We have asked a few pastors and friends of the Press to summarize for us the last chapters that we are to cover of An Exposition of Deuteronomy 33, by William Parkinson. In the next few weeks, we will be sharing what they have to say. What follows is the summary of Sermon 22: "The Blessing of Naphtali," pages 631-717.
Parkinson begins with an exposition of this text by referring to its historical fulfillment with reference to the tribe to which it was addressed, Naphtali, who was the 6th son of Jacob, by Bilhah, handmaiden of Rachel. Explanation is given succinctly and to the point (he also comments on Jacob's blessing of Naphtali from Genesis 49:21). Naphtali is "satisfied with favor" in that his neighbors traded with him and had good relations. He is "full with the blessing of the Lord" in that all his needs were supplied, both physically and spiritually. And Naphtali "possess thou the west and the south," referring to the particular part of Canaan this tribe would possess. His territory was fertile and productive but it also comprised part of what would be called Galilee, the future earthly home of Jesus Christ.
The rest of the exposition is taken up with a prophetic view of the text, or of how Naphtali and his posterity are "typical of Christ and his church." Parkinson first begins this section by showing how significant the meaning is of the name Naphtali, though it is disputed whether it means "likeness" or "wrestles/struggles." Thus he applies both to Christ. Christ bears the likeness of his Father who sent him. And this applies to the church as well, for the true church bears likeness to Christ. Christ also wrestles with God in prayer. Ample evidence is given of this. And the church too is "a fervent and prevalent wrestler with her covenant-God."
Parkinson then demonstrates with warmth and passion how the three descriptions in the text concerning Naphtali speak of the One who is "a greater than Naphtali." He first brings in Genesis 49:21 and shows its fulfillment in Christ. And then he proceeds to show how Deuteronomy 33:23 is realized in Christ. Christ too is "satisfied with favor" of those who know him and love him. He too is "full of the blessing of the Lord" for he was appointed Heir of all things. And Christ possesses more than "the west and the south," for his dominion extends to the end of the earth. Application is also made in each of these references to the church. In Christ, the church, like the tribe of Naphtali, see these things fulfilled in her.