THE UNITED TRIBES
Henry Law, 1858
"Moses said this about the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar: May the people of Zebulun prosper in their expeditions abroad. May the people of Issachar prosper at home in their tents. They summon the people to the mountain to offer proper sacrifices there. They benefit from the riches of the sea and the hidden treasures of the sand." Deut. 33:18-19
Two tribes come hand in hand. They are descendants of one mother, Leah—and they inherit neighboring lots. Here they are colleagues in a common blessing—and drink, as fellows, of one enriching cup.
It is a lovely sight, when brothers are co-heirs of grace. The Gospel-records brighten with such pictures. Andrew and Simon are united by more than kindred-ties. John has a fellow-laborer in James, his parent's son. Jude, and the other James, born of one father, are newborn of one Spirit.
Do not these instances exhort each pious brother to seek especially a brother's good? Do not they bring the animating hope, that the door of success will open readily to such loving touch? Let then no gracious brother rest, while any son of the same mother treads the downward path. In prayer—by gentle example—by winning counsels, let him persevere, until union be cemented in one center—Christ. God wills the effort. Will He be slow to bless?
How great, too, is the gain! For where is treasure like a brother plucked from the quarry of the world, and placed a jewel in the diadem of Christ! Sweet is the walk, when such move side by side to one eternal home.
Another thought stands at the threshold of this case. The younger ranks before the elder. This cannot be without design. The same occurs, when Jacob's dying lips address them. Zebulun precedes. Issachar, the first by birth, gives place. Similarly Jacob's right hand rests on the younger, Ephraim. Manasseh has inferior honor. And other instances occur.
Reader, learn hence, that God sits supreme upon His throne. He holds a scepter swayed in love—in wisdom—and in sovereign will. He raises one. He places others in a lower grade. Here showers of grace descend. Here the dew falls in tiny drops. We see the fact. We know, that there is purpose. But we trace not the origin of these decrees. In humble reverence we bow and we adore. All must be wise, and just, and right. The day draws near, when clearer light shall show consummate skill. The structure of the Church will then appear wondrous in perfection. Each part is fixed by an unerring hand.
Let us now heed THE BLESSING. The first word sounds, "Rejoice." This ever is our Gospel's note. Joy is the gift, which Jesus's hands extend. This is the feast, to which true ministers invite.
When will a blinded world unlearn that silliest of fictions, that ways of faith are cheerlessness and gloom! Let faithless men be honest, and they must confess, that their career is restless care—keen disappointment—and self-wrought vexation. They pluck the thorn—not the flower. They feed on husks—not on rich fruit. Their cup is wormwood—not the vine's juice. Their present is distress—not peace. Their future is dismay—not hope. How different is the new-born heart! There constant joy keeps court—joy in the Lord, who washes out all sin—who gives the key of heaven, and title-deeds of endless bliss, and pledge of a weight of glory, and strength for the journey, and triumph at the end. The mandate is not an unmeaning word, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice." Phil. 4:4.
But Zebulun has his peculiar place—so, too, has Issachar. Their calling differs. Zebulun's line extends around the coast. His ships traverse the seas. His commerce is across the waves. While Issachar reposes in inland scenes—and dwells in meadows and in valleys. His life is rustic tranquillity. But whether in turmoil or in peace, joy is the heritage of both. "May the people of Zebulun prosper in their expeditions abroad. May the people of Issachar prosper at home in their tents."
They have the happy knowledge, that all their labors are in appointed course—they go out, or they tarry, under heavenly directive, and therefore with glad hearts.
This leads us to observe, how varied are the stations of man's calling! How diverse are positions! Some reign in palaces—some toil in cottages. Some feast at plenty's table—some pine in poverty's contracted cells. Purple and splendor deck a Dives—Lazarus lies a beggar at the gate. Some work at looms—others in fields. Some climb the mast—others handle the spade. Some exercise the mental powers—others strain the muscles of the body. Some soar in literature's highest flights—some crawl unlettered to the grave. Some guide a nation's counsels—others are instruments to execute these laws. Some are exalted to far higher work. They are ambassadors for Christ. Their office is to tell aloud His wondrous love—to rouse the slumbering—to feed Christ's flock—to uplift thoughts from earth—to spread soul-renovating truths—to build up saints in their most holy faith.
But perfect wisdom rules these varieties on life's stage. No being enters or recedes, but in accordance with God's will. He speaks—they live. He speaks—they die. Entrance and exit are in His hand. At His decree all kings, all beggars, breathe and expire. Both times and stations are allotted by His mind. He raises to the pinnacles of earth—or veils in seclusion. He leads to walks known and observed by all, or hides in garrets of obscurity. Let then the child of God live, rejoicing in his day and lot. No change would be improvement. He best can serve his generation, and advance his soul-concerns, by working cheerfully in his assigned position.
