Who Were the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today?


A friend of mine referred to the “sons of Issachar… who understood the times” recently when speaking of the evangelical support for Donald Trump.  The reference comes from 1 Chronicles 12:32 where the “sons of Issachar” (descendants of Issachar) who joined with David were described as men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do”.

As I drifted near consciousness in my sleep last night, the phrase came back to me and ran through my head. I roused myself from a semi-conscious state and gave myself a reminder to look up the reference, and so I am following up to dig a little deeper.

What does it mean? What does it mean for me? What does it mean in these times?

Obviously, these were men who were in tune with God’s purposes in the times they were experiencing. Thew context in which this description was when David was in hiding from King Saul. King Saul was pursuing David to kill him. Instead of confronting Saul, the man God chose as the King, forming a coupe and dethroning him, David went into hiding.

During his time of banishment, men began coming over to him. In the beginning those men included warriors from the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s own relatives. (1 Ch. 12:2) Members of the tribe of Manasseh joined David even though their desertion of Saul could cost them their heads. (1 Ch. 12:19) Day after day, men came to David’s help at a place called Ziklag. (1 Ch. 12:20-22) Others, like the 200 sons of Issachar, joined David at Hebron, later.

By this time, God had rejected Saul as king, and it was only a matter of time for Saul’s demise. God was making a change, and David was the chosen one by God to replace Saul. We know today that David was also the man through whom God planned, eventually, to raise up the Messiah – the root of Jesse’s seed – Jesus.

We know the rest of the story, but they surely didn’t. They just believed that it was time for a change. Saul’s reign had run its course. Saul was out touch with God. His head had gotten to big. Pride had taken over, and he was no longer favored. He was losing his grip on reality and the kingdom.

As I read the story when I woke up in the morning, the number of the Sons of Issachar who joined David struck me: 200. There were 200 chiefs from the tribe of Issachar. And, then I noticed something else.

Men from all twelve tribes of Israel joined David at Hebron, but only 200 men came from the tribe of Issachar. The number of men who came from the other tribes were far greater, including 120,0000 men from Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 50,000 men from Zebulun, 40,000 from Asher, 37,000 from Naphtali, and 28,600 from Dan.

So, what’s the big deal about only 200 men from Issachar? Why does Scripture say of them (and not of anyone else) that they were men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do?

One answer that occurs to me is that the rest of the “sons of Issachar” were not men who understood the times and did not know what Israel should do. They were men who continued to support Saul, the king God was rejecting. Only 200 of the entire tribe of Issachar were men of understanding – by far the least number of any of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Of all the tribes of Israel, the men of the tribe of Issachar were the least in tune with God’s plan and purposes! So much so that, while hundreds of thousands of men from the other tribes joined David, only 200 from the tribe of Issachar did so. Most of the sons of Issachar did not understand the times and did not know what Israel should do!

The backstory to all of this is that Saul was chosen (by God) as king, but only because the people wanted a king like the other nations. In demanding a king, the people were actually rejecting God. They were putting their trust in a king, rather than trusting God to be their king. (1 Samuel 8:6-9)

So how does that inform me and other Christians today?

Continue reading “Who Were the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today?”

Voting Christian: What Does Your Faith Allow?


I have to admit that I don’t look forward to the days ahead: the “election season”. I likely be “snoozing” quite a few people in the coming months. Voting, of course, is a protected right and a privilege in a free society, as is the freedom to speak our minds.

Still, I approach the inevitable increase in exercise of that freedom that will certainly escalate as we get closer to November with no small amount of angst. Daily reminders of the polarized, schizophrenic nature of our society with so many voices, each speaking with near absolute certainty, their diametrically opposing opinions is not my idea of fun or meaningful discourse.

That our voices in the church, the body of Christ collective, is no less disparate is downright disconcerting.

Of course, it’s always been that way. Even in the New Testament, even among the apostles, we find disagreement: Paul and Apollos, Peter and Paul, the Jewish and gentile converts, Gnostics and others. Having spent an entire Sunday exploring the early church fathers in North Africa last week, I waded through one example of disagreement after another.

