Understanding Our Times!

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Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs (were) two hundred; and all their kinsmen (were) at their command. (1 Chron 12:32, NAU). From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the temper of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (1 Chron 12:32, NLT). Psalm 90 is a very powerful and thought provoking poetry. For one thing, it is from its tenth verse that many have come to the conclusion, albeit erroneously, that the Bible teaches that 70 or 80 years are the ceiling of human longevity. As a result of this belief, many people nowadays are not aspiring to live more than 80 years. This Psalm of Moses has a lot to say about TIME and our ATTITUDE to TIME. Verse 12 says: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). The times we live in today call for sober reflection, right attitude to time and above all, a heart of wisdom from God. As Christians, the days we live in call for caution and courage, knowledge of what to do, and spiritual perception, understanding and obedience to what God is doing in this country and beyond.

Out text is taken from 1 Chronicles 12:32. It reads: Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs (were) two hundred; and all their kinsmen (were) at their command. (NAU). Issachar, (meaning Reward or Wages), was the fifth son of Jacob and Leah and the ninth son of Jacob. Very little is known about Issachar’s personal history except that he had four sons (Gen. 46:13) and that he went down to Egypt with Jacob (Exo. 1:3) and later became one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Unlike some other tribes like Ephraim and Judah, Issachar didn’t have much to boast of as a tribe. He produced only one Judge, Tola (Judges 10:1) and two kings, Baasha, (1Kgs. 15:27-28) and his son Elah, (1Kings 16:8). Issachar didn’t have much military might to boast of. According to Numbers, he had only 54,400 fighting men, and 64,300 in the second census (Num. 1:28-29; 26:25) and only 87,000 in the days of David. (1 Chron. 7:5).

Issachar as a tribe could not boast of the wealth, population and military might of other tribes like Ephraim. He was as ordinary and average as many of us today in the history of God’s people. However, in the simplicity of their external privileges, they had what other tribes couldn’t boast of – noble and perceptive heart, to understand what the times called for and unity of purpose in their rank and file to act in concert, under the leadership of their 200 leaders. The context of 1 Chronicles 12:32 is the ailing days of Saul’s kingship in Israel. God had rejected Saul from being king over Israel and directed Samuel to secretly anoint David in his stead. What happened when this secret anointing deal came to Saul’s knowledge is a very familiar story to most of us. Saul died in this state of national division and confusion leaving Israel at a spiritual and political crossroads. Israelites were in confusion as to where and to whom to pledge their allegiance. Would it be with the house of Saul or with David’s? It was a time of spiritual and political transition and uncertainty for Israel as it is in Nigeria today.

It was more than choosing between political parties or ideologies, (as in our home grown chop-chop directionless political leaders). It was more than choosing between two individuals, Saul or David. It was a choice between accepting God’s rulership represented by David and Man’s rulership represented by Saul. It was choosing between faith and unbelief, between obedience and rebellion, between God’s will and man’s will. It was indeed, a moment of decision, a time that called for spiritual perception, sagacity and understanding. And the men of Issachar robustly rose to the occasion above their compatriots. Three things from this passage set Issachar distinctly apart from all the other tribes listed in 1Chron. 12:23-37. First, they understood the times. Secondly, they had knowledge of what the situation called for. Thirdly, they did not equivocate to act decisively and in unity as the situation demanded. They knew it was time to pledge unalloyed loyalty and allegiance to the reign of God. Most Israelites at this time knew that Saul had fallen from grace and favour of God but they still were committed to his kingship of human will and rebellion.

Christians in Nigeria are facing a similar situation today. There are many Sauls in today’s leadership of Nigeria, both spiritually and politically. At individual levels, every one of us knows about the strange rulers in our lives, the Sauls who will not give up their claims of sovereignty over our lives. They come in various forms and manifestations. From allegiance to ailing powers of materialism, to the ailing powers of intellectual achievements upon which many have trusted, to unholy romance with corrupt political and ecclesiastical office holders. What are the Sauls in your life that are intimidating you from making a total and complete surrender and allegiance to the Kingship and Lordship of Jesus Christ in your life? It is certainly different things to different people. But no matter what Sauls you face in your life and in your church, it is time for transition and a moment of decision that calls for the type of understanding, knowledge, perception and decisiveness that distinguished the men of Issachar from the rest of Israel. Most Nigerian Christians and their leaders have become too complacent and ambivalent in the face of massive political fraud, monumental socioeconomic injustice and pauperisation of our people. Where are the likes of the men of Issachar among Nigerian Christians and their leaders, both spiritually and politically who understand the temper of our times today in Nigeria, who also know the best course for Israel of God in Nigeria to take?

In Romans 13:11-14, Paul characterised the times we live in as follows: (1) It is a critical hour… the high time to wake up out of sleep- roused to reality, A time when our salvation is nearer than when we first believed, v11. (2) It is a time when the night is far spent and the day is almost here, a time to drop and fling away the works and deeds of darkness and put on the full armour of light” v12. (3) It is a time to “Live and conduct ourselves honourably and becomingly… not a time for sensual indulgence and gratification. V. 13. (4) Above all, it is a time to “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and make no provision for (indulging) the flesh – put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature to (gratify its) desires (lusts).v14, (Amplified) Also, continuing from Eph. 5:14-16, (5) It is a time to “Awake from sleep and arise from the dead, a time to let Christ shine upon you and give you light.

Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise-sensible, intelligent people; making the very most of the time – buying up each opportunity because the days are evil.” vv15-16 (7) It is perilous times of great stress and trouble – hard to deal with and hard to bear. 2 Tim. 3:1 (Amplified)

What was Paul’s counsel? “Therefore, do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but UNDERSTANDING and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:17). The men of Issachar knew that the will of God was pledging allegiance to David’s kingship rather than Saul’s. Should the Christian be expected to give any less allegiance today to our Lord Jesus Christ, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh?” (Rom. 1:3) This time calls for men and women of UNDERSTANDING among us to take ACTION. This action must be both spiritual and political action to call our people back to the kingship of Christ. The Old Testament prophets served in the kings’ courts. We must reject the false dichotomy that tends to insulate Christians from active involvement in the political processes of our country. John the Baptist engaged Herod and Paul did not think it strange to his faith and calling to engage Felix, Festus, Agrippa and finally Caesar himself. While we must not put our trust solely on the success of any political program or agenda, it is also important to pay attention to what politicians are doing with the fate and future of our nation.

Finally, the men of Issachar actually did what they knew Israel ought to do but didn’t do. This chronicler was careful to tell us the numerical strength of each tribe’s army that came out, except the tribe of Issachar. I believe he was so fascinated by the unity and discipline of this tribe, as all the tribe was under absolute command of their 200 leaders. I believe that this chronicler deliberately chose to elevate the power and beauty in the unity and decisiveness of the men of Issachar over the numerical power their army lacked. Unity is always strength. Today, many of our churches and their leaders are almost idolizing and boasting in their numerical strength, while ignoring the spiritual hollowness and shallowness of such mixed multitude. Our time in Nigeria today calls for a disciplined Christian leadership that has the vision of what the will of God is for this nation now and a followership that is ready to bring it to pass through purposeful individual and collective commitment to the will of God for His church and our nation. Every individual Christian holds a powerful key to making Nigeria what God wants it to be. Never in the history of this nation has this prayer of the Psalmist been more pertinent than the times in which we live and the times that lie ahead of us as a people. Could you honestly stop today and say to God: Teach Me to Number My Days Aright That I May Gain a Heart of Wisdom? BE WISE! UNDERSTAND THE TIMES AND ACT ACCORDINGLY! Have question you may call. 08055059656 or write akpogena@yahoo.com. Stay blessed.