Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Original Context of Understanding the Times

A phrase that has risen in favor in recent decades is to “understand the times.” It, or a form thereof, has become part of several book titles. My first introduction to it came from Summit Ministries in Colorado. David Noebel named his book Understanding the Times. The phrase comes from 1 Chronicles 12:32: “of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.” Another book also taking its name from this verse is Sons of Issachar for the 21st Century.

At one level, the phrase stands on its own in this verse. If you back up and take a look at the larger context, it can seem like a nugget tucked into a lengthy “list passage,” much like the prayer of Jabez (also good book material) appears in the middle of a multi-chapter genealogy. This nugget, though, is different, and its context is informative, disguised though its usefulness it may be.

Issachar at this point is one of the 12 tribes of Israel. 1 Chronicles 12 is the account of how the tribes' of Israel loyalty shifted from Saul to David. The chapter concludes with a count of how many men armed and equipped for war from each tribe were shifting to David—except one.

For Issachar, the closest thing we have to a number is “all their brethren” shifted to David. The reason the men of Issachar were unanimous was because they understood the times. They believed “the word of the LORD” (12:23), and they could see the kingdom of Saul being turned over to David. They had no hesitation or division. We have no number for them because there was no need to identify those who went vs. those who stayed. They all went.

For us, then, this means that understanding the times is not just a matter of being able to spot a trend before everyone else. From 1 Chronicles 12 we learn that there is action embedded in, and inevitable from, understanding the times: decisive, unanimous, conclusive, resounding action. We are not called just to be pundits. Afterwards, there is no prize for just being able to say, “I saw that coming.” What did you do about it? What prophetic voice of truth were you in those times changing around you?

In the original Hebrew, the words for understanding and times only show up together in 17 verses in the Old Testament. Action is a running theme throughout those as well.

A New Testament counterpart to 1 Chronicles 12:32 is Romans 13:11: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.”

Here, too, we find a call to action: “Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (13:11-14).

For both passages, the larger context is political power. 1 Chronicles 12 is about the transition of power from Saul to David. Romans 13 is the most expansive passage in all the New Testament about the role of government.

In the original Greek, the words for knowing and time only show up together 7 times in the New Testament. In one of these (Luke 12:56), Jesus had harsh words for people who knew about the weather and nothing about the times.

I like both. I have a blog for the weather (mostly automated) and for the times (clearly not automated). I also Tweet about the weather and the times. Twitter lists are also useful for keeping up with what others are observing about the weather and the times. (Incidentally, the two are not unrelated, as indicated by Job 36:26-31—“by these He judges the peoples.”)

We do well to learn and remember that the usefulness of understanding the times goes beyond the activity itself. However, there can be no action based on preparation without the preparation. It is good to hold fast a Biblical, godly perspective of the times in which we live.

No comments:

Disclosure

Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links and earn commissions.

Your support is appreciated.

Blog Archive

2013

You don't launch a popular blog,
you build one.
Seth Godin