4. The Tribe of Asher

By John Thiel, The Characteristics of the Twelve Tribes of the 144,000 Conference, study 4, mp3

Origins

The 144,000 are people who may have come from the worst case scenarios, such as the polygamous circumstances of Jacob’s household. These people who will be standing without fault before the throne of God are a people who were not like that to start with; they were born in very sinful circumstances, like David was.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden [part] thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

We can understand the words “shapen in iniquity” when we study the birth of Jacob’s sons. They were shapen out of a polygamous lifestyle. Having studied so far Judah, Ruben, and Gad, these people, although shapen in iniquity, were blessed with certain good qualities. Everyone who is born has some good qualities. We saw how Judah came to the defence of his brother Joseph, how Ruben also sought to deliver him, and the love he had for his mother in giving her those love-apples. These were the good traits that could then be enlarged as they responded to God’s work of salvation, and the others could be eclipsed.

Psalm 51:6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden [part] thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

There is some hidden aspect inside of us. So the psalmist says,

Psalm 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Those hidden elements that are good traits that God has put there in the inward parts, are to come forth as the soul is purified. The people of the 144,000 may have come from the very worst-case-scenario experiences; and that is where God finds every child of God. He finds them like that. Look where He finds His Israel:

Picking Up the Degraded

Ezekiel 16:1 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity [is] of the land of Canaan; thy father [was] an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. 4 And [as for] thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple [thee]; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. 5 None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.

Isn’t this an interesting description of the birth of these twelve sons of Jacob?

Ezekiel 16:6 And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee [when thou wast] in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee [when thou wast] in thy blood, Live. 7 I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: [thy] breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou [wast] naked and bare. 

This is a metaphorical description of the people of God and the condition He finds them in. He finds them in a polluted state, and He says,

Ezekiel 16:8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time [was] the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. 9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. 10 I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. 11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. 12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.

This is metaphorical language in which He describes what He did in the lives of those tribes. The message now continues. The reality of these people being washed in the blood of the Lamb is also metaphorical – they are going through experiences of purification, making their garments white under God’s direct intervention.

We are now looking at another son of Jacob, who was also born from an unsavoury beginning. In the line-up of Revelation 7:6 we are up to the next name, which is Asher. What were the circumstances of his birth?

Asher’s Beginning

Genesis 30:9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. 10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad. 12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

Here was another son of Jacob born to the maid, or, in other words, the concubine. Very unsavoury. And it was all as a result of the envy and vying of the two wives of Jacob. So here is Asher being born, and it made Leah happy; His birth created happiness to Leah. And this is the blessing that Jacob pronounced upon Asher:

Genesis 49:20 Out of Asher his bread [shall be] fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.

Once again we have here a symbolic/metaphoric expression. What is meant by these words? He was born out of a polygamous situation which God did not teach, but here these people were born the way they were born, and as we saw, no matter the background of a person’s life, God has a place for such people. There in the forecast of the blessing upon Asher there is something important. It has to do with fatness of bread and royal dainties.

A Mottled Experience

Although Asher was born in this unsavoury circumstance there was an ingredient there, something good in the hidden parts – royal dainties, something to do with royalty, and fatness of bread. He was born from a sinful background, with a hallmark of unconverted personality, and affected by this kind of ungodly home life, yet being brought under Jacob to the God of Jacob. We have here a very interesting mottled experience.

When a person is born to such circumstances and he has these hidden values, like royalty, and the pouring of the fat of the bread, what do we see? What do they make bread with? Oil. This is describing a person with some hidden royalty and corruption at the same time. What follows is a description of a corrupt person:

Psalm 55:20 He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant. 21 [The words] of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war [was] in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet [were] they drawn swords.

Have you come across certain people who have had a very noble beginning in terms of a training for nobility? They can speak beautiful words; but while they may speak smooth words, something else is behind it. You can hear it amongst the politicians and the people of the world; they can really cut like a sword, even with smooth words. Here we have a person out of whom the fat of butter and oil come forth – smooth words, royalty in expression – and who is yet corrupt because of the terrible, corrupt circumstances in which he was born. The words uttered by someone who was brought up in an ungodly background can be cutting, and the family can be suffering under this.

Smooth Words

Do not receive flattery, even in your religious life. Flattery is an art by which Satan lieth in wait to deceive and to puff up the human agent with high thoughts of himself. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Flattery has been the food upon which many of our youth have been nourished; and those who have praised and flattered have supposed that they were doing right; but they have been doing wrong. Praise, flattery, and indulgence have done more toward leading precious souls into false paths, than any other art that Satan has devised. {FE 304.1}

Flattery is a part of the world’s policy, but it is no part of Christ’s policy. Through flattery poor human beings, full of frailty and infirmities, come to think that they are efficient and worthy, and become puffed up in their fleshly mind. They become intoxicated with the idea that they possess ability beyond what they do have, and their religious experience becomes unbalanced. Unless in the providence of God they shall be turned from these deceptions, and become converted, and learn the A B C of religion in the school of Christ, they will lose their souls. {FE 304.2} 

People can communicate worldly courtesies and make you feel really good. And I would think that in the situation of this young man he would have probably said some lovely things to cover up something deep inside. Consequently Gad and Asher, who were both born from Leah’s maid, were mischievous lads. There they were together with Joseph, and he was so pained that he had to go and tell his father of the wicked things that these boys were communicating.