Believer, when you distinctly see the beckoning cloud; when you set forth, or rest, submissive to clear guidance; banish fears—cast out all doubts—lift up the happy head—clap the exulting hands—rejoice—give thanks. A heavenly Father cannot set you in wrong place. A loving Savior cannot lead you in wrong paths. A gracious Spirit cannot endow you with wrong gifts. All is well. Look up and follow, and, as you follow, sing, "Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out—and Issachar in your tents."
Next, there is WORK, in which these tribes concur. They are described as zealous to bring others to know God—"They shall call the people unto the mountain—there they shall offer the sacrifices of righteousness." These words exhibit missionary features. We seem to see them mourning for ignorance, and longing to impart truth—hating darkness, and yearning to infuse light; loving the one true God, and ardent to call the wandering to His fold—the heavy-laden to His rest—the worshipers of stocks and stones to Zion, the Gospel-mount.
Grace had made them to differ from the world around. Revelation had taught them the way of life. They had received Christ-shadowing ordinances. Their worship was not degraded rites of ignorance. Their altar and their victims were typal of the sin-removing Lamb. Their services were bright with God's own truth. Thus, with burning hearts, they called the people unto the mountain, where they offered the sacrifices of righteousness. They would not know, and love, and serve, alone.
Believer, catch hence a gale to fan the fire kindled in your soul. Each child of God—in heart—in lip—in life—should be a flame of enterprising zeal. Is he enlightened—called—selected—converted—pardoned—comforted—sanctified—saved—only that SELF may live? Away with such unworthy thought. Let the low slaves of Satan, let poor paltry worldlings, shiver in the freezing atmosphere of SELF. Let their desires, with unplumed wing, hang heavily around their ease—their profit—their indulgence—their debasing lusts. But let faith soar in higher regions, and break forth in grander efforts, and spread in more ennobled work. Surely its sympathies should grasp the total family of man! Surely its love should travel round the circuit of the globe! Surely its cry should ever call poor sinners to the cross!
Awake, then, arouse; be up, be doing. What! shall souls perish, while you sleep? Shall hell enlarge its borders, while you loiter? Shall Satan push on his triumphs, and you look on indifferent? Shall superstition thrive, and you be silent? Shall ignorance grow darker, and you care not? Forbid it, every feeling of pity—tenderness—humanity—compassion. Forbid it, every thought of a soul's boundless worth. Forbid it, all the unutterable wonders wrapped in the name, eternity. Forbid it, every pious wish to snatch immortals from undying woe—and to upraise them to undying bliss. Forbid it, all your love to Jesus' glorious name—all your deep debt to His atoning blood—all your delight in His appeasing cross. Forbid it, all your hope to see His face in peace—and sit beside Him on His throne—and ever bask in heaven's unclouded sunshine. Forbid it, your deliverance from hell—your title-deeds to heaven. Forbid it, your constant prayer, "Hallowed be Your name—Your kingdom come—Your will be done." Forbid it, your allegiance to His rule—the statutes of His kingdom—the livery, which you wear. Forbid it, His awakening example—His solemn and most positive command. Forbid it, every motive swelling in a Christian heart.
Up, then, and act. Soul-death meets you at each turn. The world in its vast wideness perishes untaught. The spacious fields are neither tilled nor sown. The many millions are heathen—and therefore rushing hell-ward. Help, then, the missionary cause. You may—you can—you should. The need is for men—for means. Can you go forth? Let conscience answer. If not, you yet can pray, and give. Write shame—write base ingratitude—write treason to Christ's cause on every day, which sees no effort from you for the heathen world.
Read not in vain how Zebulun and Issachar subserved this cause. They called the people to the mountain. They strove to increase the sacrifices of righteousness.
The blessing adds, "They benefit from the riches of the sea and the hidden treasures of the sand." God will enrich them. Their traffic shall collect plenteous store. They trade for their God, and their trade shall be full wealth. Who ever lost, who worked for Him!
Remember, that all gain is gainless, if unconsecrated. The worldling's bags have holes—his barns soon empty—his coffers have no locks. Treasure laid out for God is laid up in safe keeping.
Believer, come then, restore to God what He entrusts to you. It will be paid back. But with what interest? God only knows. And on what day? When the returning Lord shall reckon—when the applauding voice shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servant—enter into the joy of your Lord." Matt. 25:21. But now you may have happy foretaste.
Will any put these humble lines aside, without much inward search? Let it not be so. Let every heart enquire, Lord, am I Yours? Is my inheritance among Your chosen flock? Do I lie down in their fair pastures? Do I draw water from their wells of life? Am I Your Zebulun—Your Issachar? Is my life a clear testimony, that I serve Christ? Do I show, that I am alive by many infallible proofs? Acts. 1:3.
If not, oh! let the prayer be heard, 'Lord, make me Yours, and keep me Yours forever. If other lords have held me in their chains, may the vile bondage cease. Accept me, worthless as I am. "Draw me—we will run after You." Fit me—enable me—and my whole life shall be delighted service. Supply me with the oil of grace, and then the flame of glowing toil shall blaze. A Zebulun and Issachar in privilege will always be a Zebulun and Issachar in zeal.