Each year since I started this blog in 2012, I have reviewed the most read blog posts of the year. Certain posts on timeless themes, like “It is Well with my Soul: The Story” (from 2014), are perennial contenders. Not this year, though. That article doesn’t even make the top ten.
While some timeless “favorites” (recognizing this is a relative term here) tend to make the list each year, 2021 is marked by the emergence of relatively new writings and a new theme. We might call that theme the signs of the times. At least, we might say that writings which reflect the current times have emerged on top.
That statement is certainly true of the article that is by far the most read article on this blog this year: Who Were the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today?
This article was written in September of 2020. At that time we were careening toward a contentious presidential election. Though it was written with only three months to the end of the year, it became the most read article of 2020 (beating out It is Well with My Soul), and it is the most read article in 2021 by far.
In fact, the Sons of Issachar article has quickly become the most read article in the life of my blog, beating out the 2014 article, It is Well with My Soul, three times over. That it grew out of my own angst leading up to the presidential election is certainly a sign of the times. We have had much angst in the last two years!
I have never highlighted a single article in my annual summary of past years. This year is different. I will get to the summary, but I will tell the back story and reflect on the significance of the Sons of Issachar article, which seems to have hit home with people, first.
To begin with, the article was “inspired” by communications with a very dear friend who also very sadly passed in 2021. We differed in our views of the relationship of Donald Trump to the body of Christ in the United States and engaged in some very candid discussion of it as the presidential election loomed.
I “grew up” in the faith in charismatic circles that honored and valued prophetic gifting. My friend was a mentor and godly example to me at that time. I long left those circles long, but I value those times. Though I have grown away from the perspective I had then, I do not completely discount it.
Trump was catapulted into the Christian limelight by people claimed to be prophets who predicted Trump’s presidential success. Those predictions were dated back many years before 2016. When he won in 2016, people in those prophetic circles became his biggest supporters. A prophetic frenzy was working up to a fever pitch as the 2020 presidential election was nearing, and a Trump victory was being predicted again.
I don’t remember discussing the prophecies with my friend, though they were top of my mind. Scripture tells us not to despise prophecy (1 Thess. 5:20), so I took them seriously, and all the more because of my good friend’s unwavering defense of the church’s support for Trump.
That I respect my friend is an understatement, but my own assessment of the Church’s relationship to Trump was increasingly critical from 2015 to the present time. I found myself troubled as I sought to reconcile our differences.
I spent time listening to people my friend recommended to me. I knew one of them. These are people we would say are “sold out” to God. “The world” might consider them crazy, but “God has chosen the foolish of the world to shame the wise”. Right?
I don’t remember if my friend referenced the Sons of Issachar “who knew the times”, or whether the various people in prophetic circles I began to consider used that phrase. Either way, that phrase is often used of people who have a prophetic gifting to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to a group of people in a particular time.
Paul’s admonition not to despise prophecy echoed in my mind. Many people with recognized prophetic gifting were behind the church’s support for Trump. Was I missing the boat? Had I drifted outside the camp of God? Was I deceived by the world, rejecting the voice of God speaking to my generation?
These were possibilities I had to consider. Thus, my angst.
I decided to go to the source of perpetual and true guidance from God: Scripture. I went right to the passage where the sons of Issachar knowing the times occurs. I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. What I wrote is the result of my reading and praying.
I don’t hold it out as the pillar of truth on the subject. It is the result of my own soul-searching and seeking of God. I don’t discount the possibility that I may have missed the boat, but it is where I ended up in the process.
I continued to wrestle with what I believed God was speaking to me on the subject, and that lead me to write Postscript to the Sons of Issachar Who Understood the Times. At almost exactly one tenth the number of views as the first article, it is the fifth most read blog post of 2021.
These are troubling times for Christians and non-Christians alike. The world we know is in turmoil, and the future is uncertain. We long to “know the times”, but we are limited by the fog of the ongoing spiritual wars that make up our human experience in this life.
People may be able to look back years from now and identify those who “understood the times”, like Scripture says of the Sons of Issachar. I note, though, that the Sons of Issachar were not the only people who gathered and rallied around David as Saul succumbed to jealousy, pride, and paranoia. The Sons of Issachar weren’t even the first.
Meanwhile, we can be confident in our need to keep our focus on Jesus, to stay grounded in Scripture, and to be steadfast in prayer and in seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.
We may not know the day and hour of Christ’s return to the earth, but we should always be ready. We can hope for no more than to be found busy with the work he gave us to do when the time comes.
His coming will take many by surprise. (Maybe even all of us.) The key is not in knowing the time, but in being ready when the time comes.
In a very uncertain, unsettling, and changing time, such as what we have experienced in the last couple of years, it seems no wonder that a writing about “knowing the times” caught the attention of the most people. I hope that the message is helpful and hopeful. We may not be sure that we actually know the times, but we can have the assurance of God’s love and the hope of his salvation that will anchor us in whatever storm we are going through in in the meantime.