Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 5:1-2

1 The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father's couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son;

2 though Judah became strong among his brothers and a chief came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph),


Sermon: "His Birthright Was Given"

Anyone tired today?  This is normally a part of the Bible that puts people to sleep.  In fact, that is normal - just a list of names.  What is abnormal is for there to be commentary about people.  Amidst the list of names are notes about specific people.  In the previous chapter, Jabez is highlighted as one who more honorable.  A note comes for Reuben - Reuben was a little dishonorable.

 

There is nothing like scandal to spice things up.  Sports, politics, business, church.  The consequences of scandal are devastating, bringing to question greatness and championship seasons,  titles being taken away, bringing down powerful corporations, and tearing apart the body of Christ and families.

 

Today, we see how scandal marred a particular tribe of Israel.

 

Genesis 35:22 - While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.

 

Genesis 49:3-4: 3 "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.

4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it-he went up to my couch!

 

God deals justly with unfaithfulness.  Bad choices in life are destructive.  This bad choice tarnished the good about Reuben.  Because of scandal, Reuben lost his privileges as a firstborn.  Traditionally, it involved double the inheritance.

 

That moment of bad judgment led to generations suffering.  Reuben's decision not only affected him but affected his tribe.  He would be marked as the one who defiled his father's bed throughout history.  And his descendants would be known as those coming from the first-born who forfeited the rights of the firstborn.

 

This is how devastating one bad decision can be.  It undoes years of character development and advancement.  Take Secret Service agents; working in the Secret Service is actually quite an honorable and respectable job.  They protect the president, his family, and other high officials.  Children of former presidents until age 16

   Visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad

 

It takes a lot to be one. And much goes into the training of Secret Service agents.  However, we now associate the Secret Service with scandal, involving prostitutes during a summit of the Americas attended by President Obama in Cartagena, Colombia.  One scandalous incident undermined and will undermine individual careers and the messed up the reputation of the Secret Service; seems like Secret Service meant something else.  Unfaithfulness ruins.

 

Why do we make bad decisions?  I believe selfishness has a big part to play.    Selfishness and self-centeredness leads to us doing things that are regrettable.  It may come in the form of selfish ambition, self-pity, being in your own world, or a lack of self-control, among others.  That moment where we lose self-control or give into the desires of our self and we do something that will destroy us.  Depending on the incident, it affects those around us.  It may even affect generations to come.

 

God gives grace to the faithful.  He blesses another son instead, Joseph. 

 

Genesis 48:5; 15-16:

5 And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.

15 And he blessed Joseph and said, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,

16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

 

If Reuben displayed unfaithfulness, Joseph exemplifies faithfulness even when it hurts.  Rather than enjoy the wife of his master, he fled from that sexual temptation, even though it meant that he would be falsely charged and jailed.  Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manessah would each receive a blessing, an inheritance. 

 

Faithfulness can be tough.  Take something like singleness - some of our most faithful members are single.  I know people who faithfully serve God who are single, not all by choice.  Here is an excerpt from a blog by one Sarie King, beginning with quote from a book, How God Shapes us Through Relationships by Douglas Webster:

 

"Many singles are the people most committed to Christ and yet most vulnerable in the culture and in the church...If you wanted to be married today you could be...If you had no criteria, no real guidelines, or no moral standards to speak of...Anybody who doesn't have any standards can get married...Singleness for the right reasons is not a matter of fate but of faithfulness, and we need to see it through the eyes of the Lord, who honours those who honour him with their whole being."

 

What I loved about this quote was that rather than centering around the spiritually corrective, it focused on the affirmative. It gave a fresh positive perspective and spiritual encouragement to those engaged in choosing radical, godly, faithful lifestyles over anything else the world has to offer, purely because of their unswerving commitment to Christ and nothing else....

 

It gives honour to the Christian singles faithfulness, trust and godly obedience in a world that still offers them all the things they have chosen to forego…’not out of fate but faithfulness.

 

For the Christian single, man or woman, Gods call to faithful discipleship remains a higher calling than marriage, sex, procreation or sometimes the hope of earthly family (Matt 10:37-39, 16:24, Jn 12:25-26). In our society this kind of costly discipleship (and it is personally, physically and emotionally costly) involves both trust in, and radical commitment to, Gods will, Gods timing and Gods goodness in all things and all circumstances (Ps 84:11).

