Going Home Again – 4

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Scripture Text – Genesis 35-36

Being a victorious Christian doesn’t mean escaping the difficulties of life and enjoying only carefree days. Rather, it means walking with God by faith, knowing that He is with us, and trusting Him to help us for our good and His glory no matter what difficulties He permits to come our way. The maturing Christian doesn’t pray, “How can I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?”

Let’s continue with the new things that came into Jacob’s life.

A New Sorrow

Please read Genesis 35:21-22 for the background to this section.

The death of a dear wife is at least a normal human experience with no guilt attached, but what Reuben did was abnormal and stained with guilt and shame.

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn and therefore the oldest of his sons (Genesis 29:31–32); he was most likely in his twenties. The childhood episode with the mandrakes may or may not indicate anything about his nature (Genesis 30:14–15). Bilhah was Rachel’s maid and had borne Jacob two sons, Dan and Naphtali (see Genesis 30:1–8). Perhaps the recent death of Rachel left Bilhah desiring to be back with Jacob again, and this was Reuben’s opportunity to act. Since the text doesn’t indicate that Reuben raped his father’s wife, we assume she cooperated in the deed.

But Reuben’s sin involved much more than the satisfying of a lustful appetite. For a son to take a father’s wife in this manner was a declaration that he was now the head of the family. When Abner took King Saul’s concubine, Saul’s son and heir Ishbosheth protested because it meant Abner was usurping the crown (2 Samuel 3:6–11). When David succeeded Saul as king, he was given Saul’s wives as his own (1 Samuel 12:8). Rebellious Absalom declared himself ruler by taking his father’s concubines (2 Samuel 16:20–23), and Adonijah’s request to have Abishag as his wife was the same as challenging Solomon’s rights to the throne (1 Kings 2:13–25).

It would appear, then, that Reuben’s purpose was to take over the leadership of the family, which made his deed only that much more vile. Like the younger son in our Lord’s parable of the prodigal, Reuben couldn’t wait to get his inheritance (Luke 15:11–24). He had to have it now.

Jacob did nothing immediately, but surely his heart was broken by what his son had done. Reuben showed some character in protecting Joseph from death, but he wasn’t able to save him from slavery (Genesis 37:20–30). Though Reuben was the firstborn, his brothers didn’t seem to respect his leadership. In his old age, Jacob exposed Reuben’s sin and deprived him of the rights of the firstborn, giving them to Joseph (Genesis 48:1–14; 49:3–4; 1 Chronicles 5:1–2).

Those who teach that our dedication to the Lord automatically protects us from troubles and tears need to read this chapter carefully. Certainly God had forgiven Jacob, and certainly Jacob was walking with the Lord in faith and obedience. Nevertheless, he still had his share of trials. If we obey the Lord only for what we get out of it, and not because He is worthy of our love and obedience, then our hearts and motives are wrong. We become the kind of people Satan accused Job of being (Job 1:6–2:10).

To Be Continued

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Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Authentic, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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