Many of those disagreements at that time led to the formation and establishment of the fundamentals of orthodox belief: original sin, the Trinity, the nature of Jesus, how the church should deal with “lapsed” believers in times of persecution and the authority of the church.

Some, like Cyprian and Augustine, were sainted by the established church for their positions that became the accepted stance of a majority of the church leaders at the time. Others, like Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Tertullian, despite their significant contribution to early Christian thought, were not because they took positions that did not line up exactly with the majority (even if many of their other positions did).

We tend to view church history in the west through a decidedly western lens. We forget that those early expressions of Christianity took different tracks: Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Coptic and others. Some of those early leaders are viewed as saints by some of those “churches” and not by others.

Western Christianity has had its own splinters: Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Anabaptist and others. I found the Charismatic movement in the early 1900’s fascinating as a young Christian for the way it moved through the various denominations at once and brought people together through the collective experience of the Holy Spirit. It too, though, resulted in new divisions: the Pentecostal and “independent” charismatic churches.

Thus, when I think about how Christians should vote in the next election, I find no solace in a clear direction. Christians are torn and divided. Continue reading “Voting Christian: What Does Your Faith Allow?”

Being Innocent as Doves and Wise as Snakes in the World of Justice

We do a yeoman’s job of distinguishing ourselves from the world, but we are not doing well distinguishing ourselves to the world. 


I have been wrestling with the divergent views of social justice, critical theory and gospel justice for some time now. They all “compete” in the same arenas, have some overlapping commonality, but they diverge in some very fundamental ways. I am not going to get into those difference here, but I want to try to open a discussion about how we, as Christians, move in these areas and discuss them in ways that honor the desire of Jesus to leave the 99 and go after the lost sheep.

I am writing this after reading a well-written article by Natasha Crain, 5 Ways Christians are Getting Swept into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment. I like that she starts out by acknowledging that George Floyd’s death, which prompted a massive public response, was unjust, and that racism is not only wrong; it is not biblical. She acknowledges that Christian can agree with the secular world on those points.

She goes on to describe five (5) ways in which Christians get swept along by secular currents that are not biblical in attempting to respond to injustice. Critical theory (and critical race theory), in particular, is antithetical to Christianity in some of its core tenets. Though she doesn’t really say it directly, critical race theorists and Christians can both agree that injustice exists and even on that much of what that injustice looks like. The real divergence is in the worldview that informs and under girds critical race theory and its proposed solutions.

I am not going to talk about the details of those differences either. (I did a little bit of that in Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective.) What I want to address, using Natasha Crain’s article as a backdrop, is the extent to which I believe the evangelical church failed to address justice issues as God would have us address them.

We are good at preaching the good news (the Gospel), and good at proclaiming truth (including articles like Natasha Crain’s article detailing what is wrong with the critical race theory and social justice efforts the truth and/or leave the Gospel out of the equation), but we are not so good at doing justice. (I have written about this recently here, here and here.)

I see many articles like Natasha Crain’s article, and I hear many voices warning about the evils of critical race theory and social justice initiatives that are divorced from the Gospel, but we need positive voices to speak into the area of justice from the position of the Gospel at the same time. Justice is at the very foundation of God’s throne. (Psalm 89:14) We can’t ignore it!

In that vein, I will add to the voice of Natasha Crain who addressed five (5) areas in which Christians are getting swept into a secular worldview at this time. I don’t disagree with her on her assessment, but I think we need some counterbalance in this discussion that emphasizes God’s heart for justice. Continue reading “Being Innocent as Doves and Wise as Snakes in the World of Justice”

The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem.


Christians who seek to follow Jesus as he followed the Father are as earnest in doing justice as they are in preaching the Gospel. The Gospel and justice go hand in hand. The evangelical church, however, has fallen short on the justice side of the equation. The void left by the church has allowed new, competing philosophies to take over the cultural space.

Critical race theory has become the loudest voice in that arena. Many Christians who are justice-minded have gravitated toward the voices that come from a critical race theory platform without realizing that critical race theory is another gospel that runs antithetical to the true Gospel.

Critical race theory defines the problem and the solution in terms that are sometimes contrary to the Gospel and to biblical truth. That is not to say there is no redeeming value to critical race theory, or that people who espouse CRT are wicked or evil. It’s just not the Gospel. Inevitably it’s a solution that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem and doesn’t bring about true justice.