Many a youth has been flattered that he has ability as a natural gift; when the ability he thinks he has, can be attained only through diligent training and culture, learning the meekness and lowliness of Christ. Believing he is naturally gifted, he thinks there is no necessity of putting his mind to the task of mastering his lessons; and before he is aware, he is fast in the snare of Satan. {FE 304.3}

This is the kind of experience that can be described by that metaphorical language – the butter and the oil, the fat of the bread, the royal dainties. They are all very deceptive breads. This is why we are counselled not to eat at the table of a king, because his are deceptive dainties. They give you the appearance of something wonderful, when really it’s corrupt. And this is the description of Asher. It is a mind that is so full of himself, of being royal, of having the fat of everything, no problems, but who is really corrupt.

…the active mind, if left unoccupied with better things, will give heed to that which Satan may suggest. {CG 33.2}

Satan was there working in these young lads, so much so that Joseph came to abhor it and told his father about it. A smooth tongue can be a sword. And in the family of Jacob there was very harsh treatment, to the point that they were even prepared to slay their brother Joseph.

Drawn Swords

Psalm 55:21 [The words] of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war [was] in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet [were] they drawn swords.

Drawn swords – his disposition was to cut and destroy, rather than to build up, even though smooth words were in his mouth. Can you imagine what it was really like in the home of Jacob, especially when in his gullibility Joseph told his brothers of his dream? Remember, in both his dreams the stars and the sheaves were bowing to him. Oh what shooting words came from his brothers when they heard his story!

What harm is wrought in the family circle by the utterance of impatient words; for the impatient utterance of one leads another to retort in the same spirit and manner. Then come words of retaliation, words of self-justification, and it is by such words that a heavy, galling yoke is manufactured for your neck; for all these bitter words will come back in a baleful harvest to your soul. {MYP 327.2}

So with smooth yet cutting words there were all these evils that were happening in the home life behind the father’s back. In the light of this unconverted trait, what could God do for such a person, for such a trait of personality as was identifiable in the tribe of Asher (because it was passed through the ranks)? Those who are following closely can see, and you might realise yourself, Oh dear; you might have had smooth language, but how many times have you done the cutting with others? And then there is the conflict and the evil taking place. What could God do for such a situation? Can God bring something out of this?

The Oil of Deliberation

Deuteronomy 33:24 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.

Here is some more metaphorical expression. What could God do? What was the intervention of the blessing that Moses pronounced upon Asher? Moses was here blessing the tribe of Asher. This was a tribe affected by these scenarios of Asher’s birth. The blessing for him was now this, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. What is this oil? This is a slightly different thing now. Here was now pronounced a blessing, rather than the curse of the smooth talk that is a product of the corrupt background.

Ask God to give you much of the oil of His grace. Carefully consider every word, whether it be written or spoken. {TM 104.2}

The unfaithful servant of Matthew 24 does something to his fellowservant. It says he smites his fellowservant. In Jeremiah (18:18) this smiting of the fellowservant is described as a smiting with the tongue. This is what Asher must have obviously been able to do. But the blessing was that if Asher would respond to God’s intervention, according to the promise that was given here, he would be given the oil of grace, he would put his foot in oil, a metaphorical expression meaning that the oil of grace, the Holy Spirit, would guide his footsteps. If he would respond to this blessing, God would intervene and do something to cause those smooth words that can turn into swords to be carefully considered. Carefully consider every word, whether it be written or spoken. Consider it. This is a deliberation that is being called for. Notice how God brings this kind of thing to fruition and what He does to change the tide:

What God Permits

God permits him to be attacked by the enemy, in order that he may understand his own weakness. He is permitted to make some decided blunder, and is plunged into painful humiliation. {FE 304.3}

Isn’t this what happened to the sons of Jacob when they were put into that painful humiliation in Egypt? It was permitted. These events were permitted to take their course. Because of their wrong actions against their brother, God permitted the enemy to take Joseph to Egypt and to take these brothers of his through the purging experience.

God permits him to be attacked by the enemy, in order that he may understand his own weakness. {Ibid.}

This is what they learnt.

He is permitted to make some decided blunder, and is plunged into painful humiliation. But when he is writhing under a sense of his own weakness, he is not to be judged harshly. {Ibid.}

Isn’t this a beautiful description of what happened to these men in the presence of Joseph? Instead of turning on them what did Joseph do? He didn’t judge them; he said, It was for a purpose that this happened; and they were absolutely dumbfounded. They thought he could have really given them a hard time now. But no; he did the very thing that was needed to help them be restored. This is what God does with a person as bad as Asher.

