27 And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, the chief of the people of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran,
Nothing with God is an accident. That’s not to say that every second of time is micromanaged. Most people misquote the Scripture, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things aren’t good, or even divinely intended, but God melds the events of our days to bring us to that great day that is to come.
Solomon said life and chance happen to us all. David said Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path. The steps of a good man are ordered of The Lord. The path, the steps, and the direction are planned, but we will face obstacles in the way.
God allows, not causes the obstacles. An whether the stumbling block is a key to a future event, something that life brings, or something that our mistakes have caused, God will use it to help, and not hurt us. Joseph’s brothers were not inspired to throw him into the pit, but God knew it would happen.
What was meant to be an instrument of cruelty and revenge by man, was what God used to save the same men’s lives. What does all this have to do with Numbers 2:27? For one thing, Pagiel’s ancestor, Asher, was one of those who threw Joseph into the pit.
It’s Pagiel’s name that introduced the topic that I’m getting ready to share, and have alluded to above. Among other meanings, his name is defined as, “Accident Of God.” God is merciful, kind, compassionate, wise, but one thing He is not, is accident prone.
There are no accidents of God, and yet, this is what this young man’s name means. That one definition arrested me. I was reading Numbers 2, the chapter about the standard bearers around the Tabernacle, and I felt that I needed to go back and look up Pagiel.
When I saw the meaning, I wanted to learn everything I could about the young man. He was the Prince of his tribe. His Father’s name is Ochran, meaning muddler or trouble. An the standard he stood by was the olive tree.
Beyond that, we know very little about the man that sparked such an interesting name. So I began to look at his family, and the tribe he was the head of. It was a large tribe, apparently a successful one, but with very few, named, prominent members.
His tribe is described as the happiest of tribes, and yet, it is one of the those that God had placed on Mount Ebal to curse, or warn of what would happen if Israel backslid. We view happiness as a blessing, and it is with a life that is pleasing to God, but without a relationship with God, happiness is only a deception.
Happiness without a relationship with God, is a very dangerous thing. With sorrow, there is longing, a sense that things can be better. Sorrow screams something is missing, happiness whispers everything is fine. Destruction often doesn’t come in a shout, but in a soft, quiet, murmur.
Longing in itself isn’t a sign of righteousness though. Any emotion, any condition, outside of a right relationship with God, has it’s perils. Just as happiness, absent God, is a masking of truth, the lack of happiness can lead you on a road of danger.
Some of the most serious people away from a stage, are comedians. I don’t know if it’s that they get bored with being funny, or if they get tired of it. Perhaps they get bored with laughter. Or they resent that is the only facet of their personality people see, I’m not sure.
What I do know is that they eventually put on a happy face like an actor puts on a mask. It’s not real, if they’re good at what they do, it can seem like it, but it isn’t. Asher may have been known to be the happiest of tribes, but there was trouble lurking somewhere behind the tent door.
Among the tribes bored with the manna, tired of the blessings, was the tribe of Asher. Every thing good that God had given them, and still it was not good enough. When they got to the promised land, they failed to drive out the Phoenicians in the land they inherited.
There were no judges recorded of Asher. No great kings ruled from this tribe. The great prophets, such as Moses, Elijah, and Ezekiel, were not from the tribe of Asher. I did find one important thing that happened with this tribe in the Old Testament.
King Hezekiah sent messengers throughout Israel to keep the Passover. He was asking Israel to turn from their sinful ways, and return to God. Initially there was resistance, but Asher was the first tribe mentioned who humbled themselves, and came back to Jerusalem.
The “happy” tribe realized that what they had, the wealth, the pleasant conditions, everything that they were content with, wasn’t enough. Somewhere in them, there was a desire for something that was more than what they had.
So they made the journey back to God. Maybe your life seems fine. The bills are paid, you have your health. Nothing seems to be wrong. Maybe you’re even a happy person. Let me ask you something, are you complete?
I’ve seen broken men laugh. I’ve heard laughter at the funeral home, but it didn’t change the condition that had brought us there. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, then something is missing in your life.
Asher realized this, and while we don’t know what all happened, we do know someone passed on what Asher returned too. The last two generations we see in the family of Asher, are a Father and a daughter.
The man’s name is Phanuel, and he has a daughter named Anna. She is a widow, and when we meet her, most likely her father is dead, because she is eighty four years old.
I’m guessing they’re not what you expected. It’s not really a thriving group. The memory of a Dad and a husband, and she only got to be married for seven years. The Bible mentions no children, no relatives, and no legacy.
It would appear to be a sad life, but like I said about happiness, appearances can be deceiving. Her dad, Phanuel, meant The Face Of God, and that is where Anna spent her time, near God, in the Temple.
We only see her for three verses of Scripture, but oh what three verses it is, Luke chapter two. This family of a handmaid, whose namesake was born as a weapon in a feud between two sisters, now saw another child. The woman’s whose Father was named after God’s face, was blessed to see the Face Of God in flesh!
