then reuben said to his father, “kill my two sons if i do not bring him back to you. put him in my hands, and i will bring him back to you.” but he said, “my son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. if harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to sheol. [genesis 42:37-38]


the extremes we’ll go to when we’re covering up our sin

kill my two sons if i do not bring him back to you. what a crazy “collateral”! who of you would offer up the death of your children as collateral? this seems ludicrous, but it points us to the mindset of reuben in this situation. let’s think about what we know of reuben.

the firstborn

reuben was the firstborn of israel, due the biggest portion of their father’s inheritance. likewise, his firstborn, one of the two he offers up, is due the biggest portion of reuben’s inheritance. reuben here is offering up the first of his children for the last of jacob’s. much could be said here, but at the least, reuben is dead-serious about getting simeon back.

the negotiator 

when all his brothers planned to kill joseph, he was the one that convinced them to throw him in the pit instead, planning in vain to rescue him. as the firstborn, reuben seems to have felt a singular responsibility for what happened to joseph, a guilt he has carried his whole life.

with this in mind, we can see the shame that plagues reuben; his hidden guilt drives him to the extreme to prevent having to pay the price for his sins. can you sympathize with this? have you been in this position, paralyzed by the fear of getting found out, or having someone else suffer because of your sin? how do you usually respond? how could resting in your gospel identity change how you respond?

as believers in Christ, our identity is this: we, who deserve death for what we have done against God and man, who have utterly failed to reach God’s holy standard, have been saved from wrath by believing in God’s son, who bore the death we earned. and as a result, we have been washed in the purifying blood of Christ, and have been presented blameless before our just Father in heaven! no good thing will make us any more acceptable before our King, and no sin is too expensive for the blood of Christ to pay! God is utterly committed to his children! if you are a believer in Christ, you have nothing to fear from your God! he loves you and sees you according to the love and righteousness of his son!

do you see how this can transform our response to our sin? no sin can separate us from the love of Christ! why then should we be afraid to repent? anxieties and worry and guilt do come, but do not continue to bear them for his sake! he has you, firm and secure, and he will not leave you, forsake you, or forget you. his love and acceptance of you are final and complete! what would it look like for you to place this at the core of your identity today? can you believe the words of scripture?

for i am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[romans 8:38-39]

[Jesus speaking:] “my sheep hear my voice, and i know them, and they follow me. i give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. my Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

[john 10:27-29]

Father, teach us to trust in you, your salvation, your sovereignty, and your loving-kindness. teach us to root our identity in the finished work of your Son: may it lead us to love and serve you more, not out of a desire to make ourselves more acceptable to you, but in the peace of the Holy Spirit through the gospel of great grace. thank you for pursuing us and saving us, and may our every thought be an offering to you!

~stephen hall