"Let Reuben live and not die--and let not his men be
few." Deut. 33:6.
Reuben was Jacob's firstborn. From him one section of the
Jewish nation sprang. One tribe called him their father. When these words
were uttered by Moses, the patriarch Jacob had long been numbered with the
dead. But his descendants had reached Canaan's border--a mighty portion of a
Let every father, who reads this, reflect what
multitudes may flow from him. He may be seed of a vast forest of
immortal plants. From him, as center, wide circles may expand. Children's
children may be a swelling stream. By prayer, then, let him bequeath to each
this Reuben-blessing. Let his lips often ask, that each may live, an heir of
grace--that none may die the death of never-ending woe.
Recall the day, when Moses thus spoke. His eager wings
were spread to fly from earth. His noble race was run. His valiant fight was
fought. His place--so profitably filled--must now be vacant. The
people--served so long--must see his face no more.
God in His providence calls faithful men to guide, and
teach, and rule His flock. When His designs are ripe, He brings them forth,
as the fit instruments. But their allotted course must have its end. Their
longest space is brevity. While they are spared, let their good help be
prized. Let them be honored--for honor is their due. Let them be loved--they
are entitled to affectionate requital. But they go hence. All flesh is
grass. God alone, never fails.
But of the men, who have done service in their day, where
can be found the peer of Moses? He has pre-eminence, which few have reached.
He has renown, which outshines every fame. His life was a grand blessing.
His parting words are blessing. Living and dying, he is a tree, whose
branches drop good fruit.
He long had toiled for Israel's welfare. And now his
closing eye looks with intense affection on each tribe. He sees by faith
their vast inheritance of mercies--and his last breath delights to draw the
In this we have the very spirit of Salvation's Captain.
Jesus left heaven--assumed our flesh--dwelt on this earth, that He might
bless. When the redeeming price was paid, He ascended in the attitude and
act of blessing. And from His throne, His glory-life is ever the self-same
employ. He is one eternal--unfathomable--ever-flowing blessing. As from the
sun light only streams, so from Him one flood of good descends.
Believer, pause at this point, and meditate your high
distinction. You, too, are filled, that you may be enabled to dispense. You
are enriched, that you may help. Doubtless, exalted station and vast talents
enlarge the hands of usefulness. In this respect all may not stand on the
same vantage-ground. All are not called, as Moses, to rule tribes. But all
may strive to follow him by living a blessing life--by dying a blessing
Let us draw nearer now to his amazing legacy of blessing.
The first view shows the last testament of Moses, as enumerating earthly
treasures of honor--excellence--pre-eminence--abundance.
The happy tribes are here endowed, as rich, renowned, and
mighty upon earth. Splendor and prowess are their promised crown. Their sons
are to surpass in arts and arms. Their fields shall wave with all
luxuriance. But beneath this outward mantle, faith sees the inner form of
better and more lasting gifts. The farewell words begin, indeed, with
time-estate; but they conclude not there. They are a ladder set on earth,
but mounting to the skies. These images have wide-spreading meaning. The
truth, which runs throughout, looks to eternal good. The real substance is
not of the earth, and earthly--it is of heaven, and heavenly.
Thus, of the eldest, it is said, "Let Reuben live and not
die--and let not his men be few." We instantly are led to remember this
tribe's exposed position. It stands a frontier-barrier. Thus it lies open to
the onset of invading foes. There is then danger, that it may soon be
trodden down--that hostile attack may lay it low--that it may dwindle and
become extinct. But let Reuben live--live a vast host. The blessing, at
first, seems a shield against diminishing catastrophe.
But this is only the first fold. As we unwrap the words,
the better portion is discerned. This is the surface; as we descend, a mine
of richer ore is found. This is the shell--a precious kernel is within. A
life is intimated longer than temporal--even reaching through eternal time.
A death is here deprecated, worse than the body mouldering in dust--even
soul-ruin. The multitudinous increase here mentioned foreshows the
innumerable throng around the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Thus the true significance of the Reuben-blessing unfolds
a threefold joy. 1. Life for evermore, and heaven won. 2. Death abolished,
and hell escaped. 3. The expansive circle of the countless congregation of
Next we must banish far the narrow thought, that this
inheritance was limited to Reuben's tribe. It is no by-gone wish. Far
otherwise. It stands a wide-spreading oak, beneath which saints of every age
may happily repose. It flows a ceaseless stream, from which God's sons may
ever drink. Reuben's hand plucked the earliest produce, but still the flower
blooms, the fragrance sweetens, and the ripe fruit courts our touch.
Behold, then, here is the heart--the mind--the will of
God, to all the chosen seed. Here is no partial legacy only to the elders of
the house. Succeeding children may claim it too. We have this explanation
recorded by the Spirit's pen. The Gospel principle is, "If you are Christ's,
then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
Faith here obtains a key--and by it enters the spiritual treasury of ancient
promise. The blessings are all free to all the family of God.
