Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Genesis 49:2-7

“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; 
     listen to your father Israel.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, 
     my might, the first sign of my strength, 
     excelling in honor, excelling in power. 

Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, 
     for you went up onto your father’s bed, 
     onto my couch and defiled it. (Genesis 49:3-4)

When Reuben’s brothers heard this first “blessing,” or “anti-blessing,” as Beth Moore calls it, they must have been thinking, “Uh-oh! What’s coming for us??” Reuben may have hoped that his father had forgotten the events of forty years earlier, when he slept with Bllhah, Rachel’s handmaid and the mother of Dan and Naphtali. But we see here that there were consequences that would remain, not only for Reuben, but for his line because of his rash act. Where Reuben had the potential to “excel,” he had blown that opportunity. He is described here as “turbulent as the waters.” His apparent instability and impulsiveness made him a poor choice to lead the nation of Israel. So, while this “blessing” seems to be a curse for Reuben and his family, it was actually a blessing for the nation that they were spared such leadership. Beth Moore refers to this as a “blessing of restriction,” and explains it this way:

We can relate on both a personal and corporate level. Corporately we are blessed as readily by those who’ve been restricted and disallowed to have authority or power over us as those who have. Personally, God’s decision to disallow us to fill roles we - by temperament or history - are unfitted for is also a blessing. Both what we receive and what we don’t receive can constitute blessings for us and those around us. God is all-wise. He blesses us as surely by what He does not grant as by what He does. (The Patriarchs, P.233)

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking of praying some “blessings of restrictions” on some of our politicians for the next election year! :) Seriously, though, haven’t we seen how some “blessings of restrictions” have benefitted us, both corporately and personally? I can think of many instances in which God withdrew people from my life, both professionally and personally, resulting in an ultimate blessing. God’s “No’s” have been as beneficial as His “Yes’s.” Where in your life can you see this? Were there people or desires removed from you that you can now see as blessings?

I’m certain, after hearing this first blessing, the rest of Jacob’s sons were paying close attention with some anxiety. Simeon and Levi received their “blessing” next:

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
   their swords are weapons of violence. 

Let me not enter their council,
   let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
   and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. 

Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
   and their fury, so cruel! 

I will scatter them in Jacob
   and disperse them in Israel. (vs.5-7)

Remember that, after their sister Dinah was raped, Simeon and Levi went on a rampage of revenge, butchering the Shechemites. Here was a stunning consequence: they would be scattered among their people, with no land of their own. However, God did change the course of the Levites, who eventually became the line of priests. They never received any land in Canaan, but they were cared for as God’s priests. What led to the tempering of this curse? When the children of Israel rebelled against God and worshipped the golden calf (while waiting for Moses to return from the mountain top), the Levites were the only ones who remained loyal to God. Nevertheless, they received no land.

As Christians, we know that Christ took the punishment for our sins, so we no longer need fear God’s wrath. However, we know that there are always consequences for our sin, and often, as was the case with the nation Israel, the consequences can be far-reaching. In Exodus 20, we read a familiar verse: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me...” (vs.5) This is a solemn curse, and, surely, we have all witnessed or personally experienced how the sins of the parents transfer to the children. Alcoholism, child abuse, adultery, anger, etc. all seem to permeate family trees. This is my parent conference week, and I often think to myself, after meeting with parents, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!” :)

But there is good news in the completion of this thought in verse 6, which finishes this section of Exodus: “... but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” So, while the consequences of sin will pass on to a few generations, the blessings of obedience and love of God have much farther reaching effects! What a glorious promise - and what an amazing example of God’s grace! It so overpowers the effects of sin!

This speaks to the legacy you can leave your family. No matter what went before in your family line, the curse can be broken by faith in the completed work of Christ. Your faith will leave a much more powerful impact on your lineage. Hallelujah and amen!

More blessings next time!

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