Like the founding namesake of her tribe, this child was also a weapon, but He was not born out of jealousy. The Christ was born to rescue the happy and the sad, those who laughed, and those who cried. The prominent, the forsaken, and the seemingly forgotten, all were rescued by this weapon of hope.
There are no accidents of God. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, what happens to you, may not be planned, but you were. God may not micromanage the events of time, but He created time to spend it with you and I.
It was no accident that Anna, who had been so faithful, even in the midst of her sorrow, got to see Jesus. Sorrow, like laughter, can be a gift, and they can both be gifts from God. It doesn’t matter what brought you to Jesus, only that you find him. Anna means Grace, and as long as Grace brings you to Jesus, it doesn’t matter how you get there.
One of the places in the tribal territory of Asher was the town of Beth-emek, meaning House Of The Valley. There are times when we inherit a house in the valley, or a depressed state. Sometimes it’s by chance, other times it’s through our own mistakes, or at times, it just happens.
Regardless, you find yourself in a house in a valley. You inherit it in the midst of others whose circumstances are different. Don’t make the mistake that there borders are better for you than your own. They are different, but God did not place you where they are, or them where you are.
Each tribe was placed in the location that was best for them. Asher was meant to bring laughter to the House Of The Valley. Some people are called to sorrow, not for themselves, but for those who would come after them. The House Of The Valley is not a closed house, nor did God place you in an isolated place. He placed you a secure location, in a place that desperately needs some true joy.
Beth-emek was surrounded by places like Jiphthah–el, meaning God will open, the place right before Beth-emek. After it, is Neiel, or Moved Of God, which is followed by Cabul, or sterile and limitation. When God places you in a trial, one that lasts so long, you feel it’s become your address, don’t forget that He never sits you where He’s not standing beside you.
Beth-emek was in the center of all these places. It was the gateway that bridged what is open, into where God is moving, to those areas where limitation and barrenness seem so common. Asher was meant to connect the sorrowful with a joy that’s doesn’t numb the pain, but turns it into a testimony.
The last individual from the tribe of Asher, that we know by name is Anna. This woman, a Prophetess, had experienced her own valley. Instead of sadness, she shared the source of her joy throughout Jerusalem. She shared the love for God she had, in spite of a long, lonely trial, with everyone. Anna knew, Jesus is here to rescue the isolated, the limited, and the hopeless.
This seemingly insignificant tribe, which entered the world laughing, now exits it rejoicing, heralding the birth of The Savior. We met Pagiel beside his standard, the Olive Tree, among the thousands of Israel, surrounding the Tabernacle.
The last place we see the tribe of Asher, is in Revelation chapter seven. Standing, sealed with the seal of God, among the tribes of Israel, worshipping The Lamb. Jacob said Asher’s bread would be fat or rich, and he would yield royal delicacies. Moses said he would dip his feet in oil, and that he would be acceptable to his brothers.
In other words, Asher eventually testified of God’s Grace, as well as His birth, sharing real joy with the world. No matter the trouble the family faced, no matter how many accidents seemed to befall them, no matter what struggles they inherited, Asher kept going. In the end, he stood with his brothers, and his children, rejoicing at the Throne Of God.
We didn’t end up meeting immediately after all. He called me back, saying the flight had been postponed, due to business. That he would meet me there for a conversation late on New Year’s eve. I thought it was abrupt, but with Monty on his own investigation, I had no plans for New Years.
When I showed up, the airport wasn’t festive. Who flies New Year’s Eve? My client had a small entourage on his private plane, including, it turns out, a late arrival.
“I heard you had some concerns about the investigation.” My client was interrupted by his business partner’s security man. “I’m afraid this conversation will have to wait. Your partner found out about your little investigation, and it’s very upsetting to my employer.”
The bearded man pulled out a knife, which should have clued me in, it didn’t. My reflexes kicked in, and I kicked the knife out of his hand, and knocked him to the ground, holding the knife defensively against his throat. My client sighed, and pulled out a gun.
“This was meant to simply arrange things, now it’s going to escalate. Mr. Lindsay, please remove the disguise, and you and your wife take a seat. Pilot, start the plane.”
I looked at the man, I wasn’t convinced it was Monty, until the disguise came off. His only response to my shock was, “Look At the knife.” It was the knife from a similar adventure when we first met. He had retrieved it after the investigation, had it engraved, and given it to me as a gift.
That knife had a long history with us, and it would continue to. Right now, it was in my pocket. Our client wasn’t concerned about it. He was more interested in our elevation.
“This is what’s going to happen. You two are going to die. You can either be shot First, and then dropped. Or you can delude yourself and exit the plane on your own power. I don’t care which, so are you realists or delusional.”
Monty answered for us. “I’ve never been a fan of the word overkill, we’ll jump.” My former client only laughed, shook his head, and motioned us to the door. He did say two words as we exited the plane that Dec 31. “Happy New Years!”
You may have noticed, I kept saying my client, instead of giving a name. There’s a reason for that. I’ll tell you next week, after I catch my breath.