- Levi and Simeon: Brothers who must be separated! (3)
- Gad and Asher: Two contrasting fiery trials (4)
Gad – more than a match
Jacob says to Gad, his son, ‘Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels.’ In the original Hebrew, four of the words contain the sound ‘gad’ and the word itself means ‘troop’. So one could translate Jacob’s words, ‘Troops shall troop against troop but he shall troop on their retreat.’ It is the language of warfare. The tribe of Gad settled on the east side of the Jordan. It was a frontier tribe, bordering the kingdom of the brutal and warlike Ammonites (Amos 1:13). Therefore with its vulnerable border Gad was constantly exposed to the threat of attack – hence Jacob’s words, ‘Raiders shall raid Gad’.
Did Gad take this lying down? On the contrary – one messed with Gad at one’s peril. When Gad was attacked, the riposte was swift and hard, ‘Raiders shall raid Gad but he shall raid at their heels.’ Over the generations, out of necessity, Gad was transformed into a warlike tribe. The people learned to fight. They became skilled in the arts of war and became valiant in battle. In other words, Gad became more than a match.
In 1 Chronicles 12 we read of the growth of David’s army and we are told:
From the Gadites there went over to David at the stronghold in the wilderness mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were swift as gazelles upon the mountains.
Furthermore speaking of the chief among them, ‘the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand.’
What more needs to be said! The Gadite was the complete soldier – experienced, courageous, skilled and disciplined; as ferocious as a lion and as swift as a gazelle. No wonder Moses said, ‘Gad crouches like a lion, he tears off arm and scalp.’ Gad – more than a match.
What of us?
In the 19th century, Shaka Zulu transformed a tiny tribe in southern Africa into the mighty warrior nation of the Zulus. How did he do it? So much could be said but among other things, he drilled his troops on ground covered with thorn bushes in order to toughen their feet. They were able therefore to dispense with their clumsy footwear and move swiftly. Furthermore, he equipped them with the short stabbing assegai. This forced them to close with the enemy and engage in hand to hand combat. In other words, Shaka trained his men for battle until his disciplined regiments were invincible – as terrifying as lions and as swift as gazelles.
Has the Captain of our salvation been training us in the art of spiritual warfare? Has he drilled us on thorny ground until our feet have hurt? Has he forced us to cast off our clumsy footwear so that ‘laying aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely’, we have been able to run as we should? Has he been training us in the use of that two-edged sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, so that we can engage effectively with the world, the flesh and the devil? And has he been teaching us the value of that super weapon, ‘all prayer’?
Not against flesh and blood
Perhaps we have been wondering why life has been so hard. But we are fighting a holy war ‘against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ With every step we march through hostile territory. Is it any wonder then, that the Lord has been training us to be Gadites, so that by his grace we may be more than a match for all that we meet? As dedicated soldiers of Jesus Christ, living with constant threat, we need to keep ourselves in a perpetual state of war. Furthermore, who knows what the days ahead may hold for the people of God in this country? We may face persecution, as do our brothers and sisters in other lands. We are all called to be Gadites, to be more than a match.
If persecution does come, how shall we identify with Jesus in that day if we draw back in this day? How can we expect to sing the victor’s song, if today we compromise with the world? There has never been a better time to stand up for Jesus and the honour of his name.
Finally, has the Lord particularly made you a Gadite? In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana and her party meet a man ‘with his sword drawn and his face all bloody’. He is Mr Valiant-for-truth. And speaking with him about the difficulties and heartaches he has faced, they ask, ‘Did none of these things discourage you?’. Our warrior replies, ‘No, they seemed but so many nothings’. If that is you, then remember the tribe of Gad was trained for war to serve the Lord and to help protect the other tribes. Use your Gadite qualities to take the battle to the enemy of our souls and to strengthen and encourage the people of God.
Asher – the land of plenty
Jacob now turns to Asher and says, ‘Asher’s food shall be rich and he shall yield royal delicacies’. Asher’s name can mean ‘happy’, and as is his name so is his future. Or is it? When the Promised Land was divided up, Asher was given a prime location. If the land flowed with milk and honey, perhaps Asher received the best of it.
All of which raises a question. Why, in contrast to Gad, did Asher have it so easy? It is because in God’s Kingdom there are always Ashers and Gads. While some churches flourish on warm sunlit uplands, others are under constant assault. While some Christians suffer persecution others appear very comfortable.
But how blessed was Asher really? It is interesting to reflect that from Asher came no judge, no warrior, no leader and no prophet. All the tribe’s abundance came (it seems) to little. The only notable Asherite was Anna the prophetess.
A sobering lesson?
Is there a sobering lesson here? In the ease and sunshine, Asher settled down to peaceful coexistence with the Canaanites and over the generations their abundance brought them to nothing. Have we grown up in the warmth of a godly home and under a faithful Bible ministry? Have we been surrounded by godly examples? Has God located us in a Christ-loving church? Have we been blessed with great gifts and graces? Has the Lord given to us the best of the land? Am I an Asherite? Then in a very real sense our blessings put us in a danger greater than that of the Gadites. The reason is simple. Prosperity, comfort and ease can kill our spiritual life. If God has given you much, then as a steward use it for his Kingdom. Remember the Lord will require much from you. In your church, who is it who puts themselves out for the Lord? Is it others or is it you? If the King has blessed us, then our first and best must be for him, after all Asher‘s food was to grace the table of the king, ‘he shall yield royal delicacies’. Asher – the land of plenty. Christian friend, do we see? Continued prosperity is a fiery trial.