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The Sons of Issachar.  Are You One?

The Sons of Issachar.  Are You One?

David, the son of Jesse, who became the greatest ancient king of Israel, is someone I’ve always admired. While the Bible says, he was “a man after God’s own heart,” in a sense, David reflects the hearts of many of us.  He was a man of great highs, but also deep lows; a man of extraordinary success, but also of overwhelming failures.  In this respect, we can all likely relate to him.

For years, David faced great pressure and his life was threatened when Saul, the king of Israel, was seeking to capture and kill David.  So David found himself constantly on the run, a fugitive from the country he loved.

When David’s period as a fugitive drew to an end, following the providential death of Saul, David assembled a vast army of warriors.  The list of these men is found in 1 Chronicles 12, where we discover they numbered in excess of 337,000.  As you read the list, it’s interesting that nearly all of the men were described as valiant warriors.

But in the midst of this long list of hundreds of thousands, there is reference to a small group of men totaling only 200.  This band of brothers was referred to as “the sons of Issachar.”  While they too were warriors, they were singled out as different than the other 337,000.  Note what God purposely tells us about them:

“…the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…” (I Chronicles 12:32)

These men were different.  Sure they could fight.  Yes, they were courageous.  Of course they could wield a sword.  But, they had something else.  Their difference can be seen in two critical attributes.  

First, the sons of Issachar “understood the times.”  This suggests they were discerning.  They did not simply jump to the default conclusions that everyone else did.  They didn’t dabble in unproven conspiracies. They properly assessed the events around them.  Apparently, while the preponderance of the other men were experts in fighting, the sons of Issachar were able to perceive and detect truths that the other men either couldn’t, or they chose not to.

The second truth we are told about the sons of Issachar is that they had the “knowledge of what Israel should do.”  These men were not content simply sitting back, as Monday morning quarterbacks, critiquing the acts or decisions of others.  Rather, the discernment of the sons of Issachar led them to the proper knowledge of what to do.  The truth they understood drove them to take the proper steps to address the times within which they lived.  Theirs was a proactive response, based on an accurate assessment.

As we think about these extraordinary men, the sons of Issachar, is there any application to our present day?  As our world moves from one global crisis to the next almost as swiftly as the sun sets and rises, are there any lessons we can learn from the sons of Issachar?  I think so.

First, are you and I discerning?  We’d all like to say we are.  But is our discernment based on a certain ideology, or select media, or underlying assumptions, or even our own bias?  It’s highly possible some of these variables influence us to “discern” inaccurately.  Why?  Because they can all be subjective, approaching these times of crisis with a predisposition to arrive at our own preferred conclusions.  

But there is one objective truth.  This truth can help us discern accurately what is going on in our world today.  The objective truth is God’s Word.  Jesus said this about the Bible:  

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35)

We also know this about the Word of God:  

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

So, if we immerse ourselves into “the perfect law of liberty” (as the Bible describes itself), not only will God provide us with His supernatural discernment, but He will then equip us with the knowledge of what we should do, during these trying times.  We can also know this because God promises it:

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  Psalm 119:105

This verse promises to show us not only what is up close, right at our feet, but also how to navigate the path as it extends further out, beyond our sight and understanding.  That discernment will help us to know how to respond to the here and now, as well as what is coming down the road.  Is this because we are supernatural?  No, but God’s Word is, and that is the faithful source of our discernment.

I would encourage you to consider these thoughts.  Think about the sons of Issachar.  They too were warriors.  But they were different.  They discerned.  They knew what to do.  Then, because they in fact were warriors, they took deliberate action to properly address the facts around them.  Finally, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that these men influenced the other thousands of warriors around them, because they allowed God to properly guide them in their own conclusions.

