1 Chronicles 12:32

‘the children of Issachar,
men who had understanding of the times,
to know what Israel ought to do’

Not all times are the same. God is the Lord of a history that’s unfolding over millennia. It’s important to read the times in which we live and respond appropriately. Here one of the ancient tribes of Israel, the children of Issachar, are recorded as doing just that.

However, this book of chronicles was written much later, for the people of Judah returned from exile. The Jews, as they became known, were to understand who they were and how to live in their time, learning from past examples like Issachar.

We live in yet another time and can learn from both, as we understand our times and respond. The key is to recognise what God is doing and engage. He reveals to us not everything, but all we need to know.

Through the prophet Samuel, God had ‘anointed’(1 Samuel 16:13) David successor to King Saul. Many events unfolded before David actually came to the throne, but in due course, after Saul’s death, first the people of just his own tribe of Judah anointed him ‘“king over them”’(2 Samuel 2:7). Civil war ensued, but eventually all the tribes recognised him and ‘anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of Yahweh by Samuel’(1 Chronicles 11:3). Those who ‘came to David… to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word’(1 Chronicles 12:23) included ‘the children of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do’. Their key was to recognise what God was doing, engage with it, and respond.

So what were the chronicler’s contemporaries to glean from this? Since these ancient ‘children of Issachar’ events had moved on. Israel had been through its golden age, fallen into error, then exile. But the God of grace still had a plan for them, ‘hope and a future’(Jeremiah 29:11), back in the promised land. So here they now were – back yet diminished, in the Persian ruled province of Judea. How were they to understand their time and respond appropriately?

The chronicler emphasises obedience to God’s word, and worship centred around the temple, but also the Davidic kings, whose ‘“‘“throne shall be established forever”’”’(1 Chronicles 17:14). However, there were no Davidic descendants functioning like this. So the air became pregnant with expectant hope as they read old prophesies like: ‘For to us a child is born… His name will be called… Mighty God… Prince of Peace… on the throne of David… forever’(Isaiah 9:6-7). They were waiting for this Messiah, which is Hebrew for anointed one.

And so to our time, inaugurated by this anointed one, Jesus. It transpired that this was to be a two stage process. We live in between those two stages. It’s crucial to recognise this fact and respond appropriately.

First ‘Jesus Christ [which is Greek for anointed one], the son of David’(Matthew 1:1) came as the suffering servant, who ‘was pierced for our transgressions… crushed for our iniquities’(Isaiah 53:5), the sacrificial ‘“Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”’(John 1:29). After His resurrection, the disciples wondered when Jesus’ Kingdom would be fully realised. He answered, first you ‘“will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth”’(Acts 1:8). So the task of our age is: ‘“This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations”’(Matthew 24:14), ‘“to the end of the age”’(Matthew 28:20). We’re to recognise and proclaim ‘the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David… in the midst of the throne… a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing… To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion, forever and ever! Amen!”’(Revelation 5:5-13).

Finally we’ll enter the eternal Kingdom: ‘The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him… They will reign forever and ever.’(Revelation 22:3-5).

These are the perspectives on life to grasp, the reality of our age that God would have us understand, engage with and respond to. Our age might last millennia, since God can regard ‘a thousand years as one day’(2 Peter 3:8), but for us as individuals it’ll be just a few decades, at most, before likely through death we face the eternal realm. Respond appropriately.