The men of Issachar were Israelites who understood the times so that they would know what Israel was to do. That's a great description of thoughtful Christians as well: people who understand the times in which they live so that they would know how they - as part of the Church - will respond.
I'm claiming neither to perfectly understand the times nor to perfectly know what the new Israel should do. That's why I titled this post "Seeking to be..." I invite you to join me in the seeking
For the last few years I’ve been intrigued by 1 Chronicles 12:32a. It’s a bit of a hidden nugget among the genealogies and other seemingly endless lists of people in 1 Chronicles (which is one of the reasons many find it difficult to read through).
It’s a small phrase contained in a list of those who gathered at Hebron to join David when he was about to take the kingdom of Israel from Saul, according to the word of the Lord (1 Chronicles 12:23). They are men of the tribe of Issachar, which is one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
This intriguing phrase is:
...of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do...
There were 200 chieftains of the tribe of Issachar, with men under their command. These chieftains are men who knew what was going on in the world around them and used that knowledge to help guide Israel.
Yes, the immediate context of this passage is a military one, and it's simply a descriptive passage that tells us what happened. It doesn't direct us to do anything. But we can learn much from it nonetheless.
I believe that we can learn so much from it that I've started something called "The Issachar Sessions" at my church. These are a series of conversations that revolve around hot-button issues in our world, and how we as Christians can engage with people around these hot-button issues. I broadly describe the task as involving four primary things:
- Know what we believe.
- Know *why* we believe what we believe.
- Do Cultural Exegesis.
- Be ready with an answer for the hope that lies within us.
These things are what it takes to be a "man of Issachar", as I apply it in our own context. I'm going to expand on each of these in future posts. But as an introduction, these are tasks I'm constantly seeking to do well for my own part, and have now started guiding others in these tasks. I believe every thoughtful Christian is going about these tasks, and part of our call is to do them better.
This isn't just about doing apologetics, though that's a major component. This is, I believe, the call of every Christian that finds himself or herself living as a Christian in the midst of a culture that is either neutral or hostile to Christianity and to Christians. Yes, some are called to be apologists, that is, to "deep-dive" into making an answer. But all Christians can be "men of Issachar" in their daily lives and vocations.
I'm claiming neither to perfectly understand the times nor to perfectly know what the new Israel should do. That's why I titled this post "Seeking to be..." I invite you to join me in the seeking.