't help but feel grateful, relieved, surprised even. God cares about the crowd I'm in. He cares that while I might be in a situation over my head with people doing something wrong, that well, I don't want to be doing something wrong. He sees my intentions, and the desire of my heart, even when my actions - unfortunately - don't always line up with those intentions.

As you carry on through the book of Genesis, you know that in chapter 49 Jacob dies. But just before he dies he blesses each of his children. After considering all this about Reuben, I wanted to find out what kind of blessing Reuben got and I was both pleased and sobered:

Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. Genesis 49:3-4

Jacob was married to both Leah and Rachel, but had children not only with them, but with each of their maidservants. According to 35:22, apparently Reuben "went and lay with" Bilhah, Leahs maidservant (whom Jacob had also "went and lay with"). That explains the last part of those verses but it seems to also lead me back to Joseph.

Reuben seems like he wants to do well, but it just doesn't work out. And that's what his blessing seems to indicate as well. The verse 3, shows all his goodness, "excellency of dignity" - what an awesome phrase to be able to use for someone! - but then verse 4 begins "unstable as water".

I appreciate that God knows I want to have the "excellency of dignity" in my heart and working in my actions as well - but I pray He helps me find more stability than what Reuben had. I hope I never find myself in a crowd and lumped in with their sins. Because that's exactly what happened when they met Joseph again later on.

I want to be the Reuben of verse 3, but I sure appreciate knowing that God sees me even when I - despite the best of intentions - find myself in over my head.

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