…when he is writhing under a sense of his own weakness, he is not to be judged harshly. This is the time above all others when he needs a judicious counselor, a true friend, who has discernment of character. This is the time when he needs a friend who is led by the Spirit of God, and who will deal patiently and faithfully with the erring, and lift up the soul that is bowed down. He is not to be lifted up by the aid of flattery. No one is authorized to deal out to the soul this delusive intoxicant of Satan. Rather he is to be pointed to the first rounds of the ladder, and his stumbling feet are to be placed on the lowest round of the ladder of progress. {Ibid.}

What was the blessing of Moses upon Asher? Putting his foot in oil? This is another metaphor for putting his foot where Jesus can restore him, putting it on the ladder.

Putting the Foot on the Ladder

Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” {Ibid.}

Examine the secret of victory for the people who have such a personality as Asher’s, with their cutting tongues and their sophisticated, noble expressions which are nonetheless as cutting swords; for people who have the gift of the gab, as is colloquially expressed, people that will flatter and will do damage under Satan’s government. There is a secret of victory for the people of such personality.

2 Chronicles 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.

At this time Hezekiah was the king of Jerusalem, of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin; and in the north were the other ten tribes. Here Hezekiah is inviting them to come and worship the true God in Jerusalem, because these ten tribes had their headquarters, their capital city, in Samaria, and they had a mixture of paganism and the true worship. But here was the invitation for Asher and all the other tribes to come and “put their foot in the oil,” and receive the riches of God in Jerusalem, to partake of the Passover, which was a preparation for accepting Jesus, because this is the ordinance which Jesus then turned into the Lord’s Supper.

2 Chronicles 30:10 So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. 11 Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.

The majority of the ten tribes mocked the messengers, but divers of Asher humbled themselves and did come to Jerusalem. When a person who is full of this so-called nobility, these smooth words, this gift of the gab, and yet is polluted by Satan because of his background, will humble himself like Asher did when he came to Jerusalem, what will God do? When one is proven to be corrupted by the background of their life and they are invited to come to the oil, to the Holy Spirit, invited to be in Jerusalem, this is what God says to them:

Grace to the Humble

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

God gives the oil of His grace to the humble.

James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded.

Wasn’t Asher’s a double-minded state? Having smooth words which are yet like swords.

James 4:8 …purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Here are these Asherites who decided that they would humble themselves and come and worship in Jerusalem. We are invited, all the 144,000. The 12,000 of the tribe of Asher are invited to come into the heavenly Jerusalem. Come and humble yourselves. With all that smart talk, with all that capability, which has been corrupted by sin, come and humble yourself. Come to Jesus.

The Call

For such as Asher to be numbered among the 144,000 they would heed the call to humble themselves. This is what Asher did. This is the wonderful call of God to Israel as a combined tribal people:

Jeremiah 3:12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; [and] I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I [am] merciful, saith the LORD, [and] I will not keep [anger] for ever. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. 14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

This is very akin to the 144,000. How can you find a 144,000 in the world of the church today? One of a city, and two of a family. Those of you who respond, come, says God, I am married unto you. Many in Asher responded, and therefore those people who are of the Asherite mentality, the Asherite pollution, who can identify themselves with this kind of smart-talking person who can be ever so sharp in his cutting judgment of others, if they will humble themselves and come to Zion they can be among the 144,000. The promise to him was that he would survive.

Deuteronomy 33:24 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. 25 Thy shoes [shall be] iron and brass; and as thy days, [so shall] thy strength [be].

After he had humbled himself, after these people had humbled themselves, they would then be guided and their feet would be shod with these strong protective shoes. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be – another victory for this kind of people. It doesn’t matter what their background has been.

There was an example of this at the time when Jesus came; there was such a person who recognised Jesus, while many in Judah did not, one who appreciated that the real Messiah had come, while others who were in more favourable positions because they were Jews, failed to understand.

Luke 2:36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she [was] a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served [God] with fastings and prayers night and day. 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.

She came in as she saw Simeon blessing Jesus, and she recognised Him, and became a witness of the true Jesus. She was of the tribe of Asher. Such can be the case for us, no matter what background we may have been brought under by birth, by human sinfulness, and being fashioned in sin. It makes no difference. It is when we respond to the call that that which was the smooth oil on the tongue and yet cutting as swords can be turned into the beautiful words of the gospel and the shedding abroad of the light of God to the world. The 144,000 will comprise 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, from these kinds of people.

Let us rejoice with the precious comfort that is here again portrayed to us. If you can identify with the corruption of Asher, don’t despair; respond to the call.

Whose side will you be on?

Posted on January 4, 2018, in Characteristics of the Twelve Tribes of the 144,000 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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