We don’t live in a vacuum, and when we make the pursuit of the world more important than our loyalty to God, we must realize there are consequences in our lives. The story of Reuben teaches us that we sleep in the beds we make – for a very long time…
While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah.
“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.
The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright.
Reuben’s sin relating to his father’s concubine, Bilhah, had lasting impacts on his entire tribe forever. Because of his sin, Joseph was given the rights of the first-born, which includes a double portion of inheritance.
There is some debate about what actually happened here. Some say Reuben did not commit adultery/rape with Bilhah. You can google the alternate theories yourself. The story comes from Genesis 35, and so I am following the clear statement in the story that Reuben slept with her. I also include the word rape in my characterization of the situation because in a male-dominated, patriarchal society, Bilhah would have felt tremendous pressure, few options, and concern for her physical safety if she didn’t allow Reuben to have his way. That constitutes rape.
Some Jewish writing indicates that Bilhah did not know it was Reuben until she woke up the next morning, perhaps because she had been intoxicated. Again, it’s hard to know if she is at fault in this. We cannot know. We can know, however, that Reuben sinned against his father.
The consequences are lasting. Reuben would not be listed in the genealogical records as the first-born of Israel. His family would be scorned in many ways because of his indiscretion. Which brings me back to you and me. We don’t live in a vacuum. And we are not the gods of our lives to act out our wills without regard for others or for the consequences of our decisions.
We sleep in the beds we make. For Reuben it was adultery with his father’s concubine. For us, it is adultery with the world (James 4). We sin against our father when we cheat on him with the pursuits of the world. Reuben sacrificed his birthright and that of his sons, and God gave his only son. There are consequences.
Father, we don’t want to violate our loyalty to you,
By sleeping with the world.
Our desire is to serve you only.
We thank you for paying the price for us,
Through Jesus your Son.