Postscript to the Sons of Issachar Who Understood the Times


We receive the Holy Spirit, not so that we will know the times, but so that we can be effective as His witnesses!


I wrote a piece on the Sons of Issachar recently. They are referenced in 1 Chronicles 12:32. The Sons of Issachar were 200 chiefs of the descendents of Issachar who joined David with a multitude from the other tribes of Israel when David was hiding from Saul who sought to kill David.

Saul was Israel’s first king. He was the king the people demanded, and God gave them, despite the fact that they were rejecting God as their king in the process. Saul got caught up in his own power and position. Saul was beginning to lose touch with reality, developing jealousy toward David and suspected David was out to get him. Thus, he sought to kill David.

God, in turn, was about to reject Saul as king because he ceased to listen and follow God’s instruction given through the prophet, Samuel. God had already chosen David to succeed Saul, because he was a man after God’s own heart.

David, for his part, loved and honored Saul because God had made him king. David had multiple opportunities to kill Saul, but he refused to do it, leaving Saul’s fate (and his own fate) completely in God’s hands.

Still, men from every tribe of Israel began to gather where David was hiding, including men from Saul’s own tribe (Benjamin), who were some of the first men to join David. The 200 chiefs of the Sons of Issachar, too, joined David, and Scripture says of them, specifically, that they were men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do”.

That phrase has been invoked by people who style themselves modern prophets who support the presidency of Donald Trump. They claim, of course, that they are men who understand the times. They claim to know what the United States should do, particularly in regard to Donald Trump.

I don’t dismiss what they say out of hand. God has spoken at various times through people who were considered prophets. One of the hallmarks of “the last days” is prophecy, visions and dreams. Peter announced the last days were starting when he stood up on the Day of Pentecost and quoted the prophet, Joel:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18 (quoting Joel 2:28-32)

Though some people believe that these displays of God’s power and authority were only for a dispensation in time, long enough for the Holy Spirit to lead the disciples into the truth and preserve it in what we now call the New Testament, I don’t see evidence of that in the New Testament itself. I think we should expect God to be able to work through people today through prophecy, visions and dreams, and I believe He does!

We, in the west, are not very open to God working that way. We have staked out our position on the embankment of reason, logic, theology and sound doctrine. We are quite uncomfortable with the “messiness” of experiential phenomena like prophecy, visions and dreams.

Yet, outside our western sanctuaries and cloistered halls of learning, these phenomena are regular experiences of Christian life. People who have done short-term or long-term missions often encounter these phenomena in places where people are not presumptively skeptical of what God can do.

Visions and dreams are ubiquitous in the stories of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. I once spoke with a Muslim woman who described for me a vision of Jesus coming to her in the midst of a near death experience she lived through and a subsequent “waking vision” of Jesus gaining her attention in the nick of time to save her son from being hit by a bus. She became a believer in Jesus because of these visions, though no one preached a word to her.

Her supernatural visions, though, didn’t lead her to a place of sound understanding of God and His word. They caused her to believe in God and Jesus, but she gravitated toward extremes in biblical understanding. This is just an anecdote, but I think there is a lesson to take away from it.

It would be a mistake to dismiss out of hand the prophecies, visions and dreams that people claim to have today, but we also need to be careful. Paul admonished the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies…!” (1 Thess. 5:20) But he added an important qualifier:

“…. but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

1 Thess. 5:20-21 (emphasis added)

In keeping with Paul’s admonition and qualifier – to test everything – I have been unsettled in my spirit by the number of Christians, particularly evangelicals, and specifically certain evangelicals who claim to have “a prophetic ministry”, who have boldly and uncompromisingly preached support for Donald Trump.

I am not going to get into all the reasons I find this troubling. I have been writing about some of them since before the 2016 election. I am not going to repeat them here; nor have I even addressed all of the reasons I find it difficult to “go there” with them.

In following up on my previous post about the Sons of Issachar, I note that God was about to reject Saul because of Saul’s failure to follow godly instruction and his erratic and self-exalting behavior. Saul had ceased to be a man who bowed to God, and he had begun to be a man who did what he wanted, caring more about his own reputation than honoring God.

Samuel heard that Saul had set up a monument to himself at Carmel and went to confront Saul. (1 Samuel 15:12) Saul greeted Samuel with a preemptive statement: “May the Lord bless you. I have carried out the Lord’s instructions”. Samuel, though, knew better and called him on it: “Then, what is this bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:13-14)

Saul obviously knew what he had done, but Saul tried to justify taking the sheep and cattle, though the clear instruction was to destroy them. He blamed others: “The soldiers did it”. He tried to claim religious motivation: “to sacrifice them to the Lord our God”. (1 Samuel 15:15)

Saul lied. He tried to cover up his disobedience. He blamed it on others, and he even tried to spin it as a noble thing that he allowed to be done. “We did it for God!”

Even after Samuel detailed how he failed to carry out the instructions he was given, Saul insisted, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:20); “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” (1 Samuel 15:21)

Saul blamed the people and revealed what was really going on in his heart when he identified God to Samuel as “your God“. Saul’s heart wasn’t right.