The Gospel offers true justice.

The Gospel says that all humans are made in the image of a holy God. The problem with men is the orthodox idea of sin – the tendency to do wrong and the failure to do right, which we know we ought to do. Love God and love your neighbor is a simple formula, but we want to go our own ways and to please ourselves rather than love God and love our neighbors.

Jesus offers salvation by taking on the sin of all people (of all races) on himself and setting us free from the wages of sin. Jesus does that so we can have relationship with God who, then, begins to work within us to will and to act according to His good purpose. That reality is borne out in the process of personal sanctification (vertically) and in just relationships with our fellow man (horizontally).

We do not achieve salvation by anything that we do. It’s a free gift available to all by grace. We simply need to embrace it. Salvation takes away the shame and the ultimate consequence of sin, which is death (physically and spiritually). It frees us up to live as God intended by the help of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within people who yield to Him. We demonstrate that by our love for God and our love for people.

Racism is the sin of partiality. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile; no male nor female; and no black, nor white or brown. We are all one in Christ, and the ultimate goal of the Gospel is to unite all humanity in Christ with God the Father. The picture of that ultimate goal was given to the Apostle John in a vision:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb….” (Rev. 7:9)

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem of racial injustice.

The evangelical church, however, has had a very mixed track record on the issue of racism. Many Christians with a heart for justice are (rightfully) responding to the voices who are speaking to the issue of racial disparity, but some of those voices are preaching a false gospel that is, in many ways, antithetical to the true Gospel.

Continue reading “The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice”

Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective


I have been writing on the need for the evangelical church, in particular, to speak up and get involved in doing justice as God would have us do it. (Here and here.) We have been champions of proclaiming the Gospel, but we haven’t exactly been champions of doing justice.

My goal isn’t to shame anyone into jumping onto a cultural bandwagon, but to emphasize God’s heart that is characterized by justice and our rightful role in participating in God’s purposes. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, but God calls us to do justice. (Micah 6:8) If we want to be involved in following Jesus as he followed the Father, we need to do justice.

At the same time, we need to be mindful, always, of truth. Biblical justice has a vertical element and a horizontal element: man to God and man to man. We need to be aligned in both directions with God and His character.

Critical race theory has become a viable contender in the modern cultural arena for defining injustice and prescribing how to fight it. Critical race theory, by its very nature, attempts to control the discussion. As Christians, though, we need to keep our focus on the Gospel as we wade into the fray.

In this article, I summarize a conversation between Alisa Childers and Monique Duson on Race, Injustice, and the Gospel of Critical Race Theory. (The full interview is embedded at the end of this article.) I have been meaning to write on the subject of the difference between Gospel justice and social justice (which often devolves into justice without the Gospel), for well over a year. This, I think, is helpful introduction to the subject.

I will address critical race theory (CRT) here, and I will follow with some thoughts on need for the evangelical church to be actively involved in doing true (biblical) justice.

Background.

Monique Duson grew up with critical race theory in south LA. The ideas that drive critical race theory (CRT) were her frame of reference before she even had a label for them. She was nurtured and educated by it. Her world was defined by an us-against-them orientation: whites against blacks.

She didn’t really know the philosophy or the foundations that under-girded that framework until she attended college at Biola University, a Christian institution. Even there, she recalls, she really didn’t question it or put it into a Gospel perspective.

In fact, she had always assumed “the Gospel” in the United States of America was a white concept that was part of the oppression of white power structures. She explains that she didn’t come to realize the historical Gospel isn’t white until after college when she was challenged to dig into it.

As she learned that Jesus wasn’t white and the culture in which the Gospel first spread wasn’t white, Monique came to realize, “The Gospel we have perceived isn’t white protetestantism.” The Gospel predated the European influences that eventually spread the Gospel to the New World.

Because of Monique’s background and personal experience with critical race theory, she is uniquely able to identify where CRT and biblical notions of justice and the cure for injustice diverge. The rest of this article focuses on CRT as another gospel that is different than the true Gospel that Jesus preached.

Continue reading “Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective”