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?”

Time for a Re-Set: Repent and Return to God

I don’t believe that God caused the virus, but I believe God can use it to draw our our attention to Him


A friend of mine, my closest friend in college a dear brother in Christ, shared with me something a friend of his shared with him.  His friend claimed it to be a prophecy from God. I give it you as it was given to me. He said:

“In the wake of the panic-demic, a great national re-set will settle into the culture. We will witness clarifying ‘adjustments’ to what we value or hold dear. Healthy ones. Already this has served as a great sifting….. [W]e (collectively) have not lost much, though we have faced the specter close on the horizon. When the dust settles, we may be surprised to find ourselves in a much better place. Immunized perhaps by just a taste.”

Many people don’t believe that God gives people prophecies today as He did in Scriptural times. Indeed, if God does still do that, we should be careful to accept them. As Paul said then, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

Were all of the prophecies Paul was talking about then written down?

No. We have letters from Paul and other close associates of Jesus, but we don’t have the prophecies Paul was talking about to the Thessalonians. Those prophecies, I believe, were for them. They weren’t to be despised [ignored, treated as nothing and lacking value][i], but they were to be tested.

Testing prophecies means taking them seriously. The word for “test”[ii] here implies that the prophecies are to be put to the test, examined and proven by testing. This is not a skeptical exercise, as a 21st Century believer (or unbeliever) might suppose. The idea was to prove what is good.

Perhaps, our reluctance to think that prophecy is a way God still communicates to us today is based in our lack of understanding of what is meant by prophecy. We think of predictions of things to come. Indeed, the Old Testament is full of such prophecies. Jesus also predicted things.

Prediction and foreshadowing of future events is partially what prophecy can mean, that isn’t all that prophecy means. The Greek word translated “prophecy”[iii] can mean simply speaking the mind of God. Hopefully, your pastor does that when he preaches!

Prophecy does tend to have predictive elements to it, but that isn’t all that it is, and prophecy doesn’t have to be predictive. It can simply be admonishment, encouragement, provide comfort or otherwise speak the mind of God in a particular moment or circumstance. When we seek to comfort or speak a timely word to a friend, praying to God for wisdom, we are attempting to use the gift of prophecy.

Sometimes we fail. We kind of know it when we do. What we say falls flat. But sometimes, we feel the Holy Spirit in the words that are spoken that confirms we have hit the mark. This is prophecy.

Prophecy is a timely word, a fitting word, a word that resonates with Scripture in the moment. It’s a word that carries some weight in the moment such that it encourages, comforts, rebukes, corrects or has whatever affect the Holy Spirit gives it. If you are blessed to have a good preacher in your church, your preacher may speak the mind of God (prophesy) most Sundays.

Prophecy isn’t to be confused with the gift of teaching. Teaching is the gift of being able to pull the meaning out of a text and communicate it clearly. The gift of prophesy is the ability to make Scripture poignant and apply it in the moment providing direction for the future. A preacher with the gift of teaching and the gift of prophecy is a rare gift.

So, back to my friend’s friend.

I am not going to hang on what he said like Scripture. I don’t think that is the purpose of prophecy, and especially not since the time of Christ. Still, I take it seriously. It rings true to me.

Continue reading “Time for a Re-Set: Repent and Return to God”

Is Donald Trump the King We Wanted?


Paul, speaking to the Christians in Rome, penned these words that echo today in the minds of people who seek to do God’s will: “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

Lest we gloss over the historical context, Paul wrote these words from a Roman prison cell. He wrote them not knowing that he would never live free again. He would remain a prisoner until his public execution at the hand of those same Roman authorities established by God.

Not that Paul would have said anything different if he had known his fate. I don’t believe knowledge of his future would have changed anything he said. In the same letter to the Romans, Paul said, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)

I have heard many people recite Romans 13:1 in support of defending Donald Trump. Many of those same people would not have given that verse much consideration during the Obama presidency.

The Scripture didn’t change. Our application of it changed.

Many people who have championed Trump for President, and Trump as President, have claimed that God wanted Trump to be President. Like Daniel in the Persian palace, they say Trump is God’s man in the White House.

I have been skeptical of that claim. Not that it couldn’t be true. It’s that I don’t see the fruit of it.

I admit that I had to be cautious in my skepticism as I read the story of a fireman, Mark Taylor, who prophesied that Trump would be President dating back to 2011. This was an entire term before Trump became president. Those prophetic words echoed in the back of my mind as the election results slowly revealed a Trump victory in 2016 to a nation of shocked newscasters and political pundits on live television.

(I note that the same man who claimed God told him Trump would be president, claimed he would defeat Obama in 2012. He was wrong about the timing. He has also claimed a number of things that have not occurred. “Taylor’s other prophecies have proven to be less than accurate. The Guardian reported that he said a ‘red tsunami’ would solidify Republicans’ hold on Congress, and that he predicted former President Barack Obama would be arrested for treason. Taylor also says Trump will release evidence of cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”)

Paula White, who is now an adviser to Trump in the White House, said after he was elected, “Trump had ‘been raised up by God’ and added, ‘It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.’” Of course, she would have been just as right if she were speaking of Barack Obama eights years and four years earlier.

I wondered then, as I do now: does Trump’s victory mean that we (believers) won too? Did God give us what He wanted? Or did God give us what we wanted?

Continue reading “Is Donald Trump the King We Wanted?”

Christmas Thoughts: Psalm 22

We celebrate the humble birth of Christ, knowing that the redemptive work God started then is finished, even as it is playing out in our own lives and the times we live in.

canstockphoto32323116
(c) Can Stock Photo / realcg

I don’t typically think of the Psalms when I think of Christmas. My Christmas thoughts this season have revolved around prophecies in the Old Testament, and that is where the Psalms enter the picture. The Old Testament is full of prophecies that came true in the person of Jesus from Nazareth, who was born in Bethlehem a little over two millennia ago.

Psalm 22 was written by David during his time of exile, either when he was on the run from King Saul, who had turned against him in jealousy, or from his son, Absalom, who sought to wrest the kingdom from David. Psalm 22 is David’s cry to God in the midst of his own circumstance.

But Psalm 22 is more than that. Psalm 22 is a foreshadowing of God’s own cry when His creation turns against Him. It becomes the cry of God, who shed his divine glory to enter His own creation in the form of a man, which we celebrate at Christmastime.  Continue reading “Christmas Thoughts: Psalm 22”

Christmas Thoughts: Prophets & Fools

 (c) Can Stock Photo / GDArts
(c) Can Stock Photo / GDArts

My Christmas Thoughts have taken me to the prophecies in the Old Testament of the coming Messiah. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ, which is the Greek term for Messiah. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, and he said the Old Testament is about him.[i]

The concept of a Messiah is unique to the Abrahamic religions. A messiah is a savior or liberator of a people Group. The Messiah predicted in the Old Testament (Tanahk) is the Savior of the Jewish people, and he is the Savior of the world. The Messianic prediction goes back to Abraham:

I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen. 22:18-10)[ii]

Both the Jews and Muslims trace their lineage and heritage back to Abraham, and Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, is traced directly back to Abraham through David.  (Matthew 1:1-17)[iii] That the Messiah would come through the lineage of Judah, of whom David was a descendant, is well documented in the prophetic passages in the Old Testament writings. Continue reading “Christmas Thoughts: Prophets & Fools”