1 Chronicles 12:32, says that the men of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. That's called leadership.
In 1 Chronicles 12 we also find a list of the tribes readying for battle. Each tribe is listed with the number of men preparing - in several cases tens of thousands. But it is only of the men of Issachar that we read "200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command" were ready. That is leadership influence.
We are not told how large the tribe of Issachar is relative to the other tribes. It is interesting though that Issachar stands alone as both understanding the times and knowing what to do, which I think we can safely assume was due to their "chiefs", whose priorities were no doubt in line with their king. Leadership matters.
There is direct correlation between leadership and readiness. The chiefs of Issachar understood the battle they were entering and what was at stake. Because they did, they knew what to do and had the confidence of "all their relatives" who followed them to go do it,
Today, as leaders, do we understand the times and know what to do? If you're reading this I assume you are a leader, at least in some capacity. Are your priorities in line with the Lord's for such a time as this? Let me suggest we need to do better.
Many Christians are looking nervously at what is happening in the world today, with ongoing conflict in Gaza, the horrors of Iraq, broader Ukraine war a looming possibility and global problems elsewhere. Apprehensions grow due to the rise of radical Islam and a growing threat of mother Russia. Many express troubled doubts and dismay about the future of our world.
On the homefront, we have many issues - a border crisis, economic woes, a lack of moral clarity and a dysfunctional Federal government. Ebola is now being talked about as a threat to the U.S., St. Louis riots, and the dollar may collapse at any time even as the cost of living consistently increases. Few Americans have confidence in the leadership of our nation to bring hope and change.
Those are the things we see in the news every day. As Christ followers, however, we are not called to live by sight but by faith.
What we need today are men and women of Issachar, offering informed leadership for the family of God to follow. Presently, however, best estimates are that only 1 in 100 Evangelical Christians has any meaningful role in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the very thing Jesus told us to invest our lives in. Too few are really following our Commander-in-Chief the way he modeled and calls his 'family' to.
Regardless of what we see happening in the world around us the task that Jesus gave us to do is where we must focus until he comes again. The problem is that task isn't well understood, so it's easy to see only the rising storm clouds. But it is not like our Lord didn't tell us what was coming.
Jesus told us to expect wars and rumors of wars, turmoil and tumult, growing chaos through this present age. Just read Matthew 24 for the signs of the end of the age. The Lord also says though, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:22). It may get even worse than we see today but Jesus gives us great hope for the future. Real change is coming!
The tribulations will not last forever, a new day will break forth, Kingdom order will be established and Eden will be restored (see Revelation 22). Of that we can be sure. And what's really amazing is that King Jesus gives us a role to play toward that end when he says: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14). Until that "end" we have work to do.
Understanding the times must give us an "all nations" focus because that is Jesus focus, as well as his command in the Great Commission. Knowing what to do today must serve a Great Commission priority to those who have no knowledge of who Jesus is for them, because that is God's priority. The knowledge of his glory will fill the earth (Habakkuk 2:14).
We need to understand God has each of us here for a reason, which has everything to do with his plans and purposes - not our own. Could be it that these "end time" battles are intensifying because we draw near to the completion of the Great Commission and so the enemy is making one final assault before these days are "shortened"? Perhaps.
We don't know the time of his coming (Matthew 24:42) or when we will be able to say the task is finished. What we do know is the following:
4,000 languages remain without a completed Bible
3,000 people groups remain without a single Christian worker
1 million villages remain without a single Kingdom outpost, better known as a church.
Jesus told us that "all nations" will hear and be given an opportunity to respond to the Gospel of His Kingdom. The word "all nations" is translated from the Greek 'panta ta ethne' which means that every nation, tribe and tongue will receive the Good News. God also gave us the "end" of the story to give us assurance that the task will be completed (Revelation 7:9).
Understanding the measurables of the unfinished task of the Great Commission should help us to know what to do toward the "end" Jesus speaks of. Understanding the times also means we have to understand the issues that confront us, the Church, today. Let me suggest there are two major issues that need our, Church leaders, immediate attention.
First, the majority of Christian leaders today lack understanding of all that it means to follow Jesus as he laid it out for us. Fairly audacious thing to say, right? But think with me here, if this were not true, would there not be more than 1% of his followers actually following his plan to make disciples of "all nations?" Did Jesus really mean for his followers not to follow what he laid out for us to do, to just gather in barns instead of working in the harvest field?
Second, we take his salvation as a personal gift for us, based on a decision we make. Too many of God's people lack understanding that Jesus left us here for a reason so much bigger and grander than ourselves, our personal ambitions and goals. Following Jesus is not our life plus Jesus. It's Jesus is my life so lead me Lord and I will follow you to "all nations."
Christopher Wright, one of the world's most respected Old Testament Scholars, put it bluntly: "To confess Jesus as messiah is to commit yourself to His mission to the nations. You can't have one without the other - not if you believe the scriptures and read them as Jesus taught His disciples to."
To paraphrase Wright, you can't actually say "I follow Jesus" without embracing the nations and committing your life to God's global cause. That's not works based theology but Biblical missiology. Pastor John Piper put it this way, "To belong to Jesus is to embrace the nations with him."
Needed today are Issachar leaders who understand God's plan for "all nations" and know what to do to mobilize, prepare and release workers for the coming harvest. It's time to understand the times and know what to do!