Genesis 49:4
Unstable as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed; then defiled you it: he went up to my couch.

: —

I. The first thing which strikes us in the instability of water is that IT HAS NO COHESIVE SHAPE OF ITS OWN. It takes the form of the vessel into which you pour it; it changes one form for another without resistance; and water spilt on the ground falls asunder and vanishes. This suggests the first defect of instability — that it prevents a man gaining an independent position in life. There is a true position in the world which we should all aim at, a place where we may stand on our own feet, fill our own sphere, and meet all the just claims which come upon us in the family, in friendship, and in society. This cannot be gained without some measure of stability. If, indeed, there is entire instability in the ground of the character, it is very difficult to deal with, and if men were under fixed laws of nature the case might be incurable. But nature has its emblems of hope even for this indecision; there is a possibility of crystallizing water.

II. Another thing in the instability of water is THE CHANGEFULNESS OF ITS REFLEXION. Look at the water in an outspread lake. It takes moon and stars and changing seasons into the depths of its confidence, and its seeming depths are only a surface. This is beautiful in nature, but very unhappy in men; and we may see in it an illustration of how instability unfits us for gaining either true culture or character.

III. A third thing we may mention in the instability of water is that IT INSPIRES DISTRUST. Its very calm is danger: there are hidden rocks under the smoothness, and treacherous currents which wind like serpents round those who trust them. This reminds us that instability destroys influence. The world is governed not so much by men of talent as by men of will.

IV. Water is READY TO MOVE ANY WAY BUT UPWARD. It descends, but cannot rise to its source; and it illustrates this most serious defect of instability, that it unfits a man for a successful endeavour after the higher life. In seeking to conquer instability there must(1) be a sincere desire to escape from this defect where it is felt.

(2) In arriving at decision, a man should seek to ascertain what he is capable of.

(3) There are helps in this struggle against indecision:

(a)  Method or system;

(b)  associations;

(c)  the taking an early and manly stand.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Boiling over as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed, then defiled it. He went up to my couch.

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