As David is assuming the role of king after the death of King Saul, he does an assessment of people who claimed allegiance and among the resources of men of various talents there were the sons of Issachar who bore this unusual description:
1 Chronicles 12:32 (ESV) — 32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.
They had “understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do.” If ever there was a time when we needed men and women of that mind, it is today. But wait! According to the word of God anyone who is a Christian and who is dialed into God’s word does have that ability to correctly understand the times so we can know what we ought to do.
1 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV) — 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Romans 3:10–12 (ESV) — 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
John 3:3 (ESV) — 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
There’s a distinct difference between those who know Christ and those who don’t. Naturally speaking, nobody understands spiritual things; in fact, it’s impossible for them to understand them until God gives them a new heart and an understanding mind.
John 1:11–13 (ESV) — 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) — 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Ephesians 1:13–14 (ESV) — 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:19–20 (ESV) — 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
Thank God. He, in His mercy, makes a change in our hearts to yield to Him and our minds to understand spiritual things. Therefore, the person who has been changed by God has the mind of Christ because the same Holy Spirit that has brought understanding and submission to the Gospel of Christ is the same Holy Spirit that causes one to believe and takes up residency within that person to guide them in the way of truth.
Sounds good but how can we understand or discern the times in which we are living?
What has a Christian done that the unbeliever hasn’t, but we know will one day?
Hint: Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV) — 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Answer: Bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone that has come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, not only repents of their ways (turn from their ways) to call upon Him for salvation but they bow the knee in submission to His lordship as King of kings and Lord of lords.
This means we have a world view with Him as the ultimate authority and the One who is in ultimate control.
Acts 2:36 (ESV) — 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Romans 10:8–13 (ESV) — 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Colossians 1:16–18 (ESV) — 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
The guiding principle in life is to please the ultimate authority because He is Lord of all. Because He is also our redeemer, having purchased our salvation with His own blood and given His life for us, then He is not out to do us harm but good.
Now piece this all together and let it sink in so you may discern the times and make wise choices, and even as the sons of Issachar, be leaders in what we as a nation should be doing.
If Christ is the one who is in control, not any man or force outside of man, then what need we fear? Especially since our King has our ultimate best interest in mind having stated that He came to rescue His people, and none shall be lost. The Bible is clear that not all of life will be easy but even those uncomfortable moments are meant to bring us close to Him and closer conformity to be like Him. Even then He uses whatever we face for our ultimate good. Are you discerning the times yet? There is no need to fear and especially no reason to complain or accuse. Your King, to whom you bow the knee, Who is also your shepherd, has everything under control.
Secondly, an understanding of the times will give us reason to resist any tyrannous call to serve the whims of man over the word of God. It’s interesting how this creeps into society where unfounded dictates of man or the world become the “norm” so that the call to be different not for the sake of being different but for the sake of following God rather than man becomes the focal point of criticism even from Christians who are over-run by the false doctrine of the world.
Acts 4:18–20 (ESV) — 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
From where does this discernment come? It comes from God and is given to us by the Holy Spirit through His word – our reading and our hearing the preaching of His word, as well as through prayer – both as we practice our own prayer life and participate in corporate prayer, and in the gathering with other Christians in the worship of God. These are all means of grace that God uses to build us up and make us bold in our witness for Christ, which is what He calls us to do and be.
Above all, if you desire to be like the sons of Issachar in being able to discern the times to know what to do, ask God for wisdom and discernment that you may apply your heart to be a person who is able to stand out in the midst of a perverse generation. If ever there was a need for people of understanding to stand up and be bold it’s today. Will you be one who can be counted as David counted on the sons of Issachar?