Men of Issachar

                             Men of Issachar, who understood the times

                                    and knew what Israel should do-

                                                                      I Chronicles 12:32

     These men of Issachar were among those who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him. (I Chronicles 12:23)  They were a distinct and remarkable group of men.  They not only possessed knowledge but also had the wisdom to apply that knowledge to accomplish the task at hand.  Every generation requires its men of Issachar.  From the prophets of the Old Testament these men extended into  the New with the presence of John the Baptist, followed by the Apostles and the early church fathers such as Athanasius and St. Augustine.  More recent history has endowed us with Martin Luther, George Whitfield, John Brainerd, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others.  They all understood their times and knew what they should do.  Our culture, likewise, has continued to change requiring men of Issachar in our time as well.  In our own lifetimes we have seen people groups classified and then reclassified the following decade!  The labels that were used began with Baby Boomers, followed by Baby Busters, Generation X, Generation Y, and more recently the Millennials.  Who knows what description will come next?  A recent study of those in their twenties revealed the following information.  Most declared that they didn’t want to go to meetings or be required to “join something.”  They were, as a whole, looking to be resourced (equipped) rather than to be plugged in somewhere.  Some wanted to discover their own methodology.  An over arching theme was the desire for relationships rather than structure.   

     With all the changes occurring in our culture, then, the perpetual question arises “How will we raise up a new generation of laborers for Christ?”  The Lord Himself answers this question.  “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”  (Matthew 13:52)  What old treasures in our storeroom should we utilize, then, as we approach others in our culture?  Three come to mind.  The first of these is found in Psalm 33:11.  “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (KJV)  The word of God is timeless. It is His perpetual method of instruction and agent of transformation in our lives despite changes in any culture or any country.  It is the sword of the Spirit and He will use that sword regardless of varying opinions about the authenticity or validity of the Scriptures.  

     The second treasure is found in Philippians 2:5-8.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”   At least three themes are apparent in this passage.  These are the need to identify with others, serve them, and be involved, if necessary, at cost to yourself.  People are hungry for genuine relationships.  They do not find these on Twitter, Facebook, or in Chat rooms.  It requires an investment of time, energy and even financial cost to engage with others at a level that will produce an impact.  Mark 10:45 tells us that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.  The passage in Philippians likewise declares that our fundamental relationship with others is to be their servant.  At times, the process of serving others may result in a significant cost of time, energy and financial resources.  It is when the cost is greatest, however, that the result in the lives of others may be most profound.  

     The third treasure which relates to our purpose in the lives of others is found in II Timothy 2:1-2.  “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  We must have the eyes of faith to see the world through the life of a single individual.  All of our contact and prayers for others must be that which will prepare them for their ministry in the future. 

     A friend related to me some years ago that he was visiting with a business associate who began to relate some concerns and questions about their common profession.  My friend took the time to listen and then asked if he would like to get together to discuss the issues further.  They began to meet and spend time together relating the issues confronting their common pursuit.  This time extended into helping with family concerns, travel together and a friendship was developed.  At some point my friend stated that the most significant answers for his business and family relationships were to be found in the Bible.  His associate was intrigued and although familiar with the Bible, was from a different religious background and had never read it with any regularity.  They began discussing the Bible regularly for some time before starting the thirteen week Navigator study entitled, “Growing In Christ.”  As the weeks progressed the truth of the Gospel became evident to the individual with whom my friend was meeting.  As they continued to meet over the subsequent months, the new believer in Christ became a changed man.  He continued to have a hunger for God’s word and developed a heart to reach others.  I had the privilege of meeting him several years ago.  His comment at that time was “I want to do for others what someone has done for me!”  

     The question arises for us today.  “Where are the men of Issachar in our generation?”  Well, I can state that “I have found one!”  May his tribe increase!  It is my prayer that the “Men of Issachar” will increase and multiply in your ministry, your neighborhoods, your churches and become evident throughout our culture.   

In Christ, Richard Spann      

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