1 Chronicles 12:32


The position of Issachar among the tribes was one central and desirable. Some of the richest land in Palestine fell to their lot, and they seem to have enjoyed material prosperity. The strong ass crouched between burdens is emblematical alike of plenty and of toil. How to connect Issachar's prosperity in husbandry with the characteristics of the text is by no means easy, perhaps not possible. But it is high praise which the chronicler accords to this tribe, or to "the heads or leaders among them - they were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do."

I. THE GIVER OF WISDOM IS GOD. He is "the Father of lights." "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God." From him alone counsel and guidance proceed. By his Spirit he enlightens men. Hence the reasonableness and the importance of prayer.

II. THE MEANS OF GAINING WISDOM ARE WITHIN MEN'S REACH. NO doubt there are certain natural qualifications; yet these may either be left undeveloped, or may be cultivated. Observation, conversation with the learned, the wise, and the experienced, reading, practical conduct of affairs, - all these are means of acquiring wisdom, Nor must we overlook one potent agency - "Years, that bring the philosophic mind."

III. PRACTICAL LIFE IS THE GREAT SPHERE OF WISDOM. The text alludes to present necessities. Issachar had "understanding of the times." True wisdom does not lie in comprehending past states of society, so much as in realizing the characteristics and needs of our own days. The text alludes also to action. Historical and scientific and speculative knowledge are all good. But knowledge reduced to practice is wisdom. What Israel ought to do; this was what the wise men of this tribe were competent to decide. We may set aside all the explanations of this passage which represent the men of Issachar as versed in astronomy, chronology, or other studies. There can be no doubt the reference is to political sagacity, military promptness, and practical habits. These men recognized in David a faculty for ruling, strongly, justly, and religiously; and accordingly they were forward to give in their adhesion to the son of Jesse, to repair to Hebron, and take part in the election and installation of the new king.

LESSONS.

1. Remember that we are made for action; knowledge is valuable as qualifying for practical life.

2. Wisdom, qualifying for the duties of our several stations, is within all men's reach.

3. Statesmen especially should make it their study to know what the nation ought to do. - T.









Men that had understanding of the times.
It is an important thing to understand the times in which we live, and to know what those times require (Esther 1:13; Matthew 16:3; Luke 19:44). Next to our Bibles and our own hearts our Lord would have us study our own times.

I. THE TIMES REQUIRE OF US A BOLD AND UNFLINCHING MAINTENANCE OF THE ENTIRE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY, AND THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE. Our lot is cast in an age of abounding unbelief, but when sceptics have said all they can, there are three broad facts which they have never explained away.

1. Jesus Christ Himself. How is it that there never has been one like Him, neither before nor after, since the beginning of historical times?

2. The Bible itself. How is it that this book stands entirely alone, for high views of God, true views of man, solemnity of thought, grandeur of doctrine, and purity of morality?

3. The effect which Christianity has produced on the world.

II. THE TIMES REQUIRE AT OUR HANDS DISTINCT AND DECIDED VIEWS OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing.

III. THE TIMES REQUIRE OF US AN AWAKENED AND LIVELIER SENSE OF THE UNSCRIPTURAL AND SOUL-RUINING CHARACTER OF ROMANISM.

IV. THE TIMES REQUIRE OF US A HIGHER STANDARD OF PERSONAL HOLINESS, AND AN INCREASED ATTENTION TO PRACTICAL RELIGION IN DAILY LIFE.

V. THE TIMES REQUIRE OF US MORE REGULAR AND STEADY PERSEVERANCE IN THE OLD WAYS OF GETTING GOOD FOR OUR SOULS.

1. Private prayer.

2. Private Bible-reading.

3. Private meditation and communion with Christ.Conclusion: Consider what the times require in reference —

1. To your own souls.

2. To the souls of others.

3. To the Church.

(Bp. Ryle.)

