2. The Twelve Tribes – Rueben
By John Thiel
This is the second study on tribe by tribe of the sealing of the 144,000. Last time we studied the tribe of Judah. We recall that Judah was the first among the sealed of the 144,000. Yet he was not the first born. He was specifically described as the first one because Christ was born of his tribe. He had a very beautiful character. Leah was exonerated in the eyes of her husband as she had so many children and Rachel had none. We saw the terrible mistakes made by the children. Judah showed his character when he had mercy on Joseph. We saw how he made terrible sins yet developed a firm character. The firmness of his character that he developed was echoed through his whole tribe. Daniel was from his tribe. These characters developed out of sin. These tribes make up that character. These 144,000 did not start out perfect. If the 144,000 had to wash their robes, then what were they previously? Unclean.
Revelation 7:14. And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Look at the example of Joshua before the angel.
Satan urges before his accusations against them. Declaring by their sins they have forfeited the divine protection, and claiming the right to destroy them as transgressors. He pronounces them just as deserving as himself of exclusion from the favour of God. Are these, he says, the people who are to take my place in heaven and the place of the angels who are united with me? While they profess to obey the law of God, have they kept his precepts? Have they not been lovers of self more than of God? The people of God have been in many respects very faulty. Satan has an accurate knowledge of the sins which has tempted them to commit, and he presents these in the most exaggerated light, declaring: Will God banish me and my angels from His presence, and yet reward those who have been guilty of the same sins? Thou canst not do this, O Lord, in justice. But while they have sinned, they have not given themselves to the control of evil. They have put away their sins, and have sought the Lord in humility and contrition, and the divine Advocate pleads in their behalf. 5T page 473 – 474.
Rueben is a particular cut of a person which some people in our churches are. We are going to look at how they conquered and how they can stand before God. Rueben is next in line.
Genesis 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. 32And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Rueben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
There was another birth in reference to conflict between Leah and Rachel. God in his wisdom closed Rachels womb so Leah would be loved by Jacob. It took quite a few births for there to be equalisation. Jacob expresses his feelings for this boy.
Genesis 49:3 Rueben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.
You see his personality in reference to when the brothers hated Joseph. You see a characteristic coming out more honourable than the others.
Genesis 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
21And Rueben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
22And Rueben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
Here was this noble person that wasn’t going to let Joseph get killed. He was affected by his brothers, he was afraid of them.
They would have executed their purpose but for Rueben. He shrank from participating in the murder of his brother, and proposed that Joseph be cast alive in to a pit, and left there to perish; secretly intending, however, to rescue him and return him to his father. Having persuaded all to consent to this plan, Rueben left the company, fearing that he might fail to control his feelings, and that his real intentions would be discovered. P&P page 211 & 212.
He has a character that is afraid to let it show. When Judah said, lets sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites and it was done, Rueben returned and Joseph was gone, he was distraught but was afraid to show it.
Genesis 37:29 And Rueben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
While Rueben wants to do the right thing, he tends to be unstable.
Genesis 42:22. And Rueben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
Here they were in front of Joseph many years after and he said, ‘See, we shouldn’t have killed him.’ He remembers, and he has a sharp desire to do what is right. However, his instability is revealed.
Genesis 30:14 And Rueben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.
His beautiful soft nature and his unstable nature is revealed. He lay with his father’s concubine.
Genesis 49:4. Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.
He was given the blessing of verse 3 but he didn’t succeed because of his great sin. He lost his birth right. He didn’t want his brothers to kill but he was unstable. His instability came out. We are looking at an unstable character.
1 Chronicles 5:1. Now the sons of Rueben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.
2For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)
Judah was the chief, but the birthright went to Joseph. Satan points to the character of these people and says to God, ‘How can you accept these people?’ We look at his behaviour. They are terrible sins not to be made little of. He is unstable, he loses his birthright. The sin of adultery is a gross sin and not to be belittled. The firmness of justice upon the sin that has been done is never removed. Yet these people can be there. Let no one suggest that if a person does this sin they will be won’t be alright. God will forgive.
Not all who profess to keep the commandments of God possess their bodies in sanctification and honour. The most solemn message ever committed to mortals has been entrusted to this people, and they can have a powerful influence if they will be sanctified by it. They profess to be standing upon the elevated platform of eternal truth, keeping all of God’s commandments; therefore, if they indulge in sin, if they commit fornication and adultery, their crime is of ten fold great magnitude than is that of the classes I have named, who do not acknowledge the law of God as binding upon them. In a peculiar sense do those who profess to keep God’s law dishonour Him and reproach the truth by transgressing its precepts. T Vol 2 page 450-451.
He was a loving person yet weak. His sin was serious, deadly serious. Observe the effect of this sin of Rueben and his progeny.
Genesis 42:37 And Rueben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.
38And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
Jacob believed Judah, but did he believe Rueben? While Rueben really meant he wanted to stand for Benjamin, Jacob knew he couldn’t trust him. These are the experiences of when we fail. We feel horrible that people can’t trust us as we failed too many times. Rueben comes up with the statement, slay my two sons, but his father can’t trust him.
