“For at that time they came to David day by day to help him, until it was a great army, like the army of God… of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command” (1 Chronicles 12:22, 32).
Following the death of King Saul, David comes to the throne. However, not all Israel followed David at this point. Saul’s son Ishbosheth continued to reign over the majority of Israel for 2 years. During this time only the tribe of Judah followed David (2 Samuel 2:10-11). There was a long war civil war during this time between those who followed Ishbosheth and those who followed David. The followers of David grew stronger while Ishbosheth and his allies became weaker (2 Samuel 3:1).
The 12th chapter of 1 Chronicles describes how people began to leave Ishbosheth in droves and come over to follow David. As the opening verses above indicate, this continued to happen until the followers of David became a “great army” (1 Chronicles 12:22). The inspired author summarizes why these various individuals came over to David’s side: “All these men of war, who could keep ranks, came to Hebron with a loyal heart, to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel were of one mind to make David king” (1 Chronicles 12:38).
Again, as the opening verses indicate, among those who came over to David’s side were men of the tribe of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). While others who came over to David were “mighty men of valor” and “captains in the army” and were noted for the abilities to fight on the battlefield (1 Chronicles 12:21), these men of Issachar were noted for their ability to discern the times in which they lived. They were able to recognize that God had anointed David to be king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13) and that now was the appropriate time to unite all Israel together to make David the king over the whole nation. It was important to David’s success that he have such men among his followers who had “understanding of the times” and to “know what Israel ought to do”
As I consider these men of Issachar, I ask, “Do we not need such people in the Lord’s church today?” It is one thing to know what the Bible says; it is another to know how to go about implementing those godly instructions into everyday living today. For example, the Bible speaks about Paul preaching till midnight (Acts 20:7). Would it be wise to encourage our preachers to preach 3 or 4 hour lessons in a day and age in which most people would struggle to remain focused for 30 minutes (i.e. the average length of a TV sitcom). Then again, how should we go about trying to reach the lost in an age where people are becomingly increasingly disconnected from each other? Should we go out and knock on the doors of people's houses or should we try to use technology (e.g. such as Facebook) to try to get the message of God across?
I am not suggesting we should “water down” any of the messages from God’s Word, but we do need to understand the times in which we live. The methods and techniques the church might have used in the 1950’s and 1960’s may not be very effective today. May God give us more people in the church who are like these men of Issachar who have “understanding of the times” and to know what we should do. Like those of David’s day, such will be a great blessing to the Lord’s church today! I will strive to follow God and understand the times in which I live as I apply His Word to my life!
“My son, let them not depart from your eyes-- Keep sound wisdom and discretion” (Proverbs 3:21).