As Israel and Judah unite around David, the tribes send various parties of warriors to help in the cause. Most tribes send tens of thousands, but we read in 1 Chronicles 12:32 that Issachar sent: ‘…men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs…’ David needed warriors, but strategists were like hen’s teeth! 200 out of over 300,000 warriors.
Up to this point, the prophetic gift had been demonstrated for many years and the people were used to those who spoke with God-inspired insight into prevailing circumstances. The men sent from Issachar were different, they seemed to be able to evaluate and judge without necessarily having prophetic gifting. It implies learning, intelligence and experience.
In cognitive taxonomy, there is a hierarchy of thinking which ranges from Factual Knowledge (the lowest form of thinking – repetition of facts) to Evaluation. This latter skill requires the ability to Analyse (‘understanding of the times’) and Synthesis of Knowledge from multiple sources leading to personal Judgement and Application (‘to know what Israel ought to do’).
We require specific revelation and guidance in some situations, but the Lord has also left it to us to prayerfully apply what He teaches us in His word to undertake action in furtherance of the Kingdom. Thinking for ourselves! Whilst it is a rare gift to have intellectual and conceptual capacity to gain insight AND to have the necessary interpretative ability to plan action in response, it is something that CAN be taught and learned. How we need that today in our complex, secular and rudderless society.
To be informed, educated and inspired by the world of need and by the love of God designed to meet those needs.
We have a persistent mandate from the risen Lord Jesus, and we need not question what He intends in general:
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19)
However, the context for that mandate has changed a little so we also need the discernment to understand the times and to respond to them.
The Hebrew word for ‘understanding’ comes from the root word for ‘between’ and it clearly means that to understand something is to be able to distinguish real from unreal, true from false. We shall be able to develop this essential skill only as far as we understand the Scriptures, our abiding and constant source of truth. But we need to inform ourselves of the context in which we live, and we need to develop the cognitive abilities given to us. To be informed, educated and inspired by the world of need and by the love of God designed to meet those needs.
We should never have to be paralysed by inaction as to understanding our times nor knowing what we ought to do! A song by White Stripes has been playing in my mind about the breakup of a romantic relationship:
I just don’t know what to do with myself
I don’t know what to do with myself
planning everything for two
doing everything with you
and now that we’re through
I just don’t know what to do
Maybe it is a salutary lesson for us as we spectate on the breakup of our society and its separation from its roots.
Maybe we just need to, in the words of Nike Sportswear ‘Just do it’.
And maybe we should make a greater effort to emulate the Men of Issachar.