Today is considered to be the birthday of Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben. In Scripture a lot of emphasis is placed on the supremacy of firstborns, but a lot of times what we see in firstborns is not so flattering. They’re not always exposed to us in the best light. At the end of his life, Jacob had this to say about his first born, Reuben:
“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, because you went up to your father’s bed. Then you defiled it.” (Genesis 49:3-4)
Not so good. We see that, throughout Scripture, there are many other firstborns who have not lived up to everyone’s expectations, going all the way back to the beginning with Cain. Ishmael and Esau are other examples of firstborns who failed to live up to that position. In fact, among these three examples, it’s not the first born who lives an exemplary life but the second born – Abel, Isaac and Jacob. These men are the ones who demonstrate, for the most part, how we should conduct our lives.
When we read in Scripture of the “firstborn” we suppose that flesh and blood determines this status. In other words, the first born of a father is the one who has the father’s physical seed is in him. But time and again, the Creator demonstrates that flesh and blood never determines status; by firstborn He means the one that He puts His seed into. Of course, His Seed is His Word, personified, ultimately, in Yeshua the Messiah.
In Exodus 4, God told Moses that Israel was His Son, His first born and, later, He redeemed His first born from Egypt by the blood of a lamb. All of these facts point to this truth: that if we have been born again of the Incorruptible Seed, that is the Messiah, then God’s Seed is in us. When we have born again, that makes us His firstborn and, as such, we need to live up to His expectations. He calls upon us to rise to the occasion and to live a life as His firstborn that others might see.
Jacob said Reuben was unstable as water. Water is something that always looks for the path of least resistance. On the flip side, God always calls His first born to walk a path that is troublesome, pressing, and filled with trials and tribulations. He challenges us to do this, not in order to destroy us, but to bring forth those Godly attributes and characteristics that He planted in us when He put His Seed in us.
When we overcome trials and tribulations, we glorify our Father in heaven, just as a firstborn who was faithful to his earthly father would glorify him. So to all of you firstborns – those who have been born again – let us commit ourselves to overcome every obstacle, not to be as unstable as water, but to be grounded in His Word. Let us lead exemplary lives that others might be provoked to become His firstborn as well.