Are you a modern day “son of Issachar?”  If so, then let God humbly use you to lead your family and your community, in whatever godly manner your Heavenly Father directs.  But if you are not yet one, then do what we are instructed to do, when we are lacking in the attributes we’ve discussed:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  James 1:5

Conspiracies, COVID-19, and the father of Lies

Conspiracies, COVID-19, and the father of Lies

I hesitated to write this article, particularly in this day and time.  It seems that anything one writes or posits in this current era, invariably results in arguments, dissension, and sore feelings.  I do not wish to cause any of the sort.  However, neither do I believe that what I share is beyond scrutiny.  So, where we might diverge in our views, I would hope that we could do so respectfully and without resorting to inflammatory remarks, or disparaging attacks.  But since I do believe that iron can sharpen iron, I welcome additional thoughts and perspectives. 

That said, I must affirm that my source of Truth is the Bible.  You may have a different source, and if so, I’m ok with that.  I don’t intend to twist your arm to believe that my source is THE source.  But it stands to reason, that only one source can be accurate, when various sources disagree as to Truth itself.  As I’ve tested and ingested the Bible over many years now, I am 100% convinced that it is Truth, because it was authored by God Himself, through the inspiration and guidance of mortal men.  And it consistently convicts, instructs, and directs my life.   

So, with that as a background, I wanted to address something that has been quietly at work within me since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis.  First, let me say that I am not one to dabble in conspiracy theories… at least not lately.  There was a time in my life when I regularly focused on all sorts of conspiracies, normally those dealing with government and power, which invariably included wealth.  And wow did that take up an inordinate amount of my time and focus. 

But several years ago I began an intentional time of study of God’s Word, that continues to this day, and I came across this passage that specifically addresses conspiracies: 

“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.” Isaiah 8:12-13 

Conspiracies, at their heart, typically involve emotions: Fear, Dread, Anger, Resentment, Anxiety, etc.   Too often when emotions come into play, we frequently leave logic and faith behind.  The Bible speaks of fear many times and from numerous vantage points.  But one thing is certain, the fear that is associated with conspiracies is not of God.  In fact, the verse above in Isaiah specifically instructs us not to fear or dread what the general population does, and 2 Timothy 1:7 asserts specifically that fear does not come from God: 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 

But there is One whom we should fear, and it’s God Himself.  Jesus told us the reason we should fear His Father:   

“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.” Luke 12:4-5 

So if conspiracies evoke fear, or anger, and many other negative emotions, which are not from God, and the Bible speaks specifically against overindulging in conspiracies, why would I want to go down those rabbit holes, for which there are often no absolute certainty as to their accuracy? 

Since the Bible warns about fear and conspiracies, I have greatly resisted the temptation to begin chasing the many theories about COVID-19 that are regularly promoted by our culture.  Social media is one of the great platforms that promotes all sorts of conspiracies… #fakenews as it’s commonly referred to these days. 

But one man’s #fakenews is another man’s gospel truth.  

So what do we believe?  And what deserves our undivided attention?  This seem to be the real struggle these days with most of what we read, watch, or consume mentally. 

So as the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to extend, and wreak such havoc and devastation locally, nationally, and globally, I believe it would be foolish to not at least consider other alternative explanations for what is causing such calamity to so many. 

Since my source of Truth is the Bible, then I think it bears mentioning that this ancient Book identifies who it is that is invested in wreaking havoc, confusion and dissension.  In fact, Jesus had this to say about the one I am referring to: 

“He (the devil) is a liar and the father of lies.”  John 8:44 

Additionally, we read this about Satan the deceiver, in the final book of the Bible: 

“This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” Revelation 12:9

While God is at work here on our globe, so is Satan.  His lies and deception are ever present throughout all the ages.  His primary objective is to deceive mankind, individually and collectively, and to lead us away from God.  Given the fact that Satan is the master deceiver, it can only be concluded that many of us could easily fall for his slick lies.  And he can package them in the most credible arguments that millions, if not billions could embrace. The term #fakenews is a recent term in our culture, but Satan has been packaging fake news since the first moments of man’s existence on the earth. 

