THE LAST TRIBES
Henry Law, 1858
"Of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord, possess the west and the south. And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren; and let him dip his foot in oil. Your shoes shall be iron and brass; and as your days, so shall your strength be." Deut. 33:23-25.
Naphtali and Asher now appear. They are the last in order—not the least in favor. Their blessing proves again the truth often stated, that the treasury of God is a vast mine. It bestows much—but much ever remains. The sun has poured down floods of rays on a long train of generations, but the streams cease not—the fountain is not impoverished. The elders of faith's house have been most plenteously enriched, but we may still as plenteously obtain. Store upon store—wealth upon wealth—grace upon grace—still fill the heavenly coffers. There is no end, no limit. Full hands are ever open to dispense. Abundant gifts in ages past still leave abundant gifts for present and for future days.
My soul, if you are poor, it is not because God's blessings fail. Let faith not cease to bring its empty vessels, they will not cease to be supplied. "He gives more grace." Jam. 4:6.
Mark, how Naphtali's rich portion confirms this. This tribe is "satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord." Possession of the west and south is also granted. Their lot is fixed in fertile and healthful spots. The goodly fruits, which crowned their baskets—the choice position of their lands—their sheltered valleys—their inland sea, fulfilled this promise. Nurtured, in nature's richest lap, they reveled in favor and in blessings.
But the possession thus granted seems to hint at nobler gain. When Jesus put on our flesh, and trod our earth, this tribe was chosen as His frequented home. Here stood Capernaum—the scene of His most mighty works. Here He displayed the brightness of those glorious deeds, which testified divine commission. Here the God-man moved—healing disease—allaying pain—soothing deep misery—reviving drooping hearts—uttering pure wisdom—fulfilling the long line of prophecy—lifting high the Gospel beacon. This was surpassing honor. This was privilege exalting to the very heavens. "O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord," your eyes were privileged to see incarnate Deity.
Believer, come now and trace in NAPHTALI'S distinguished lot, the features of your happy case. Is not this picture drawn, that you may realize your plenteous treasures? You, too, are "satisfied with favor." You, too, are "full with the blessing of the Lord."
"Satisfied with favor." You once were dead in trespasses and sins. You moved a living carcase with a lifeless soul. Your every step was hellward. Your every moment hurried you towards endless woe. Your life was ignorance—rebellion—slavery—disgrace. But now the darkness is dispersed, and true light shines. You see the cross. You use the blood. You stand in a new world of spiritual delight. You are a new creation of thought—affection—hope—desire. You live for God—to God—with God—in God.
But whence the change? Did it result from nature and your own resolve? Did rolling years beget this wisdom? Oh! no. You owe the whole to sovereign grace. God, of His own free will, looked down with favor on your ruined soul. His favor gave you, as a jewel, to His Son—and gave His Son to be your uttermost salvation. His favor sent the Spirit to make you one, by faith, with Christ. Thus all things are yours. Child of grace, do you not rapturously sing, I am indeed a Naphtali, "Satisfied with favor!"
"Full," too, "with the blessing of the Lord." Happy state! The Father ever lives to bless. Jesus ever reigns to bless. The Spirit ever works to bless. The morning dawns, that blessings may descend. The day goes on, that blessings may proceed. The clouds, which seem to portend storms, bring showers of blessing. Life is a blessing, while it lasts. Death is a blessing, when it comes. Trials—afflictions—losses—temptations—are blessings, because they wean from earth. When time is left behind, and eternity reviews life's journey; then will the truth stand prominently out, that each saint's cup was "full with the blessing of the Lord."
But Naphtali's distinction was, that Jesus chose it as His earthly dwelling. Believer, have not you similar delight? Your soul is Jesus' home. He, whom no heavens can hold—He, to whom infinity is a mere speck—scorns not to abide within you. "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse." You may always realize His present smile. You may always hold sweet communion. You may ever whisper to His ready ear, and catch the joy of His replying voice. You may always lean upon His arm, and rest upon His breast. Christ dwells in your heart by faith.
Moses looks on from Naphtali to ASHER. His is the final blessing. It is largely bounteous. It seals again the truth, that God delights to scatter favors with unsparing hand. It has a voice still calling believers to a treasure-house, where they may ask with open mouth, and take with open hand.
"Let Asher be blessed with children—let him be acceptable to his brethren—and let him dip his foot in oil. Your shoes shall be iron and brass—and as your days, so shall your strength be." Deut. 33:25.
