The Tribe of JOSEPH
Henry Law, 1858
"Of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that couches beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills, and for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof, and for the good will of Him, who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him, who was separated from his brethren. His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of wild oxen; with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth—and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh." Deut. 33:13-17.
This blessing is an overflowing stream. Gift follows gift, as if beneficence left bounds behind. Treasures are scattered with unsparing hand. The grant seems to say,' Take, until no more can be received.'
Joseph is the tribe thus signally enriched. He sparkles as the brightest jewel of his father's house. His early grace—his persecuted youth—his rescue from the pit—his firm resistance of enticing evil—his prison-sufferings—his exaltation to be a prince in Egypt—his call to be a savior to his house—with all the tender incidents of his affecting tale, are verdant spots in the first Bible-pages. He lived no common life. No common blessing passes to his seed.
While faith, too, journeys by his side from scene to scene—from early hatred until knees bowed before him—from the low dungeon to the lofty throne—it quickly sees a living type of Jesus. The varying lights and shadows graphically show the Lord. Hence it is no surprise, that special honors crown him. The lips of Jacob gave him an exceeding share. Gen. 49:22-26. The lips of Moses add new stores. It is fit, that those who trace out most of Christ to men, should stand pre-eminent in heavenly favor. Hence Joseph enters on this goodly lot.
His CHARACTER is first described. This claims, then, primary regard. It is a simple portrait. All is comprised in this one praise—he is the "separated from his brethren." He differs, and because he differs, he is cast out. He will not walk in evil ways. And evil men despise him. He loathes their vices, and they loathe his grace. He cannot live, as one with them. And they conspire, that he shall live no more. But while the wicked frown, God smiles. While scales of enmity are full, the scales of recompensing favor far outweigh.
Reader, while you survey this feature of God's child, ask, 'Is your likeness here?' Do not forget, that two families inhabit earth. In principle—in taste—in habit—in desire, they are as separate, as light from darkness—cold from heat—pole from pole—life from death. There is the serpent's seed. There is the heaven-born race. There is the world. There is the little flock of grace. There is the broad road. There is the narrow way. There are the sheep. There are the goats. Hence the importance of the question, Have you escaped from nature's thraldom? Do your feet tread the upward path of life? Do you belong to Belial, or to Christ?
Be wise, and ascertain your real position. Rest not a slave among slaves—a worldling among worldlings. Tarry not in the doomed plain. Come out, like Joseph. He was separate. And did he lose thereby? Let his blessing now give reply.
The BLESSING is so worded, as to exhibit the fullest measure of earthly fertility. All causes, which concur to multiply and ripen fruits, shall lend their congenial influence. The land shall blossom, as an Eden. The canopy of heaven shall pour down softening rains. The gentle dew shall ever sparkle in refreshing drops. Springs from beneath shall permeate the clods. The annual and the monthly produce shall periodically bloom. The ancient mountains shall supply their tribute. Their caverns shall be rich in ore. The lasting hills shall slope luxuriant in olives and in vines. Joseph shall know no scarcity or dearth. Its borders shall abound in "the precious things of the earth and the fullness thereof." The corn shall widely wave in golden wealth. The grass shall spread its verdant carpet. All cattle and all flocks shall browse. Thus earth shall bring her every treasure—and Joseph's sons shall feast at nature's overflowing table.
Such is the superficial view. Thus the first aspect shows abundance of terrestrial goods. But these strong images are bright with higher significance.
Surely this is a vivid scene of better wealth. Our precious Bible—the book of every age and climate—often culls nature's field to impress spiritual ideas. Things visible portray invisible possessions. This principle leads us to look from the outward landscape, and to seek deeper lessons for the soul.
The parallel is quickly found. Obvious illustrations soon occur. For instance, the heart is often parched and dry. But Jesus can sweetly soften. "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass—as showers, that water the earth." Ps. 72:6. Each morning opens on a scene of need. Each morning finds supplies. "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Hos. 14:5. The roots of grace are planted on a flinty soil. There must be constant nourishment, else the leaves wither. Fear not, believer, "You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Is. 58:11. "He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Jer. 17:8.
The inner man, once profuse with every noxious weed—where thorns and briers raised their fruitless heads—when cheered by heaven-sent rays, smiles as a garden, blossoms as a rose. The promise stands, "I will plant trees—cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine—on barren land." Isaiah 41:19. Then precious crops of holy words, and holy works in due succession come. Then fruits of godliness ripen in turn. Faith stands a noble tree. Hope raises high its richly laden boughs. Love scatters fragrance all around. Clusters of righteousness bear witness, this is the vineyard of the Lord—the field watered by grace—filled with the Spirit's seed—and cherished by heaven's brightest beams.