Believer, now draw near. Hear Moses' voice, as if
addressed directly to yourself. It tells the blood-bought portion of all
Christ's family. It shows your vast inheritance--your golden wealth. To
every one the legacy is left, Let this man live, and not die. Of the
redeemed it is immutably decreed, Let not their men be few.
Come, then, and with appropriating faith review the
wondrous gifts. Life--soul life--first shows its head. "Let Reuben live."
How grand this mercy! All men are spiritually dead-born. Sin entered
with a murderous hand. It planted deep its dagger in the inner man.
Knowledge of God--love of His name--delight in holy communion--sweet
fellowship with heaven--the happy worship of unsullied praise--the blissful
gaze on the Creator's smile, and all the circle of pure joy, were buried in
a deep grave. The soul became a total wreck--a withered tree--a dried-up
stream--a wilderness of weeds--a starless night--a chaos of beclouded
thought--a rebel's camp--the shattered home of misery--the region in which
death reigned. The eyes were dim and saw not God. The face was turned away.
Each step led downward. The hands were lifted in defiance. The mouth was
opened to blaspheme. Man was a dying body holding a dead soul. He moved an
unmixed evil--a sin-spreading pest. All this is sad--but there are sadder
things behind. This is tremendous woe--but deeper woe comes on. This is dark
night--but darker shades will deepen yet. This is full wretchedness--but
still the cup may hold more drops.
This fleeting scene must end. The earthly mansion must be
left. Death comes. It drives poor sinners to their final home. And what is
that? Reader, shrink not--withdraw the darksome veil. Look down into the
dread abode. Ponder the lost in their low cells. Hell is their everlasting
doom. Do not think that hell is the mere phantom of a brain-sick thought. It
is no fable fondly framed to scare weak minds. It is a near reality. It is a
gigantic certainty. It is the sure conclusion of a godless life. It is the
gulf, to which transgressing streams rush hopelessly. And it is not far
away. It gapes before the feet. Another step may plunge the ruined into this
But what is hell? Ah! reader, may you never know. It is
described by what is absent--what is present.
The negative misery declares, that God is not
there. It is "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and
from the glory of His power." 2 Thess. 1:9. Where God is absent, there is no
light--no joy--no pure repose of heart. But in that darkness God is never
seen. Therefore all is one blank of dreary wretchedness.
The faithful word moreover brings to view mountains upon
mountains of active torment. From this immensity of agony let one
element be drawn. The tender Jesus thus describes the end. "The Son of Man
shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather, out of His kingdom all
things, that offend, and them, which do iniquity--and shall cast them into a
furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Matt. 13:41,
42. Fire shows pain's uttermost extreme. It has a pungent sting, maddening
with all that is most hotly fierce. Hence hell is agony in all its might.
Wailing denotes the bitter grief. Gnashing of teeth proclaims the deep
remorse. And, as the suffering proceeds, it swells. There is no distant ray
of possible relief. Forever will the smoke ascend. Forever will the anguish
burn. Forever will the misery endure.
Eternal is hell's night. Such is it to lack life. Such is
it to be heir of death.
But hearken, you, who through rich mercy yet inhabit
earth. A voice cries, "Let Reuben live and not die." There is a Savior, who
delivers from this death. There is a friend, who bestows heavenly life.
Jesus appears, and on the cross endures the death, and by His righteousness
brings in new life. The Father fully satisfied, says of each true Reuben,
"Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom." Let him
not die, but live.
But what is this life? Believer, you must enter heaven to
know. We read--we speak--we meditate--we hear of heaven; and bright and
lovely is the prospect. But what thoughts--what words can estimate the
actual bliss! Sin and temptation are outside forever. God and the God-man
are there clearly displayed. There is no cloud--no veil--no distance--no
separation--no departure. The ransomed, ever happy, ever hymning praise,
float on wide oceans of delight.
And are there many joying in this joy? "Let not
his men be few." The Father's love--the Savior's grace--the Spirit's
tenderness are large, and embrace many. A great multitude, whom no man can
number, shout hallelujahs round the throne.
O my soul, seek to inherit Reuben's blessing. Give up all
for heaven. It will immeasurably repay each sacrifice. The door is not yet
barred. Press to enter in. Take it by violence. Jesus is the way. Walk in
it. Jesus holds the key. Flee unto Him, and He will open wide the gates. He
has spoken, and it must be--"Him that comes to Me, I will in nowise cast
out." John 6:37. Many of Israel's true children there rejoice--will not you
be among them? Draw life and energy from the partriarchal promise, "Let
Reuben live and not die--and let not his men be few." Rest not, until you
can say, "Through grace, I live--through grace, I shall not die--through
grace, I have my lot among the sons, who are not few."