“… men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command” (1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV).
Often when Christians talk about “understanding the times,” it is a common assumption that we are focusing on prophecies relating to the second coming of Christ. As much as I love studying these kinds of prophecies, they only present a limited scope of what God intends for us to be aware of in our culture and throughout the world. “Understanding the times” is a mindset and a lifestyle that includes, but is not limited to, issues relating to the second coming of Christ.
There was an amazing group of people in the Old Testament who lived that kind of lifestyle. They are called in Scripture the “men of Issachar.” In 1 Chronicles 12:32, it was said that these men “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” I believe God is raising up a new generation of this kind of spiritually sensitive, discerning people today.
Biblically speaking, true understanding comes from the fear of God. When we place ourselves before the Lord in awe of who He is and surrender our lives to His lordship, we begin to gain a more accurate understanding of what is happening, not only in our own lives but in the world around us.
As the Spirit of God permeates our lives, there is an increased awareness of His perspective on events. We no longer look at things around us from the limited perception of our own experiences, but are able to discern matters from the Lord’s viewpoint.
Practically speaking, we will still struggle most of the time to separate our own understanding from the Lord’s. We rarely live up to our spiritual potential. Our own background and experiences so often color our viewpoint.
But the good news is that there is something more available to us. God’s perspective is accessible to us as we live lives of dependence on Him through prayer and the Word of God.
Many times we do not understand the times in which we live because we have not asked the Lord what He thinks. Scripture is clear: We do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2).
The first step for many of us is to pray this simple prayer: “Lord, please help me to understand the times in which I live. May I not be dependent upon others’ opinions but always seek after Your accurate perspective on what is happening in my world.”
Though God certainly can demonstrate His perspective to us without any sort of human input, my strong suggestion is that He works more often through knowledge than through lack of knowledge. By this I mean, we will be more likely to gain clarity about what God thinks if we are carefully and closely watching what is already happening in the world. When a working knowledge of world or national events is wed with the Spirit of God, the result is always more understanding.
Rather than watching the news or reading the newspaper and shaking your head over bad events, why not add to your watching and reading a prayer for discernment? As world events unfold, instead of submitting to despair or anger, seek the Lord’s insight over what is occurring. The result will be an understanding of the times in which we live.
The biblical text, however, does not end with the men of Issachar merely understanding the times. They also knew what Israel should do. This adds wisdom to knowledge. Knowing information is one thing. Having the wisdom to know what to do with that knowledge is immensely valuable.
We live in troubled times where there is little understanding of the times. There is probably even less wisdom to know how to deal with those times.
How should the people of God live in these days? What sort of direction should the church take in the midst of the confusion of our days? If we as the people of God do not even know who we are or where we are going, how can we speak with a strong prophetic voice to our society?
The teachers among the ancient tribe of Issachar must have been doing something right. It was not just one or two leaders who had this understanding. There had to have been good teaching and mentoring for years in order to prepare the men of Issachar for their particular time of crisis. It seems from Scripture that the 18,000 men and their 200 chiefs all had some understanding of the times and were led to take the steps of action that were appropriate for the people of God.
How we need men and women like this today! We need mentors and spiritually strong leaders who will spend time in the Word of God to know His heart and will then pay attention to what is happening around them. These are the ones who can lead the church into the action necessary to advance Christ’s Kingdom.
Father, would You raise up people in our midst like the men of Issachar, who will understand our times and know what the people of God should do? Help me to be one of them! Give me an understanding that comes from You. Combine knowledge and wisdom within me so that avenues of service and obedience would open before me. Raise up an army of those who hear clearly from You, that they may raise the clarion call to the people of God in this day!
(This blog post originally appeared on the Heart-Cry for Revival website.)