 

Websters helpful quote reminds us that God blesses and honours the Christian single who says

 

* I know I could go out and get married now if I wanted to, but I will deliberately limit my godly choice to a believer in Gods householdeven if it means I may never marry (2Cor 6:14)

 

* I could experience as much sex as I want right now, but I am determined to commit myself to honour God with my body in purity and godly self control (1Cor 6:20)

 

* Time is running out, I dont have to wait for a husband to have children, but I choose to trust in Gods design for marriage and familyeven if it means that for me, it may never be (Heb 13:4-5)

 

* I could easily use all my money to perpetually travel the world, but I want to honour God with my wealth, to be a good steward of Gods good gifts in life and ministry (Prov 3:9, Matt 6:24)

 

* I could use all my free time and weekends to do what I please, but I want to use the time God gives me to care for others and to serve his people’…(Eph 4:12)

 

For the faithful Christian single, though they may legitimately desire (and they ARE legitimate desires) all that most have - marriage, intimacy, love, affection, children and family, they must daily (and sometimes moment by moment) choose to lift their eyes beyond all the world would readily hold out to them, if they chose to grasp it, and seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness.

 

So, lets spur on the faithful saints in their commitment to honour God by: honouring those who fear the Lord (Ps 15:4).

 

While as I share this, it may be an encouragement to the singles, I trust that this except is challenging to all of us to live faithfully.  God blesses faithfulness.

 

God blesses Joseph in spite of another competent tribe in Judah.  Judah is described as the strongest of tribes.  Yet, Judah does not receive the birthright; it does not get transferred.  That does not seem fair.  Doesn't Judah deserve it? 

 

If you don't get what you deserve, why work hard?  Or on the other hand, should receiving grace excuse work?

 

Does this mean that grace excuses hard work?  Or does the fact that life is not fair excuse laziness or half-heartedness.  Not at all! 

 

Listen to Paul's confession in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10:

9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

 

God blesses fairly.  We want to be treated equally, but equal does not mean fair.  Imagine me demanding that I lift as much weight as Deacon Joon.  God blesses competence and blesses according to who we are.  God blesses Judah fairly.

 

Out of Judah came a leader.  David came out of the tribe of Judah.  The Chronicler goes to great lengths to praise the reign of David. 

 

And out of Judah came the king of kings.  The Messiah was to come from the tribe of Judah. 

 

Micah 5:2: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

 

Through this Messiah, Jesus, we who believe are listed in the book of life.

 

The gospel reverses the curse of generations.  We may be the first believers in our family.  We can set the trajectory for blessing in our family.

 

The gospel reverses the curse of our unfaithfulness.  We may have messed up in ways that we will never be able to fully restore our good name.  However, even in spite of our failures and brokenness, God can still use us.

 

The key is trusting in God.  As we trust God, he blesses us.  He blesses us fairly and as we need.  Further, if we are not trusting God, it doesn't matter how competent we are.  Because if God does not bless our work, we will fail.  The greatest act of unfaithfulness is not some moral failure but rebellion against God.

 

As we trust in God and not ourselves, we live wisely.  Why do we make bad decisions?  Often, it is because we are trusting not in God but ourselves.  Trusting God leads to a security and joy that we don't look elsewhere for.  And in God, we have wisdom to choose rightly.

 

As we look at a legacy, we may be inclined to consider our legacy.  May we be a generation that makes and lives out godly decisions, no matter how small they may be.  In life, we have moments where we must choose faithfulness or unfaithfulness. 

 

Do we choose to lie, exaggerate or stretch the truth about something.  Will we lust with our eyes over the internet... over that brand-name bag that is on sale?  Will we take that time to spend with God in personal QT or family devotions?  Will we apologize for wronging someone?  Will we choose not to cheat on an exam but put in the extra hours of study or work to get the project done?  Will we spend time with your child or kids and family even though it's the only free time you have?  Will you spend time with God in worship, though Sunday is your one day off? These small decisions can go a long way.  Often, these small moments pave the way for bigger moments of faithfulness or unfaithfulness. 

 

The vision I see, not so much any outstanding preacher or Christian leader who steps up to lead this generation as much as many individuals in this generation living faithfully for the Lord.  May that be the call we live out here at LCPC.