Finally, when he couldn’t hold up the pretense any more, Saul confessed that he didn’t follow the instructions because he “feared the people and obeyed their voice”. (1 Sam. 15:24) He asked for pardon and for Samuel to return with him as if nothing happened, but Samuel refused: “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” (1 Sam. 15:26)

Not to be dissuaded, Saul insisted again, “I have sinned; yet honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel….” (1 Sam 15:30). The most telling things about this story, perhaps, are that Saul set up a monument to himself; and, even after learning that God was wresting the kingdom from him, Saul’s concern was abut being honored by the people (not honoring God and being honored by God); and he glossed over his sin and rejection by God.

What this all says to me is that character matters in a person who claims to be leading by the authority of God. In Saul’s case, he did lead by the authority of God. God did choose him, but Saul lost God’s favor when he exalted himself above following God.

Saul’s heart had turned from God. He was deceiving himself and attempted to deceive Samuel into thinking that he had followed God’s instruction. He was more concerned about being honored by his troops and the people from whom he sought acceptance (rather than God). The Lord became Samuel’s God, because he was no longer Saul’s God.

People have tried to liken Trump to the foreign king, Cyrus, who allowed the Israelites to return to the promised land and supported them with materials and protection to rebuild the temple, but Cyrus was a foreign king. He wasn’t a leader the people of God rallied around. They didn’t confuse him as their own king.

Christians today are claiming Trump as their king. He isn’t a foreign king; he is the king we wanted.

I don’t know Donald Trump’s heart, but we can see the fruit of his character in everything he says and does. Jesus was clear when he said, “You shall know a tree by its fruit.” (Matt. 7:16; Luke 6:44) I have addressed the fruit that is evident in Donald Trump in previous articles.

A President is not elected to be a priest, pastor or Sunday school teacher, but this thought is what I keep coming back to: if Christians are going to rally around Trump as “our king”, his character (fruit) matters. If the fruit is rotten, we should not embrace it.

The list is long of statements and actions by Donald Trump that exhibit deep character flaws and ungodly thinking and behavior. Consider the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) or the description of what love is (1 Cor. 13:4-8), which are the very measures by which Jesus said people will know his followers (Matt. 7:16); John 13:35).

When we make Donald Trump our king, we are making him representative of us. We are lining up behind him, and people will see us as they see him.

Think about that…. Jesus gave us one grand instruction: to go into all the nations and make disciples. How does Trump help us or hurt us in the business of making disciples among the nations?

As I continue to think about the Sons of Issachar, who understood the times, I came across the following instruction from Jesus to his disciples right before he ascended to take his seat at the right hand of the Father:

“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.'”

Acts 1:7-8 ESV

In the very same context as the instruction to be his witnesses to the end of the earth, he said:

It is not for you to know times….

I take that to mean that we should not be focusing on “the times”, trying to figure it out. We should not be preoccupied with the times. Just like Jesus said that no one will know the day or the hour of his coming back. (Matt. 24:36) We should be about the business of being witnesses to the ends of the earth. THIS is what Jesus told us to do!

To me, if Jesus said we won’t know the times, we shouldn’t be focusing on it! Jesus said very specifically we won’t know! Rather, we simply need to be ready. Always. (Think about the parables of oil and the lamps and other parables of people not being ready.)

We shouldn’t focus on knowing the times because it isn’t for us to know the times or seasons, but he said,

you will receive the Holy Spirit, and [so that]

you will be my witnesses to the end of the earth.

This should be our focus!

We receive the Holy Spirit, not so that we will know the times, but so that we can be effective as His witnesses!

Do you remember the parables about about being prepared for the return of the master, responding to the invitation to the wedding feast, using the talents God gave us and of stewardship over the vineyard? They all suggest to us that we should be about the Father’s business. The Father’s business is found in the instructions to make disciples in all the nations.

Jesus didn’t say that he would give us a great nation – the United States – that we should jealously guard and watch over for Him. Jesus showed us in Revelations that the saints standing around the throne of Jesus will be from every tribe, and tongue and people.

We simply need to be obedient – obedient as his witnesses. Our focus should not be on the times and seasons. We may want to be “in the know”, but Jesus said it isn’t for us to know. If that is our focus, we are missing the boat.

Paul admonished us not to despise prophecy, but (at the same time) to test everything. It’s tempting to think that maybe we know something the rest of the world doesn’t know, but we shouldn’t give in to that temptation.

Jesus said it isn’t for us to know. The thread of prophetic ministry that is hyper-focused on being in the know about the times and seasons doesn’t pass the test as I look at Scripture, think and pray about it.

I think some Christians have made a grave mistake to make Donald Trump the equivalent of our king in these times. That is not to say that God didn’t ordain him to be president. Clearly, I think he did. That isn’t to say that Joe Biden is God’s candidate. He doesn’t pass the test either. God can work through a King Cyrus, but we shouldn’t make the mistake of embracing such a man as our king.

