PREVIOUS to his departure from them, Moses pronounced a blessing on all the tribes of Israel. The blessing to each was appropriate and prophetic. That assigned to Asher was, that his posterity should be numerous and happy; that his provision should be abundant, and his strength, under every emergency, fully adequate to the occasion. It is thought indeed by some, that the promise, “thy shoes shall be iron and brass,” referred to mines in that part of Canaan which should be allotted to them: but it appears to me to import rather, that they should be possessed of great power; and to agree exactly with that address of the Prophet Micah to Zion, “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion! for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many people [Note: Mic_4:13.].” Then the meaning of our text will be clear; namely, that whatever difficulties they might have to contend with, they should find their strength sufficient for them.
Now, though many parts of the blessings here pronounced were doubtless so peculiar as to have no reference except to the particular tribe to which they were addressed, yet such parts as were of a more general nature may, without impropriety, be more largely applied to the Israel of God in all ages. Such parts will be found in almost all the addresses to the different tribes; and the promise in our text most assuredly admits of such an interpretation. The promise made to Joshua, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee,” might appear to belong to him only, as the individual to whom it was personally addressed. Yet St. Paul applied it generally to the whole Church of God in all ages; and authorized all saints, in every period of the world, to regard it as spoken equally to themselves, and to expect most assuredly its accomplishment in their own persons: “God hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do unto me [Note: Heb_13:5-6.].” In like manner, we may interpret this blessing, which was primarily addressed to the tribe of Asher, as properly belonging to all the people of God; so far, at least, as they may be in circumstances which call for similar support.
That we may enter the more fully into the meaning of this promise, I will point out distinctly,
What it supposes and implies—
It is here evidently supposed that the Lord’s people will have seasons of trial, which will call for more than ordinary support.
And such seasons do sooner or later occur to all; seasons,
[Who is there that does not experience more or less the temptations of Satan? He is not an inactive adversary. At no time is he unobservant of our frame, or unprepared to gain an advantage over us: but there are some times which he selects for his attacks, when he promises himself a more easy victory, and when he puts forth all his devices to draw us into sin. His wiles are unsearchable: innumerable also are the modes in which he makes his assaults upon us. Sometimes he assumes the appearance of an angel of light: at other times his own proper character is clearly marked in the blasphemies which he suggests to our minds: and, on all such occasions, if we were not succoured from on high, we should fall before him, as lambs before a devouring lion.
The world, too, presents its temptations on every side: it proposes to us its pleasures, its riches, its honours, as objects that may well stand in competition with Jehovah himself, and rival him in our affections.
And our own corrupt hearts, too, are ready enough to indulge all manner of irregular desires, and to draw us into the commission of actual sin.
What would become of us, if, at such seasons as these, we had none to succour us, no arm but our own to help us?]
[“We are born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward:” it is the inheritance of every child of man. No one is exempt: a king upon his throne is open to its incursions, no less than the meanest of his subjects. In his own person, he is exposed to pains and disorders: in his family, to feuds and bitter bereavements: in his circumstances, to all the varieties of change, embarrassment, and loss. To all of these the saints are exposed, as well as others; whilst they are oppressed with many troubles peculiar to themselves. What they often endure from the workings of corruption, the hidings of God’s face, the assaults of Satan, the fear of death and judgment, can little be conceived by those who fear not God. Most generally, too, they are exposed to hatred and persecution for righteousness’ sake; and find amongst their “greatest foes the people of their own household.” True it is, that we are not in the present day called to “resist unto blood:” but let it not, therefore, be accounted a small matter to be treated with contempt by friends and enemies, and to be reduced to the alternative of sacrificing all that we hold dear in this life, or the hopes and prospects of a better. These are great and heavy trials: and every child of God must expect to be conformed to his Lord and Saviour in the endurance of them.]
[Truly spiritual obedience is at all times difficult: and how much more so under such circumstances as those in which Daniel and the Hebrew Youths were placed! To resist an ordinance of a powerful monarch, when the whole empire were joining in the observance of it, and when that disobedience was menaced with a fiery furnace; and to maintain steadfastly the public worship of Jehovah, when, by a temporary neglect or concealment of it, an exposure in a den of lions might be avoided—were no easy matters. It surely needed much grace to maintain a good conscience under such circumstances. And there will be, in the experience of every saint, some special occasions where a strict adherence to duty is inconceivably difficult and painful. Such “days” the promise in our text teaches us to expect, and against such days it makes for us a merciful provision.]
But let us distinctly state,
What it engages and assures—
Whatever our trials be, strength shall be given us in proportion to them: and our communications from God shall be,
Seasonable—in respect of tune—
[Often, if succour were delayed, we should fall a prey to our great adversary. But “God’s eves run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them that fear him [Note: 2Ch_16:9.]:” and the very instant he sees us ready to sink, he interposes for our help. He has promised that he would do so: “He will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left [Note: Deu_32:36.].” “In the very mount” of difficulty “he will be seen.” The Apostle Paul experienced this on a very trying occasion. When summoned before that bloody tyrant, Nero, “all his friends forsook him; but the Lord stood by him, and strengthened him, that through him the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear [Note: 2Ti_4:16-17.].” Had he not been thus strengthened in the very hour of need, his courage might have failed: but by this seasonable interposition of the Deity, he was enabled to maintain his ground, and execute the trust committed to him. And David also attests that this was his frequent experience: “In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul [Note: Psa_138:3.].”]