Out of this crowded diadem only the last sparkling gem can be examined. But is it not a jewel far exceeding this world's boasted wealth! "As your days, so shall your strength be." This promise intimates the fact, that days will vary. As in nature, clouds screen the sun—and storms descend—and tempests rage—and hurricanes sweep fearfully—and rapid changes come—so is it in the life of grace. The morning brightness often gives way to mid-day gloom. The mid-day gloom brings in evening wildness. The skies are now serene—we look above on one expanse of clearest blue—now the scene varies, and thick darkness frowns, or forked lightning darts its angry shafts. Faith has no lofty seat, which trials cannot reach—and no seclusion, which distress cannot invade. But it has a rock, from which no foes can shake—the rock is Asher's blessing, "As your days, so shall your strength be."
Strong in this pledge—bold in this might—safe in this safety—confident in this security—impregnable within this fort—happy in this happiness, faith feels, "I shall not be injured, or destroyed. Days may be dark and sad; I may be sorely buffeted; but strength shall be enough. All earthly props may fall, but I shall stand. All human friends may flee, but I shall not be left alone. All trials may in turn assail, but they shall not prevail. Satan may hurl each dart, but a strong shield shall ward them off. All snares may be most craftily laid, but they shall not destructively entangle. The world may use its every enticing art, but I shall be enabled to escape. It may mutter its threats, but I have a sufficient refuge. I may be tempted—persecuted—wronged—but not cast down. I often may fear. I often may see a yawning precipice before my feet. The ground may tremble. But I am safe. I hold a saving promise—"As your days, so shall your strength be."
Faith can fly back, and commune with the elder saints. It hears from all the self-same story. We had a course through stormy seas, where billows tossed, and rocks were sharp, and quicksands opened their engulfing jaws. But our barks rode triumphant to the haven. As our days, so was our strength.
Jacob speaks of an outcast life—and many enemies—and overwhelming griefs—and lonely tremblings—and inward fears—but still strength was built up. He held on to the end. He testifies, The Angel redeemed me from all evil. David presents a painful chart. What cruel hate of men! what thirstings for his blood! what foul assaults of Satan! what stumbles! ah! what falls! His soul-life often seemed trodden in the dust. But he revives. Oil of grace supplies the flickering lamp. The heaven-lit flame never expires. Others are bound, and dragged to torturing flames; but they survive. The menace cannot overcome. The fire cannot consume. Their day is very terrible, but strength endures. Others are cast a prey to angry beasts, but their peace is as a placid lake. The outward scene is wild affright, but their souls never quake. The Lord is with them, and their strength abides.
View Paul and Silas in the inmost cell. Their wounds are smarting—the dungeon is deep—the chains clash heavily. But inward comfort flows in full tide. Thanksgivings swell. They loudly sing, and bless a loving God.
Mark the heroic calmness of the early preachers of the faith. Threats and imprisonment are their lot. They feel, as men; but they rejoice, as saints. They neither faint nor fail. They sit unmoved amid an earthquake of alarms. As their days, so is their strength. It is Paul's glad acknowledgment—but not Paul's sole experience—"Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Martyrs and confessors press forward to give like witness. They joy in anguish—they embrace the stake—they hug encircling flames. They find, that days are often terrible, but never without needful strength. Was Stephen left without support, when, with angelic look, he kneeled down, and, praying for his murderers, amid a shower of stones, fell tranquilly asleep?
The whole bright throng around the throne attest the same. They passed through many perils—sorrows—fights—but heavenly strength braced their loins—sustained their hearts—fanned their desponding spirits—and made them more than conquerors. From every lip one testimony sounds. The word is true, "As your days, so shall your strength be."
Believer, tremble not. Take courage. Go forward. You may be young, and a long course may open to your view. Foes must infest it. You have no promise, that trials will not come. Satan spares none. He grants no Sabbath of repose. But face the worst, bold and serene in Christ. Hold fast the staff of grace. Trust and fear not. Trust and pray always. Trust and plead this word. It is not Asher's only. It is your portion. You will surely find, "As your days, so shall your strength be."
You may be worn with malady, and tottering down the valley of years. You may dread Jordan's waves, and the cold touch of death. But clasp the promise. The greater need brings the more large support. How many tremblers have gone triumphantly to rest! Christ's love exceeds all hopes. His merciful fulfillments surpass each pledge. He cannot fail. He cannot disappoint. Come what may—this will be true, "As your days, so shall your strength be."
But faithfulness must add, that these rich mercies are not Israel's portion only. Those who are Christ's, possess, and claim, and use, and joy in them. They, who reject Him, see but a casket, which they open not. Their days have trouble without strength. Their future will have misery without end. Let not such turn from Naphtali and Asher until they share what Naphtali and Asher gained from God. The blessings of these tribes may yet, through grace, be sought and found.
Eternal Spirit, mighty source of light and inward life, give Your help! Open each eye to see the beauty, riches, blessedness, and glory of God's heritage. Stir up each heart to wrestle, until the word is heard—"Great is your faith, be it done unto you, even as you will."