It is a scene from the story of Jacob and his sons. Jacob is on his death bed, And Jacob called unto his sons and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days Genesis 49:1). He turns to his firstborn son and says, Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch (Genesis 49:3). After speaking to each son, and giving directions concerning his burial, Jacob died.
How could Jacob have known what Reuben was going to be like after he died? Well, clearly he could’ve been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that may have been true in this instance, but if you look at the things Jacob says about Reuben, you recognize that a person’s future can be predicted from his past behavior. Jacob apparently did not expect a great deal from a son whose immorality had led him into gross sin. Jacob did not expect him to excel, that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t do good things and have some success, but you could never expect him to be at the top of the moral ladder seeking purity, honesty, peace, and all the noble qualities that allow you to trust and depend upon a person or group. Jacob expected Reuben to always be unstable and do some things that would mess him, and others, up. While a true faith in, and a sincere commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ can change a person’s spiritual nature and behavior, not every person in the world has that experience, and so we must expect that people will behave pretty much, in the future, as they behaved in the past:
How will the gang from El Salvador behave when their members get into the United States? How did they behave back home?
How will the Palestinians comport themselves in their hatred of Israel? How have they done so in the past?
How will the terrorists controlling an area of Syria-Iraq act now that they control a large swath of territory? How did they act in acquiring that control?
An equally strong list of illustrations could be put together about the behaviors of individual people, for example: a violent armed robber paroled without a change in character. Teaching us that governments, families, neighbors, travelers, what all, should not expect that for everyone the sins of the past are the sins of the past. In many cases, the sins of the past will be predictors of the sins of the present and the future.
Be on guard.