So what does all this have with COVID-19?  Well, in our lifetimes, and perhaps in the history of the world, there has never been a moment in time like the one in which we are living.  The entire world, including hundreds of nations, collectively agreed on a common response to a worldwide phenomena.  That in and of itself is unprecedented.  Think about that.  Within weeks, if not days, all of the civilized world closed down.  And with this closure, literally billions of people were dramatically impacted.  In America alone, tens of millions of our fellow Americans lost their paychecks.  Overnight.  With no warning.  More people are unemployed than in the Great Depression. 

But I believe God is sovereign.  So nothing happens here on this globe, or in your life, that God has not either caused, or allowed.  But as true as this reality is, there is another Truth to consider during this crisis.  Satan, while not sovereign, has been given broad discretion to operate deceptively amongst us, with a diabolical scheme to destroy all that is good.  Remember, Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:2)  And we are also told that he “walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 1:8) 

So if COVID-19 has wreaked havoc, death, and destruction, and the loudest voices across the entire globe are trumpeting a synonymous message, is it possible their message is one that is deceptive, whether purposeful or ignorantly?  I think the answer must be “Yes it is possible” — at least it is for me.   

So, if the above is true, that the solutions and conclusions that are being promoted by our leaders could be false, or incorrect, then what is True?  Sadly, I cannot personally say.  Nor can I yet decipher from the other conflicting voices and messages.  But is it worth listening to them, in moderation, in order to derive truth, so that we can respond correctly? 

Again, I think the answer is Yes, at least for me. 

But here is where I am responding differently today than I might have five or ten years ago.  Then, I would have gone all in on investigating and researching, to the extreme, the alternative responses to COVID-19.  I would have become obsessed with viewing and reading the unlimited options available to overdose on “conspiracy-mania.”  This is how we get sucked in to an unhealthy, and I believe unscriptural, response to this crisis.  So I would ask you to consider that there is nothing that you might discover, even if it were the conclusive “smoking gun” behind this crisis, that will change the world, or Washington DC, or your state, or your community.  Nothing. 

So if there is nothing you might discover that will change much of anything about COVID-19, then why try to find out?  I think the primary reason to attempt to decipher the truth of this crisis, within moderation, is to better equip yourself, your family, and your community, with a plan to respond to whatever might come next.  This is not because we fear what might come next, but rather because the Bible tells us that:  

”A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3 

Is there danger ahead?  I think so.  Should we prepare ourselves?  Yes, if possible.  But should we fear or obsess over it? Absolutely not.  God is our refuge.  Our tower.  Our strength.  We have no need to fear since there is no conspiracy that He did not already foreknow.  Furthermore, we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 

But finally, this is the greatest reason to not obsess over conspiracies, or go to herculean efforts to try to discover what likely cannot be known with certainty.  If you were to know all there is to know about the origination of the Coronavirus, it would have little, or perhaps no, impact on your soul, or the soul of your neighbors.  Remember what Jesus said in the verse above: “don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.  But I’ll tell you whom to fear.  Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell.  Yes, he’s the one to fear.” 

In that short statement, Jesus was contrasting the temporal, your physical life, with the eternal, your spiritual life.  The loss of a life here on earth is of eternal insignificance when compared with the loss of a spiritual life in the life to come.  So why would you and I obsess over conspiracies of the Coronavirus, which are temporal at best, when all around us are souls who are potentially facing a spiritual virus whose curse is eternal? 

If Jesus, or any of the Apostles were here today, I can hardly believe that they would set aside their God-ordained purpose, to get caught up in pursuing the cause of a global pandemic.  Rather, I believe they would do today, exactly what they did in their time.  They would “love God and love their neighbor as themselves.”  And that love would propel them to redouble their efforts to share the only news that has the power to overcome conspiracies, COVID-19, and the father of lies.  So we should strive to do what John commanded us to do: 

“Live your lives as Jesus did.”  1 John 2:6