“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Unstable as water, you shall not excel.” (Genesis 49:3-4)
In the words spoken to his older sons, Jacob unabashedly rebukes them for their impetuous behavior. Reuben, the firstborn, was the first to receive this high profile tongue lashing. Jacob’s words were merited seeing that Reuben was in line to receive the birthright and dignity reserved for the firstborn which, presumably, would have also included the priesthood and kingship. Sadly, he forfeited those sacred things because he had no strength of character. He was a man who often expressed good intentions but wouldn’t put them into action. To bolster this point, the Bible records that in days of Deborah and Barak, when other tribes were taking action, the tribe of Reuben were in “great thoughts of heart” but ended up doing nothing (Judges 5:15).
According to Jacob, Reuben was “unstable as water,” implying that he was reckless. Still waters can be ruffled by any breeze moving over its surface and end up being a tempest. Fast-flowing water rushes ahead without consideration for what is in its path. By its nature, it will almost always take the path of least resistance implying that Reuben, though possessing vitality and “excellency of power,” lacked self-control, resolution of purpose and the will to overcome obstacles. Embarrassing though it may have been for him, the rebuke presented by Jacob is something that we need to take to heart in this day and time.
As God’s ambassadors in this world, we can’t be rash and impetuous people. This is especially true of those who are in some form of leadership or are in line to be placed in authority over God’s people. Lest we end up like Reuben, we must consider the consequence of our actions before taking them. We can not afford to be as little children, being blown about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and, thus, “unstable” — that can result in other actions that bring reproach upon God’s House and His Name. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “recklessness” can also mean to be “lascivious.”
The point, today, is that we learn from Reuben what not to do. We should glean from his actions what we must avoid and the mistakes that can’t afford to be made. The cost to us and to our descendants is too great. Of course, we know that there is mercy and forgiveness, but there is also consequence. Let’s think before we speak and act; as Solomon admonished, let us be prudent and “consider well” our steps that our God is glorified.
Blessings and Shalom,