8 thoughts on “Postscript to the Sons of Issachar Who Understood the Times

  1. As a spirit filled Christian of 43 years, I do not see Trump as my king. He is a choice we have had for the leader of our nation. When he first showed up, he was appalling. We wanted Cruz. I held my nose and voted for him in 16. Fast forward through his fight for the unborn, the strong support for Israel and his many, many decisions which show him to be a “changing” man. He prays and asks for God to guide him and in his speeches he now always points to God as the savior, the boss, etc. He isn’t perfect and he is by no means our savior; but since we had to make a choice between a blatant murderer of babies and a reputed pedophile who stands for communistic growth in our beloved nation that God almighty has given us, I will always go for the one who CHOOSES LIFE. It is a simple choice since God gave us that choice many many years ago of whether to choose life or choose death. Deuteronomy 30:19. I don’t think it’s our place to judge people’s hearts on this matter, but IF I HAD TO JUDGE what I see happening, I would say that I see a movement of the masses in the RIGHT DIRECTION because choosing Trump OVER Biden says at its core “we choose the ways of God and we want righteousness, justice and dear God, your mercy on us and the USA!” I hope you can accept my humble opinion and I do appreciate your concerned heart in this matter. We continue to cry out to God for His guidance and help in this very troubled world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I don’t reject what you say. For almost 40 years I have voted for life also. My wife and I have been to the March for Life in Washington, DC. We protested outside an abortion clinic. I understand where you are coming from, and I don’t fault you for voting your conscience as you have. We have not had very good choices. We do need continue to cry out to God for guidance and help. I am sure His heart continues to break for the unborn, and also for those who are living in the cold, darkness of life without knowledge of His love and grace.

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      1. Good articles. Good comments. Our American system of government is largely based on old established law from England and upon the moral directions gleaned from the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament. It recognizes that humans are flawed in both leadership and citizenship. Only by answering to Almighty God do we have any chance to live life without tearing each other apart.
        Presently, we live in the midst of a great war playing out in the unseen realm, which manifests in our material world as well. Choices must be made as to how God’s people can most properly live out God’s kingdom and fight our battle too. If political parties and their politicians were horses, we must choose which one can we ride into battle without being thrown and trampled. Ultimately, the horse does not win this battle. The battle belongs to the LORD.
        Donald J Trump is a sinner like any of the rest of us. What seems to be happening is that he is allowing himself to be molded and shaped into a partner with God’s program and act by the SPIRIT of CHRIST. We can rightly submit to our GOD our prayers and intercessions for the progress of God’s kingdom, and that D.J. Trump will be a transformed and meek partner with Christ as his King! (Wojtek / “happy warrior” – son of)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with you. Trump is surely not my King. I liked him as my President but I was not deceived that all of his actions were Godly, or his fruit all good. He did make decisions for our country that I stand behind but I don’t think this makes him infallible or even a Christian leader. It was refreshing to have someone in politics that spoke of God and regularly seemed to have reverence for God. We see so much fear of that and lack in that respect.
      I also think the Lord would look kindly upon a nation trying to choose what’s right by his standards. A nation wanting righteousness, voting for someone who leans towards Christianity instead of indifference. I appreciate your comment!

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  2. I was searching for a article of the Son of Issachar, and boy did I get more. I truly was afraid to continue to read it when you brought up Donald Trump. I’ll will just say this, This is the “BEST” most PURE,GREAT INSIGHT, TRUTHFUL again TRUTHFUL CLEAN heart fill article I’ve read with his name included, from a believer. I’ve been a believe for over 50yrs. And my heart hurt so much to see the divide among the believers. It’s soooo sad that we have allowed one person to cause this much division as the world watches on. BUT, I also watch that these same people(leaders and followers) ripped apart the previous president. But we preach love, forgiveness,etc. I kept saying during President Obama time in office, you hate him so much. Could he be a Saul on his road to Damascus? Could you turn that hate into prayers for him? But then they have a heart of mercy for President Trump, it puzzled me. And many say because President Obama was for abortions. The thought of Abortion is sickening and hurtful, but aren’t you(not you the writer, some viewers) killing as well with your heart towards others? ABORTION IS KILLING A LIFE(even with your tongue). There is NO perfect person, they will do things our kids will probably hate that we did. But we made a decision at that time, base on our age, thoughts etc. But we wouldn’t want it to effect their love and forgiveness toward us, for the rest of our life. NO BODY IS PREFECT. So, the next time someone talk about abortion, don’t look out, look in(your heart)..WHO CAN CAST THE FIRST STONE?
    Many Platforms(spiritual and secular) have been used to benefit human flesh. Where is mercy?

    I must say this article is a HONEST AND TASTEFULLY WRITING, that I’ve read in the last 5yrs. Thank you for “THE TRUTH” My life has been Blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. It was written out of a great deal of prayer and wrestling with these things. It wasn’t easy to write, and I didn’t seen know where I was going to end up. I wrote it in prayer, seeking God for His direction and wisdom.

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