Theme: The last days (Part 8)
(Key Verse: Gen 49:20)
God’s Word has a primary spiritual meaning which is the inward application for those who read, hear and keep these words because “the time is at hand” (Mat 4:4):
Rev 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Joh 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
“Flesh profiteth nothing” and the fleshly interpretation of God’s word is indeed also of no profit, but that does not mean that there is no physical or outward application included in God’s Word. Everything written in the scriptures has therefore both a physical and spiritual application, even the final words of Jacob (also called Israel) to his sons when he told them that “which shall befall [them] in the last days” (Exo 14:20; Heb 4:12):
Gen 49:1 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.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
The twelve sons of Israel are indeed earthly shadows or spiritual parables of what the true Israel of God receives (Gal 6:16). It is the spiritual Israelites or spiritual Jews who truly were given much spiritual advantage and profit by God:
Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Rom 3:1 What advantage then hath the [spiritual] Jew? or what profit is there of [spiritual] circumcision?
Rom 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
Gal 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature [the spiritual circumcision – the cutting off or losing of the physical].
Gal 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
What happened in the lives of these sons of Jacob was all written for our admonition – for those who know that “the ends of the world” or physical age has come on them:
1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [Greek: aiōn = age] are come.
The theme of “the last days” helps us to see the unveiling of God’s work through Jesus Christ in us from beginning to end (Isa 2:2-5; Joe 2:28-32; Act 2:17-18):
Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
We already touched on Jacob’s words to Reuben (meaning “behold a son”), Simeon (“to hear”), Levi (“joined”), Judah (“praise”), Zebulun (“habitation”), Issachar (“reward”), Dan (“judge”) and Gad (“a troop”) in previous discussions – in that order, which is, of course, not the order of their births. In this discussion we want to look at a few aspects in the lives of Asher and his tribe.
Asher: the meaning in his name
The ninth son Jacob spoke to just before his death in Egypt was Asher, the second son born to him from Zilpah, the handmaid of Leah after she bore him Gad (her firstborn):
Gen 30:12 And Zilpah, Leah’s maid, bare Jacob a second son.
Gen 30:13 And Leah said, Happy [Hebrew: ôsher] am I, for the daughters will call me blessed [Hebrew: âshar = happy]: and she called his name Asher [Hebrew: âshêr]
The words of Leah have a very familiar ring to them as we also hear this from Mary when she was expecting with Jesus:
Luk 1:46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
Luk 1:47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Luk 1:48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed [Greek: makarios].
Asher’s name means “happiness”, which connects with being blessed, typifying Jesus who is the true “Son of the Blessed”:
Mar 14:61 But he [Jesus] held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
Mar 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Like Mary, Leah saw the physical application of being blessed with the births of these sons of theirs. We all pray for physical blessings, health and prosperity at the birth of a baby. As this baby matures into an adult, we all progressively realise that this earthly life has much tribulation and trials and that death is the condition and sentence of being in corrupt, sinful flesh, by God’s design and creation (Isa 45:7; Jer 18:4; Rom 6:23; Rom 7:24; Rom 8:6-8; Rom 8:20). Asher is Jacob’s eighth son, and this number eight spiritually links with this truth that it is only through this death process and ultimate destruction of this earthly seven-headed fleshly beast that the new spirit-man in Christ is brought forth (Gen 17:12; Gal 6:15; 2Co 5:17; Rev 13:1; Rev 17:3):
Rev 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
For the new man to be established there needs to be an old man first, even as the first Adam “is the figure of [the last Adam] that was to come” – Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14):
1Co 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
1Co 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
1Co 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
1Co 15:48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
1Co 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Asher and his tribe first connects with the “blessing” of the physical man in us, as that is the order God established through which the true spiritual blessing, Jesus Christ, can be understood:
Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
In the process of maturing we indeed learn how to discern between the blessings of the flesh and the blessings of the spirit (Heb 5:14). These blessings are indeed totally opposite of each other:
Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Jacob’s final words to Asher bring forth important aspects of how God’s blessings on both the old man and the new man are to be seen:
Gen 49:20 Out of Asher his bread shall be fat [Hebrew: shâmên], and he shall yield royal dainties.
In Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Asher we also see the concept of fat or oil included among other spiritual symbols, which all help us to see our own blessed position in God’s creation, whether in the physical or in the ultimate spiritual inheritance:
Deu 33:24 And of Asher he [Moses] said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil [Hebrew: shemen].
