Jacob’s progeny was an unruly bunch. Our dysfunctional society has nothing on them, and Jacob’s in particular reads like a trashy dime-store novel. Of course, having two official wives and two sort-of wives probably didn’t help much. So let’s start with the first born, who’s name is immortalized in the rye and sauerkraut sandwich, Reuben.
This hot-blooded young man had a one-night stand with one of his father’s sort-of wives (i.e., his step-mother), eventually getting him booted out of line for the first-born blessing rights, which was a really big deal back in those days. (Jacob would have known that, having maneuvered the same kind of deal with his older brother, causing much ado in Isaac’s family…reaping what you sow and all that.)
Even so, this motley crew later decides to turn from shepherds into murderers and kill one of the younger upstarts in the family, Joseph, due to daddy’s favoritism—never a good relational play on a parent’s part. But, lo and behold, it’s actually Reuben that steps in, albeit somewhat under the radar:
“But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. ‘Let’s not kill him,’ he said. ‘Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.’ Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.”
Good for Reuben! One would think this good turn would cancel out his earlier indiscretion, putting him back in line for his original blessing.
We read later that his earlier decision had consequences that followed him, which is kind of bummer, but it’s also reality for us as well. However, here’s something easily missed, but super relevant—
The story of Reuben is not merely about God’s judgment, but also about God’s grace (even in the Old Testament, fancy that!). God’s justice may not change our consequences, but God’s grace opens new doors for faithful ministry in different directions. Check this out:
Reuben’s part in saving Joseph resulted in saving the entire line for the coming of the Messiah!!!
Somewhere along Reuben’s journey, he grew up enough to know that what his brothers were planning was not supposed to happen, and it was his job to stop it. Of course, our erstwhile hero was despondent when he returns to find his charge sold into slavery, (and his brothers having a picnic to boot). But Reuben was actually God’s instrument in preserving the family that otherwise would have probably perished in the severe famine that was going to happen in the years to come.
And get this: Reuben did even know God was using him at the time. All he knew (or thought he knew) was that he had failed. Again.
Now, I’m thinking that if God would do that “B.C.”, how much more is He willing to do that “Anno Domini”? I want to stop concentrating on the consequences of past bad decisions, and focus on the grace of His new horizons for me, new directions, and trust Him to use me in ways I’m not even aware of!
Think of that next time you pull out the corned beef and sauerkraut!
Genesis 37: 21,22 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.