Text: 1 Chronicles 12:32 “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.”
Illustration: Ant Mill or Death Spiral
- When army ants, which are naturally blind, lose track of the pheromone scent that keeps them in contact with their main foraging party, they begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle. With no other cues to tell them what to do, they will continue in this circle till they die of exhaustion.
- They depend on each other.
Background: Shifting Landscapes
What were the times they understood? From a political standpoint, they knew the future was with David, the shepherd-boy-turned-warrior who had already been anointed king of Israel but who had yet to ascend his throne. Because they understood the times, they “cast their lot with David rather than Saul” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).
They knew they did not have a future with King Saul; they were taking the risk for the greater good of their community. Living between the tensions is part of Christian living, however, there is a need to choose what to risk and what to do in order to overcome such shifting landscapes.
Reality Check: We know that we are in this shift of landscape. We know that in the future, three to five years from now, 80% of the members will be retiring. The Filipino-American Dream is to utilize all their savings and invest—not in the US—but in the Philippines. But that move of leaving and letting go off the church is a selfish, self-serving, and imprudent principle. (Okay na, bahala na sila, nag benefit naman na ko for 20 years sa church na yan).
Main Idea: Understanding the Times
Prudence over Pragmatism:
Their leadership was contextual. God not only gave them the Torah to obey; he also expected them to discern the proper application of the Torah in the context in which they found themselves. They plotted their reality on the timeline of biblical history, and therefore had the wisdom to make decisions as leaders, to let others know what the right course of action was.
David undoubtedly appreciated the thousands who came to his side at Hebron. The 7,100 mighty men of war from Simeon, the 50,000 seasoned troops from Zebulun, and especially the 120,000 who came from across the river were all crucial additions to his army. But without the 200 men of Issachar to provide the strategic wisdom, the army would be merely a mindless militia.
Unity over Majority:
In SBC, 66% or 2/3 calls for a majority decision. But our prayer is that UCBC does not stop with just 2/3 but at least 99%. In verse 38, “All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with a whole heart to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king.”
Clarity and Contextual over Crowd Psychology and Indifference:
People tend to “follow the crowd” or “go along with the group” because it is often easier than thinking for ourselves.
As leaders in the churches, pastors should be “men of understanding” who are able to lead God’s people effectively and wisely. Pastors must be discerning men of courage, vision, and faithfulness to the Lord. They should understand their times so they can lead God’s people to engage the world around them.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the nineteenth-century “prince of preachers” in London, used to say that effective preachers held a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Clearly he did not mean that the newspaper became the preacher’s text. What he meant was that those who ministered the Word effectively had to know their culture in order aptly to apply Scripture to the needs of the hour. Christian cultural engagement is less about large numbers and more about understanding the times.
Rev. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
April 2, 2023