The idea of blessing is a very prominent one in the book of Genesis. The word is mentioned over 60 times, usually in the context of God blessing someone, or in fathers blessing their sons with God’s blessing. It’s fitting, that in the second to last chapter, it ends with one long blessing given by Jacob to his sons.
But one thing really stands out in this passage: the blessings that were not given. Jacob did not bless his first three sons, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. Why?
Reuben was excluded because he slept with his father’s concubine, who had been given to Jacob by Rachel to have children for her when she was barren. Why did Reuben do such at thing? Ironically enough, it was an attempt to try to solidify his position as firstborn son. It was something that was apparently a cultural custom of the time, although I don’t totally understand it. You see a similar thing happen with one of David’s sons Adonijah in I Kings 2:13-25, when he tried to steal the throne from Solomon. At any rate, by doing this while Jacob was still alive, Reuben lost his blessing.
Simeon and Levi were excluded because of the episode in Shechem where they took revenge for the rape of the sister by wiping out all the men in that city. And Jacob said, I will not be associated with men such as these. And he refused to bless them as well.
What can we learn from this? When it comes to receiving blessings from God, our actions matter. Our salvation depends solely on God’s grace, but if we desire to see his blessings in our lives, our actions do make a difference.
This is true on two levels. One is that if we want to find true blessing, we need to do things God’s way and not our own. Reuben tried to gain a blessing by taking things into his own hands, rather than by doing things God’s way, and in so doing, lost the blessing he sought. So many Christian marriages fall apart because instead of doing things God’s way, couples do things their own. So many people struggle in their other relationships because instead of doing things God’s way, they do things their own. So many parents struggle with raising their kids because instead of doing things God’s way, they do things their own. So many people struggle financially because instead of doing things their own way, they do things their own. How many times do we ask for God’s blessing on our lives, on our relationships, on our finances, in our jobs, and yet we insist on doing things our own way, instead of his? It doesn’t work that way. We can’t just ask God to bless us and yet refuse to do things his way. We need to obey him.
Second, when we insist on a life of sin, God will refuse to associate himself with us, and in so doing, he takes his hand of blessing off of us. Jacob told Simeon and Levi, “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.” (verses 5-6) One of the keys to this, I believe, is that Simeon and Levi never repented from their actions. Rather they tried to justify themselves (Genesis 34:31). We simply cannot justify sin in our lives and not repent, and expect God to bless us. God is holy, and he will not associate with or bless people who willfully and unrepentantly holds on to sin in their lives. I want to make one point clear. I’m not saying that if you struggle with sin that God will take off his hand of blessing off of you. All of us struggle with sin in one area or another. But if you are willfully holding on to sin in your life and refuse to repent, he will not bless you.
Does that mean we’ll lose our salvation? That God will abandon us? No. But he will take off his hand of blessing and let the enemy take his shots at us. Why? Because he hates us? No. Because he wants to bless us. In I Corinthians 5:5, Paul points out this principle to the Corinthian church when telling them how to deal with an unrepentant sinner. He told them to no longer associate with him and to, “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”
God wants to bless you. He delights in blessing his people so that we may be a blessing to others. But we cannot receive God’s blessing when we hold on to sin in our lives and do things our own way. How about you? Are you in a place where you can receive blessing from God in your life? Are you obeying him? Are you keeping your heart clean before him?
Lord, I desire your blessing in my life. But so often I do things my own way and because of that, I lose your blessing in my life. Forgive me. Help me to do things your way instead of my own. And help me to always stay under your hand of blessing as I follow you.