What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life? How would you feel if that was what you were most remembered for? Or worse still, if it was something your kids had done? Whilst one of my daughters has been at home, we’ve been recollecting one or two hairy moments from when they were young, and having a good chuckle over them, Thankfully, nothing too dreadful, just kids being kids, and parents trying to cope!
I really feel for Benjamin in Genesis 49:27-8. In early childhood, he’d been the second son of the favoured bride Rachel, and as such probably spoiled rotten. Especially when his big true brother Joseph suddenly disappeared – now his father wanted to protect him at all costs. I suspect he lost his position of honour though, when Joseph appeared back on the scene. All very unsettling for a young man.
Then the time came for his father to be “gathered to his people”. Each of the brothers in turn had heard their father’s blessings and prophetic words over them and the tribal families they would head up. Joseph had had wonderful blessings pronounced over him, and now finally it was Benjamin’s turn. What great things would his father see in store for him, this second son of Rachel?
Just a few devastating words, and not a blessing in sight. The utterance of Jacob appears to refer to a terrible scene in the history of the tribe of Benjamin, which is recorded in Judges 19 and 20. The people of Gibeah, one of the Benjaminite cities, committed a crime so vile, all the other tribes fought and almost destroyed the whole tribe.
It was not pretty. And how terrible for young Benjamin to be defined by something his descendants would do. How awful that these would be the departing words of his dear father to him. I can’t imagine how he handled that.
Many of us allow ourselves to be defined by negative experiences – divorce, bad career choice, prison term, ill health… But Christ gave us freedom, that we might be free indeed. We may have physical limitations, but God wants us to live life in full measure. Whatever our problems or mistakes, past or future, God is The Redeemer. The tribe of Benjamin had a rough time, but Saul the first king, and the apostle Paul, the great evangelist who made Christianity available to the Gentile world, were both Benjaminites. And Benjamin is probably better remembered for those two than the Gibeah debacle.
We may not be able to prevent others noting our shortfalls, but we don’t have to define ourselves by them. It’s good to remind ourselves that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our imperfections, he sees Jesus. What do you see?