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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 accurately 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 appropriate 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