Every sinful gratification tends to benumb the faculties and deaden the mental and spiritual perception and the word or the spirit of God can make but a feeble impression upon the heart. GC. Page 474.
When a person is like Rueben, he makes statements like slay my sons. The sin he committed makes him insensible. It benumbs his faculties and spiritual perception is blunted. This sin keeps revealing itself in the life. It’s passed on through the tribe or generations.
Exodus 20:5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear [the guilty]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation].
This reality of Rueben and what he did reveals that his progeny would reveal the same weakness. Every person that has a weak characteristic that is equal to that tribe will show the same unstable manner. No church must proclaim that any sin doesn’t matter, God will forgive you anyway. It’s very serious. We can come to the Lord and be comforted that there is a way out, but oh the pain and the suffering. It’s not worth it. We must guard against it with all our capabilities. We see the tribal weakness of Rueben. On one side of the river Jordan had some nice land.
Numbers 32:1 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place [was] a place for cattle;
32:2 The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying,
32:3 Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
32:4 [Even] the country which the LORD smote before the congregation of Israel, [is] a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle:
32:5 Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, [and] bring us not over Jordan.
32:6 And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?
It was a discouraging thing for these two tribes for Rueben to not want to fight but stay on the nice side of the river. How can we be among the 144,000 if we have these particular weaknesses? Here are the Gadites and the Ruebenites in their unstable ways. You go across the river, we don’t want to possess the land with you we just want to stay here and have a nice time. Moses rebukes them. He says first you come across the river to fight the battle and then you can come back.
The Typical Ruebenite Attitude
Notice the consequences. Ultimately when the tribes where conquered, here was the bitter consequences:
1 Chronicles 5:26. And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Ruebenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.
This was the end of the Ruebenite tribe. Because of their particular characteristic, they were done away with. They were taken in to captivity. If this is what happens with unstable characters who do these terrible sins, is it possible that Ruebens tribe can be overcomers and be among the saved? Can Ruebens characteristic disqualify them? They are there in Revelation 7:5 ‘Of the tribe of Rueben’. How may they overcome?
Deuteronomy 33:1. And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. 2And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. 3Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words. 4Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. 5And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together. Let Rueben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.
There is a prophecy here looking at the time when Jesus comes with his saints. Let not his men be few. Here is a comfort. Even a person of such unstable character would not completely be divested of hope.
You are a young man of intelligence; you desire to make you life such as will fit you for heaven at last. You are often discouraged at finding yourself weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits and customs of your old life in sin. You find your emotional nature untrue to yourself, to your best resolutions, and to your most solemn pledges. Nothing seems real. Your own instability leads you to doubt the sincerity of those who would do you good. The more you struggle in doubt, the more unreal everything looks to you, until it seems that there is no solid ground for you anywhere. Your promise are like ropes of sand, and you regard in the same unreal light the words and works of those in whom you should trust. You will be in constant peril until you understand the true force of the will. You may believe and promise all things but your promises or your faith are of no value until you put your will on the side of faith and action. If you fight the fight of faith with all your will power, you will conquer. You feelings, your impressions, your emotions, are not to be trusted, for the are not reliable, especially with your perverted ides; and the knowledge of your broken promises and your forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in yourself, and the faith of others in you. T Vol 5 page 513.
This is how we may be among them by using all our will power. There are many that will be not be saved because they will not submit to God’s own appointed way. Only those people who put their will on God’s side. They will conquer. Each one describes a particular characteristic that needs to be conquered. Certain areas of weakness are in one character more than others.
Some who engage in missionary service are weak, nerveless, spiritless, easily discouraged. They lack push. They have not those positive traits of character that given power to do something-the spirit and energy that kindle enthusiasm. Those who would win success must be courageous and hopeful. They should cultivate not only the passive but the active virtues. While they are to give the soft answer that turns away wrath, they must possess the courage of a hero to resist evil. With the charity that endures all things, they need the force of character that will make their influence a positive power. MH page 497-498.
Why will such people be saved. How do they get there? What have they done besides pushing their will power?
Judges 5:16. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Rueben there were great searchings of heart.
What did Rueben’s progeny do? They had great heart searches.
Lamentations 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
In the weaknesses of the sins of the forefathers it doesn’t mean I have to be lost in my own weaknesses when I can’t lift myself out of this deplorable state by searching the Scriptures and by examining my heart.
Revelation 3:21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Rueben had terrible weaknesses but he conquered at the end. They will be among the 144,000. Out of this personality trait they will conquer. They will become strong instead of unstable. They put their will power on the side of Jesus. They will overcome as he overcame. We can see no matter how Jesus suffered under that characteristic, Jesus conquered.
Oh that you would search the Scriptures with prayerful hearts and a spirit of surrender to God! O that you would search your hearts as with a lighted candle, and discover and break the finest thread that blinds you to worldly habits, which divert the mind from God! Plead with God to show you every practice that draws your thoughts and affections from Him. God has given His holy law to man as His measure of character. By this law you may see and overcome every defect in your character. You may sever yourself from every idol, and link yourself to the throne of God by the golden chain of grace and truth. SM B2 page 318.
This is a study of victory in the full view of total hopelessness.