Suitable—to the particular occasion—
[Different are the communications that are wanted under different circumstances. Sometimes wisdom is necessary: and that shall be imparted as our necessities may require. This was promised, in a more especial manner, by our Lord to his disciples: “When they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say; for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in that tame hour what ye ought to say [Note: Luk_12:11-12.].” If patience be wanted, that in like manner shall be supplied: for “he will strengthen us with all might by his Spirit in the inner man, unto all patience, and long-suffering with joyfulness [Note: Col_1:11.].” If faith be that which is more especially necessary for the soul, he will impart that in richer abundance. We have a very striking instance of this in Peter. Our Lord had forewarned him that he would deny his Master: and if Peter, after the perpetration of this evil, had given way to despondency, he would have perished in his iniquity, just as Judas did. But our Lord “prayed for him, that his faith might not fail:” and through the operation of this grace upon his soul, he was kept from destruction, and restored to the favour of his God. In a word, the grace which he will bestow in the time of need shall be a tree of life in the soul, “bringing forth its fruit in its season [Note: Psa_1:3.],” yea, “twelve manner of fruits [Note: Rev_22:2.],” according to the occasion that may call for them, and the season to which they may be suited.]
Sufficient for our utmost necessities—
[“Our strength shall be fully equal to our day.” Let our weakness be ever so great, or our trial ever so heavy, our Lord “will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will, with the temptation, make for us a way to escape, that we maybe able to bear it [Note: 1Co_10:13.].” Certainly, the trials of St. Paul were as numerous and heavy as ever were sustained by mortal man: and under them, especially under that which he calls a thorn in his flesh, and the buffetings of Satan, he cried mightily to the Lord for deliverance. The answer given to him by our Lord was, “My grace is sufficient for thee; and my strength shall be made perfect in weakness.” Now, behold, how all his troubles were in an instant turned into occasions of joy! “Most gladly, therefore,” says he, “will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong [Note: 2Co_12:9-10.].” And from that time we find him hurling defiance at all his enemies, how numerous and powerful soever they might be: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation? or distress? or persecution? or famine? or nakedness? or peril? or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. And I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord [Note: Rom_8:35-39.].”]
As the promise made to the tribe of Asher may fitly be applied to believers generally, let us consider,
What it speaks more especially to God’s peculiar people—
Truly, it is a most instructive passage of Holy Writ: for it shews, to all God’s believing people,
The grounds of their security—
[Believers, or unbelievers, we have no strength in ourselves: our strength is in God alone: and, if ever we be strong at all, it must “be in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Eph_6:10.].” His power, as engaged for us, and his fidelity, as pledged to us, are the true, and proper, and only grounds of a sinner’s hope. Let the promise which we are now considering be apprehended, and relied upon, and pleaded in faith and prayer, and we can have nothing to fear. “A very worm.” so supported, shall “thresh the mountains [Note: Isa_41:14-15.].” “If God be for us, none can be against us [Note: Rom_8:31.]” — — —]
The reason of their falls—
[Notwithstanding what is spoken in the text, it is certain that many saints do fall, and that most grievously. But whence is this? Is not God “able to make them stand [Note: Rom_14:4.]?” or is He not “faithful who hath promised [Note: Heb_10:23.]?” Know ye, Brethren, that the fault is not in God; but in his people themselves, who either become unwatchful, and are therefore left to reap the fruits of their heedlessness; or indulge self-confidence, and are therefore given up for a season to betray their weakness and folly. To these causes must be traced the falls of David and of Peter. If God have engaged to “keep the feet of his saints [Note: 1Sa_2:9.].” he has not given them therefore a licence to rush into temptation, or to relax their vigilance, or to confide in themselves. His word is true: and he will fulfil it to all who plead it with him. But if we grow remiss and careless, he will leave us to “eat the fruit of our own ways, and to be filled with our own devices [Note: Pro_1:31.].” I will ask of any one that has been left to dishonour God, and to wound his own soul; “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord, when he led thee by the way [Note: Jer_2:17.]?” He has warned thee that it should be thus: “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him: if ye seek him, he will be found of you: but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you [Note: 2Ch_15:2.].”]
The extent of their privileges—
[Weak as we are, and in the midst of enemies, still he would have us “without carefulness.” He has bidden us to “cast all our care on Him who careth for us [Note: 1Pe_5:7.].” He considers himself as dishonoured when we indulge any doubts or fears: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith [Note: Mat_8:26.]?” “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary: there is no searching of his understanding? He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and he weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall “run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint [Note: Isa_40:28-31.].” “Know, then, in whom you have believed; that He is both able and willing to keep that which you have committed to him [Note: 2Ti_1:12.].” And let not any dangers, however imminent, appal you. “Say not ye, A confederacy, to all them to whom others shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid: but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself: and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he will be to you for a sanctuary [Note: Isa_8:12-14.].” O blessed tidings! Rejoice in them, Beloved, and realize them in your souls. Then shall you enjoy both stability and peace: for “God will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him. Trust ye, therefore, in the Lord for ever: for with the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength [Note: Isa_26:3-4.].”]