A GRANDDAD CHALLENGE. “WHERE IS REUBEN WHEN THERE’S WORK TO BE DONE” This is a topic in a list of sermons in Granddad Jim’s Bible. I took it as a challenge to see what it might mean to me – to us.
This observation is made from the incident in Judges 5 when Deborah and Barak had come in from a mighty victory they had led in behalf of the Israelites. In their Victory Song they name some of the Tribal Leaders who pitched in to help in the battle. But they leave the question, where was Reuben?
Judges 5:15 Why did you stay among the sheep pens[ to hear the whistling for the flocks? In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart.
It seems like Reuben’s tribe was considering whether or not they would go with the army, “much searching of the heart.” We can only wonder if they would have gone if given more time. Whether or not, they missed “recruit’s day” and suffered a blow to their reputation.
Reuben was Jacob’s first born. He was a model brother by taking the side of Joseph when his brothers would have killed him. He went back to the pit to rescue Joseph but found Joseph gone.
He should have been the star, but he was impetuous and unstable. He committed incest with Bilhah, his father’s concubine and the mother of some of his brothers. He did not suffer immediate retribution even though his father knew what he had done. However, this sin did catch up with him. There were no outstanding heroes in Reuben’s family tree. Some are mentioned infamously, Dathan and Abiram, as they led a rebellion against Moses.
We see that in Jacob’s blessing/prophesy as he says his dying good-byes. Gen. 49:3 3 “Reuben, you’re my firstborn, my strength, and the first fruit of my vitality. You excel in rank and excel in power. 4 But you’re as undisciplined as a roaring river, so eventually you won’t succeed, because you got in your father’s bed, defiled it, and then approached my couch.”
“You’re as undisciplined as a roaring river” … Reuben was a man who made quick decisions, made in the midst of his lust. It is interesting to me that some commentaries say the name “Reuben” means “hasty waters.” That certainly seems fitting. Then it brings me to the question of why Lean and Jacob would name their firstborn with a label indicating a negative character trait. Their second son was named Simeon which means “hears and obeys.” Hum. Think that over. How much of Reuben’s problem might have been due to his parent’s expectations?
A lesson for us. The consequences of sin will catch up with us. Adrian Rogers is credited with saying “We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.” Even if we are forgiven and the sin is “cast into the sea” there are often troubling consequences with which one must deal.
We need to be “instant in season and out of season” to be sure we are a part of God’s glorious army. We don’t want to stay in a rut and “listen to the whistling of the flocks.” Somebody please tell me what that means!