Deu 33:25 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
The two Hebrew words shaw-mane’ and sheh’-men have the same root in the Hebrew namely shaw-man’ which relates to having plenty or the best:
Isa 30:23 Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous [Hebrew: shâmên]: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
Fat or oil also links to the best part of an animal offering which belongs to God – all pointing to the spirit life of Christ in us in which God is interested:
Gen 4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat [Hebrew: cheleb] thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
Num 18:12 All the best [Hebrew: cheleb] of the oil, and all the best [Hebrew: cheleb] of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.
Lev 3:16 And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat [Hebrew: cheleb] is the LORD’S.
It is only in our last days that we can see the work of Christ in our lives, and through Him we “yield royal dainties”, which is His true doctrine and the fruit of the spirit which is brought forth to the glory of the Father (Gal 5:22-23):
Psa 92:14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age [the “latter days”]; they shall be fat and flourishing.
Let us see how Moses’ words to this tribe link to Jacob’s final words to Asher.
“Let Asher be blessed with children…”
Asher, like all the other sons of Jacob, indeed was blessed with a big physical offspring through his five children (1Ch 7:30-40). Asher and his tribe again highlight this desire of our heavenly Father for a family, and this desire drives His plan for this creation. Right from the beginning God made this desire known through all creation, especially to Adam and Eve (Gen 1:22):
Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Gen 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
God saved one whole family during the global flood with whom He also established His covenant with all people to whom He will be faithful to fulfill His promises (Gen 6:18):
Gen 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Gen 9:9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you.
God called Abraham and his family to the promised land and through the three patriarchs of Israel this desire for a family is confirmed time after time, as in this case with Jacob:
Gen 35:11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
Through this we can also see that God is firstly focussing on a few elected ones through whom He will indeed fulfill His covenant with all to be His spiritual children via Jesus Christ “in due time”:
1Ti 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
1Ti 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
This is the will of God which shall “be done in earth, as it is in heaven” and no human or evil will can defy God’s will (Rom 9:16):
Mat 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
When we can see that we have no “free” will and God is sovereign and faithful to His promises, then we fear God and walk in His way. This is how we are truly blessed and happy when the Asherites in us shall “yield royal dainties” according to the words of Jacob:
Psa 128:1 A Song of degrees. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.
Psa 128:2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Only as part of God’s church we shall bear fruit of righteousness and even “be blessed with children”:
Psa 128:3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Psa 128:4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.
Psa 128:5 The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.
Psa 128:6 Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.
“….let [Asher] be acceptable to his brethren…”
One of the biggest longings in a person’s heart is to be accepted, and how we all are struggling with that since our creation!
Gen 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Man was made to “dwell together in unity” because it is “good and pleasant” (Psa 133:1). God ordained this creation to “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” being in this period of waiting for the revelation of this family of God (Rom 8:20-22). This is what everyone in Adam is waiting for, knowingly or unknowingly. This groaning and travailing is manifested in diverse ways, because everyone wants to be settled in the new creation, which is only going to be fulfilled in Christ. It is only the Lord that makes us “to increase and abound in love one toward another” and that comes only through being set free from our pride and serving our own needs (Pro 3:3-4; Pro 18:24; Mat 6:33; Rom 12:1; Gal 1:10):
1Th 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.
“….let [Asher] dip his foot in oil [Hebrew: shemen]. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass…”
Our foot is the part of our body which relates to standing and walking. Spiritually this indicates our viewpoint and our walk either according to our earthly standards or our keeping or abiding in the doctrine of Christ (2Jn 1:9-11). Shoes also link to this spiritual meaning both in the positive and the negative (Mat 3:11; Luk 15:22; Act 7:33; Eph 6:15). The word “shemen” also connects in the scriptures with being anointed. Here are a few verses:
Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil [Hebrew: “shemen”]; my cup runneth over.
Isa 10:27 And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing [Hebrew: shemen].
Like all spiritual symbols in the scriptures, the anointing of God also has both a positive and negative application, as God is the Father of all spirits – good and evil (Gen 1:2-5; Gen 2:9; Heb 12:9; Isa 45:7; Exo 14:20; Heb 4:12; Rev 1:16; Rev 2:12). Iron and brass are both base metals connected to flesh, but as we mature in Christ we see how God uses even these base metals to bring us to His spiritual treasures when we can receive and understand the purpose of this physical creation and His fiery trials (Gen 4:22; Deu 8:9; Jos 6:19; Jos 6:24; Ecc 10:11; Pet 4:12). King Saul is a beautiful example of the anointed of God who is called by God to set snares and bring tribulation to the elect:
Jer 5:26 For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.
