Stand Firm in Your Faith – My Daily Bread!
Our call to faithfulness is taken from Isaiah 7: 9, NIV, which reads:
“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all”.
These words spoken thousands of years ago by the Lord to the Nation of Judah are a reminder of the perils of not standing firm in our faith, of not holding onto our spiritual convictions, of not standing for what is right. Whenever I read this passage I am always reminded of something grown folks in the Church use to say: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” We can all agree that this is not the easiest thing to do – to stand for something; and yet it is exactly what is required of those who profess to be followers of Christ.
We all know the story of Joseph and how his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt because they were jealous of him and the love their father showed for him. This post is however not about Joseph but about his brother Reuben. Reuben had a hard time holding firm to his convictions and this is the story of the consequences of his actions. He first comes alive in scripture in the circumstances surrounding Joseph being sold into slavery. He actually tried to rescue Joseph from being killed: “When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life, he said. Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him. Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father”. (Genesis 37: 19-20, NIV)
This was a noble gesture on Reuben’s part; however, he underestimated his brothers because while he left Joseph with them and went elsewhere, they sold him into slavery on a caravan headed to Egypt, sort of like the first boat smoking!. “When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. He went back to him brothers and said, the boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?” (Genesis 37:29-30, NIV) The rest of Chapter 37 tells how Reuben conspired with his brothers to deceive their Father to make him believe that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.
Although Reuben’s intervention saved his brother from being murdered by his brothers own hands, he did not directly protect Joseph from being harmed by his brothers. By agreeing to throw him in the cistern he appeared to his brothers to be in agreement with getting rid of Joseph, but just not causing his death directly. And although his grief may have been genuine, his first words were about what was going to happen to him, not what was going to happen to Joseph. He knew that his father would hold him responsible for not having safely returned with Joseph. And finally, he went along with the plan to lie to their father about what happened to Joseph in order to keep himself out of trouble.
What can we learn from Reuben’s example? Well for one thing although he may have had good intentions he was not able to stand up against a crowd for what was right. He went along with his brother’s plan openly while thinking he could circumvent their actions privately. He had private values that were different and more honorable than his public values. Or said another way he had two faces, a private face and a public face and the two did not agree. Publicly he tended to go with the crowd, not willing to run the risk of going against public opinion.
Sound familiar? We can probably all think back to a time when we went along with something that was clearly not the right thing to do, but we did it anyway. These situations may have occurred at school, work, at home, or even in the Church. Like Reuben, when we compromise in matters relating to God’s truths, we water down our convictions about God’s standards. And constant compromise of God’s standards leads to a flawed moral compass – one that does not make us able to stand firm and hold onto our faith or to God.
Jacob when pronouncing his dying blessing over all his sons in the land of Egypt compared Reuben to water. Why water you might ask? Well water has no form of its own except when it is frozen. In liquid form it takes on the shape of the container it is surrounded by. Reuben like water conformed to his environment; he let himself be shaped and molded by what was going on around him.
What else became of Reuben and his tribe? Well we know that later on he slept with his Father’s concubine and because of the seriousness of this sin he lost the birthright (1 Chronicles 5: 1-3, NIV) that was due the firstborn son. And it is also interesting to note that his tribe barely received mention in the history of Israel and did not produce any persons of distinction, i.e. a judge, prophet or military person.
Then I could not help but think about the times when my spirit was like water; the times when I did not stand up for something I should have, but silently acquiesced with the crowd. The times when my voice was silent for my God and my soul began to melt before the Lord in sadness. So unbeautiful.
Saints, we can all learn much from our brother Reuben. The first thing is that what our parent told us was indeed true, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” And secondly, only through the grace of God can we stand firm in our faith, for God can deal with our “watery spirits” even when we feel we cannot! Paul told us that “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength’ (2 Timothy 4: 17, NIV); and he can to do the same for us.
Copyright© 2011-2012 Colleen Holton All Rights Reserved.