Believer, turn not from this spiritual landscape, without the thought, 'Is your soul thus?' The test of state is always one—"By their fruits you shall know them." The word is true, "He who abides in Me, and I in Him, the same brings forth much fruit." John 15:5. Do you thus abide in Christ? Do you draw fertilizing sap from that rich stem? Do you sit ripening beneath the sunny smiles of God? So only can your heart be Joseph's fertile land.
Joseph has more than promise of this large prosperity. There is assurance of divine good will. This is his crowning blessing. He inherits "the good will of Him who dwelt in the bush."
Observe, how Moses cherished to his last hour that early revelation of his Lord. He can look back on much, and close, and dear communion—but that display is still most splendid in the retrospective view. No time can dim its luster.
Believer, what can obscure on memory's mirror your first clear view of Jesus! What can deaden on your retentive ear the voice, which first assured you of His love! Your heaven began, when you had evidence of His good will. Cherish this sweet assurance. Open your eyes more clearly to discern it. Clasp tight your hands around it. Through every day—in every day's concerns—think, what high favor hovers round you! From all eternity good will regarded you. To all eternity it will warmly burn, and through all time it will remain your guard. It was good will to undertake your full redemption.
It was good will to leave heaven's glories in your service. It was good will to live and die in your behalf. The low estate—the sufferings—the groans—the agony—the cross—the streaming blood—the death—the grave—all manifest good will. And now this favor enriches you with daily grace. It will not fail, while life endures. It will watch by your dying bed. It will receive your fleeting breath. It will present you faultless before the Father's throne. It will rejoice over you, while endless ages roll. Nothing can quench—nothing can part from—"the good will of Him who dwelt in the bush."
Joseph's blessing still flows on. Distinctive evidence, that he is the heir of good will, follows. Thus it abounds. "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock." He shall stand stately—beauteous—strong, as the prime offspring of the herd. He shall move the admiration of the plain.
Here, again, the deepest truth is spiritual. Where shall we find the glory of the human race? It can be only in the realms of grace. There is no loveliness in this world's slaves. They are polluted—tainted—marred by sin—crippled in power—impotent for good. But when the Spirit leads them to a Savior's blood, and thus obliterates each filthy stain—when faith puts on the robes of divine righteousness—when power from heaven renews the nature—when they receive the lineaments of Christ—when they reflect the God-man's image; then weakness and deformity are followed by strength and beauty—then this grand pledge is fully redeemed—"His glory is like the firstling of his bullock." Deut. 33:17. It is ever true, that each Joseph is made strong in a Savior's strength, and beauteous in a Savior's beauty, and moves among his fellow-men, the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
Again, Joseph shall do valiantly. His prowess shall crush every foe. His conquering power is thus described—"His horns are like the horns of wild oxen—with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth." Deut. 33:17.
Thus faith's life is one triumphant conflict. Who can recount the adversaries checking the upward march! But opposition is in vain. There is a Captain, who implants courage, girds up the loins, and cheers His followers onward, until the everlasting palms are waved, and everlasting hallelujahs sound. The blood-washed troops prevail, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
Lastly, his numbers shall exceedingly expand. "They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh." The child of God often mourns his solitude. He seems to be as a lonely cottage in the deserted vineyard. Is. 1:8. But when the total flock is gathered in—when the whole body is complete—when Jesus brings the collected sheaves to heaven's garner; then how vast will be the circle upon circle of saved souls! The ransomed multitude is numberless. The death of Jesus gives birth to countless life.
Reader, think of the world's tinsel gifts—weigh Satan's wages, as earned in time, and paid in the eternal world. Then turn and contrast the blessing, which "comes upon the head of Joseph—and upon the top of the head of him, who was separated from his brethren." Shall this bright crown be yours? Jesus's hands bestow it. Seek it. Ask it. None seek—none ask—in vain.
Ah! wretched worldling, when will you be wise! Come and display your treasure. Your best is but a fading flower—a fleeting shadow—a tottering reed—a failing brook. And how long can your hands retain it? How long!—You startle. You tremble. You turn pale. How long! It perishes, while you strive to grasp it. What will then follow! Hell is at hand to answer.
Happy Christian, show your treasure. You produce Joseph's portion—abundance of all grace. How long! A bright eternity is the measure without measure.