Jer 5:27 As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.
Jer 5:28 They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.
King Saul was anointed by Samuel (with a manmade vial or flask of oil) as commanded by God, but afterwards he was the rejected king because Saul reveals to us our own flesh with its rebellious nature and stubborn disobedience (1Sa 10:1; 1Sa 15:23). This anointing of Saul typifies our initial time under the kingship of flesh when the oil and glory of the flesh serves as an obstacle to spiritual insight and understanding:
Isa 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat [Hebrew: shâmên], and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Saul became David’s opposition or adversary as David became the true anointed king of Israel (he was anointed with a horn). David typifies the blessing of the spirit of Christ in us, bringing to us His words which enable us to serve God and His church with a new heart and mind (Pro 27:9; 1Co 2:16):
Son 1:3 Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Psa 133:1 A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psa 133:2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
Psa 133:3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
“…as thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
Through Moses’ words to this tribe of Asher we can see that God supplies what we need to endure for each situation (Php 4:17):
Isa 40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Isa 40:30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
Isa 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
God wrote all our days in His book long before there were even days (Psa 139:16; Rev 20:12). This brings so much comfort because God is not caught out by anyone’s actions, He neither needs to be informed of our individual situation – He knows all and works all things (Eph 1:11). Spiritually the tribe of Asher (also known as Aser) is a type of the few blessed elect in the first resurrection because they are those in Christ who are not offended by Christ’s words and commandments. The elected ones of God are indeed the blessed In Christ and sealed with the true blessing of God’s spiritual things to be faithful until the end (Mat 5:3-11; Mat 11:6; Rom 4:7-8; Jas 1:25; Rev 1:3; Rev 16:15; Rev 19:9; Rev 22:7):
Rev 7:6a Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand.
Rev 20:6 Blessed [Greek: makarios] and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Rev 22:14 Blessed [Greek: makarios] are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Our blessed heavenly position within the spiritual Israel of God
The tribe of Asher was made to camp on the north side of the tabernacle in the wilderness with the tribes of Dan and Naphtali (Num 2:25-29). In the time of settlement in Canaan this tribe was given a territory in the north of the land close to the sea (Jos 17:10; Jos 19:24-31). The Asherites were also part of the ten tribes who formed the northern kingdom of Israel. We know that the north relates to God’s judgment and through this tribe of Asher we see how our earthly beast (our old life) is killed on the north side of the altar (Lev 1:11; Job 37:22; Isa 14:31; Isa 41:25; Jer 1:14; Jer 4:6; Jer 6:1; Jer 10:22; Jer 25:9; Eze 1:4; Eze 48:1). It is only through God’s judgment that we are given the spiritual ability to discern the true blessings and to know that real happiness comes to those who endure till the end (Act 14:22; Jas 1:12):
Jas 5:11 Behold, we count them happy [Greek: makarios] which endure…
1Pe 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy [Greek: makarios] are ye….
1Pe 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [Greek: makarios]are ye…
During the reign of king Hezekiah of the southern kingdom we read that he invited all those in this northern kingdom of Israel who were not taken captive by the king of Assyria to join him and the tribes in the southern kingdom of Judah in Jerusalem to keep a special passover:
2Ch 30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel.
Hezekiah’s plea to them was to humble themselves as God will not turn His face away from them if they come with a repentant heart:
2Ch 30:7 And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see.
2Ch 30:8 Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.
2Ch 30:9 For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
While most mocked and scorned this suggestion of Hezekiah, a few from the northern kingdom did indeed respond, among them also some of the tribe of Asher who humbled themselves:
2Ch 30:11 Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.
It is also significant to read that hundreds of years after the Babylonian captivity and judgment on both Israel and Judah, a prophetess from the tribe of Asher with the name of Anna was living in Jerusalem and was active in the new rebuilt temple during the time of Jesus birth:
Luk 2:36 And there was one Anna [her name means “favour” or “grace” in Hebrew], a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel [his name means “the face of God” or “facing God” in Hebrew], of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
Luk 2:37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years [eighty four years old], which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Luk 2:38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Anna “spake of [Jesus] to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” and this is what scriptural prophecy actually is concerned with. It is the testimony of Jesus in and through us:
Rev 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Through this tribe of Asher we also see that God’s judgment brings forth a humbled heart, even our own Anna, which is highly favoured by God because it is only then that we can be spiritually elevated to prophesy and serve in the new temple, His church, with words of edification, exhortation, and comfort:
1Co 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.