Today’s we read Moses’ blessings of Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Dan, and Naphtali. Each of these prophetic blessings is for believers as well. You have been gifted, not for you own good but the good of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Body of Christ, and the Glory of God (1 Corinthians 12:7, Isaiah 43:7).
Verses 18-19 read,
And of Zebulun he said,
“Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
and Issachar, in your tents.
19 They shall call peoples to their mountain;
there they offer right sacrifices;
for they draw from the abundance of the seas
and the hidden treasures of the sand.”
The two tribes seem to share a blessing but in different ways. Zebulun rejoices in going out of their tents and Issachar in their tents. Zebulun’s land was near the sea and they did great business making themselves renowned among the Phoenicians. They were gifted money makers. Issachar’s blessing from Jacob had been as servants of all. They enjoyed the Promised Land by working hard in it (Genesis 49:14-15). Because their land was near Zebulun’s land they likely often worked for and with them.
Going out of one’s tent implies enlarging your territory in anticipation of blessings like children. But staying in one’s tent implies studying or learning and being content. Issachar were considered to be men of understanding of the times (1 Chronicles 12:32). They studied the Scriptures and they applied them to what was happening. Both of these seemingly opposite acts were acts of rejoicing that called people to worship God in a right way, that drew abundance from the seas and hidden treasures from the sand.
The abundance of the sea comes in a few forms. The first and most obvious for these two tribes was in plentiful provision. They made the land a haven for port business and trading. But doing this also means that The Lord’s fame went out to people who dealt with Zebulun and Issachar. The truth learned in the tent studying God’s Word was enacted and shared with the people they did business with. Those people saw how they were treated and they told others. Zebulun and Issachar were fishers of men as much as they were traders of goods.
What are the treasures of the sand? In addition to being the profits of business, the treasures of the sand is the deeper knowledge and relationship with God we get from studying His Word and living it out. Proverbs 25:2 always reminds me of the joy of reading God’s Word, of digging into the scriptures and finding the gems of Jesus Christ revealed through the Holy Spirit. It reads,
It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.
Jesus compared The Kingdom of Heaven to hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
The gifts of being able to make money and the gift of service go hand in hand with one another in this blessing. Both bring people to the Lord to worship Him properly, both find the treasure and abundance of Jesus Christ in acting on His Word. Not every believer has these specific gifts as a primary gift but every believer has the ability to manifest the Holy Spirit in each of His giftings as He sees need.
There are other ways of enlarging one’s territory. War enlarges territory and it takes great leadership to fight and win great wars.
Verses 20-21 read,
And of Gad he said,
“Blessed be he who enlarges Gad!
Gad crouches like a lion;
he tears off arm and scalp.
21 He chose the best of the land for himself,
for there a commander's portion was reserved;
and he came with the heads of the people,
with Israel he executed the justice of the Lord,
and his judgments for Israel.”
Justice requires a fight, victory requires a war. Gad were leaders and warriors, commanders who fought with ferocity. Leaders are not afraid to lead. They are not afraid to step up and do what must be done, not for their own good but for the sake of justice, for the good of the people they are leading. If no one was courageous enough to step up and command the army, what would the soldiers do but mill about and fight aimlessly?
Not all are leaders, yet we are all called to lead. As followers of Christ even those of us who are not gifted leaders are called to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” We often have to step into leadership or mentoring roles with people of the world because they are blinded to the truth we clearly see. They don’t even know they are slaves to the prince of the world. We fight to make them free sons of the King of kings. We fight to give them the abundant life Jesus called them to enjoy.
Not everyone is a leader, most of us are not. But just because we don’t command the army, doesn’t mean we don’t fight. Some people are truly gifted at warfare. Verse 22 reads,
And of Dan he said,
“Dan is a lion's cub
that leaps from Bashan.”
It is interesting to compare Jacob’s blessing for Dan to this one from Moses. Jacob said,
“Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
a viper by the path,
that bites the horse's heels.
so that his rider falls backward. (Genesis 49:16-17).
Dan was gifted at warfare. They did not appear all that menacing, a lion cub doesn’t scare anyone. But they surprised the enemy, they came out of nowhere and defeated their adversaries. Dan like Gad served justice through the fight.
Sometimes land does not need to be enlarged because the land itself is so fertile, abundance seems to spring from it. It is as if the land enlarges itself. A fertile vineyard grows and the vinedresser then acquires the surrounding area for his vineyards. Verse 23 reads,
And of Naphtali he said,
“O Naphtali, sated with favor,
and full of the blessing of the Lord,
possess the lake and the south.”
Naphtali’s land was distinguished for its fruitfulness. Because of its placement the weather, the dirt, and the water combined to make a tropical area of rich vegetation. Naphtali was content with the blessings, they enjoyed the blessings of fruitfulness. That doesn’t mean they sat back on their laurels and hoped the land produced fruit, they enjoyed the favor and worked the land. They took care of it and enjoyed the productivity and prosperity, the ‘fruit of their labor.’
Farmers who do not enjoy being farmers don’t learn about their jobs, don’t invest in the farm, and don’t work hard to produce quality products. They may as well be migrant workers who go from place to place merely picking the fruit for someone else. Farmers who love what they do care about the farm and invest in the land. They take ownership of the farm, they understand the crops they plant, the fertilizers they use, and the tools they employ. The end product is higher quality and the farm keeps producing.
Jesus often described the Kingdom of Heaven in farming terms. A good farmer wouldn’t waste sowing seeds in land that wasn’t prepared to receive it. A good farmer understands he must first make the land good and then sow the seed or he may as well just toss the seeds to the birds.
Naphtali also had possession of a great deal of water in their land. They could have sowed all the seeds they wanted but without the abundant water of their land, the seeds would not have sprouted. We can sow seeds like crazy but without the Living Water of Jesus Christ the sun will scorch the seeds and they’ll die. Naphtali’s water was so ample it seemed limitless. The Living Water is limitless. Jesus is described as The River of Life in New Jerusalem. Revelation 22:1-5 read,
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
The Lord flows out of each Spirit-filled believer as rivers of Living Water. John 7:37-39 promises this.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Christ Follower, you are gifted by the Holy Spirit to enlarge the Kingdom of Heaven, to call people to God, to fight the enemy, and be fruitful. Does your life show this happening? Are you living out the Word of God as a treasure hunter, trader, servant, warrior, and sower? You have what you need to enlarge the Kingdom of Heaven, be the person you were created and called to be for Christ.