Such was the character ascribed to the children of Issachar, at a remarkably interesting crisis in the circumstances of the nation to which they belonged. The period was that, when, by the death of Saul and his more worthy son in battle, the minds of the Jewish people were divided on the question whether the royalty was to be continued in the family of the departed monarch, or was to be transferred to the hands of the anointed David. The historian enumerates the individuals and the classes who were induced to announce their adherence to the latter; and amongst them are mentioned the persons whose names are recorded in our text. It may be considered as the duty of men, as the subjects of civil government, always to cherish an accurate acquaintance with the characteristics of the times in which they live, in order accurately to fulfil their ordinary duties, and those duties of a more peculiar nature, which the occurrence of seasons of exigency may sometimes impose upon them. We propose —

I. TO STATE SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS BY WHICH THE PRESENT TIMES APPEAR TO BE PROMINENTLY DISTINGUISHED.

1. Flagrant indulgence of iniquity on the part of ungodly men.

2. A heavy and extended pressure of national distress and perplexity.

3. A wide diffusion of the influence of knowledge and of freedom.

4. Extraordinary and delightful facilities for the dissemination of the gospel of Christ.

5. An awakened and an increasing concern among the people of the Saviour as to the progress and final triumphs of His cause.

II. THE DUTIES WHICH THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PRESENT TIMES IMPOSE UPON PROFESSING CHRISTIANS.

1. Distinctly and always to recognise the providence of God.

2. To compare all that is apparent with the predictions of Divine truth.

3. To cultivate uncompromising decision in the exemplification of personal religion.

4. Diligently to labour in all the spheres of exertion by which they may advance the gospel of Christ.

5. To engage in fervent and continued prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

(James Parsons.)

These were men who knew what it was best for the nation to carry out in the great crisis which had now arisen. It was important that Israel should wisely decide what ruler to select; it is of equal importance that we as a country should decide under what rule — whether that of strong drink, or that of unqualified temperance — we should abide. There are certain things that are needful in order to a good result in this matter.

I. THERE SHOULD RE A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF OUR OWN TIMES. Our own times are —

1. Times of much evil from strong drink.

2. Times of much good.(1) A spirit of investigation has gone abroad and done splendid service. We are much indebted to physiologists, moral philosophers, political economists, and statisticians, for the light they have thrown on this subject.(2) Our times are times of agitation for the application of remedial measures.(3) There has also been a great reformation resulting from all this.

3. Times of much hopefulness.

II. A right understanding of our own times OUGHT TO LEAD TO PROPER ACTION. They understood the times, to know what Israel ought to do. Right action must —

1. Be directed by intelligence.

2. Be inspired by Christian philanthropy.

3. Be embodied in practical forms.

4. Be animated by a self-denying enthusiasm.

III. IN ORDER THAT THIS RIGHT ACTION MAY FULLY ACCOMPLISH ITS ENDS THERE ARE CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS.

1. Individualisation. God invites us one by one, saying to each of us, "Do the work I give thee to do."

2. Organisation. Combination multiplies force. In the moral world, one and one make a good deal more than two; they often make four, and three and three often make thirty.

3. Consecration.

(Dawson Burns, D. D.)

e Church: — The peculiar tribute which is thus paid to the tribe of Issachar — a tribute which distinguishes them most honourably from all the other classes of their countrymen, will appear the more remarkable when we took at the smallness of their number and the comparative seclusion in which they lived. In point of numerical strength they were by far the least considerable of all the tribes of Israel. While the rest could muster their hundreds of thousands, the children of Issachar, though "all their brethren were at their commandment," could only furnish a body of two hundred men. But their lack of numbers was more than counterbalanced by their pre-eminent zeal, sagacity, and discipline — qualities which rendered them the ablest advisers in the council, as well as the best soldiers in the camp. But how, it may be asked, did they come to acquire this superior wisdom and intelligence? Were they more favourably circumstanced for obtaining information, and for observing the signs and duties of the times, than the general body of their fellow-subjects? Had they access to the private circles of the capital, or to the secret conferences of the court? On the contrary, they lived remote from cities — buried amid the tranquil retreats of the rural provinces, away from the sordid cares and the sickening crowds and the unquiet rumours of the metropolis, breathing the air of freshness and of freedom among their native mountains. From their peaceful solitudes they looked forth with a calm and dispassionate eye on the various movements that took place; and having leisure to reflect on the nature o! these movements, to compare them with the past transactions of their history, and to test them by the principles of the Divine Word, they were in a better condition for forming a sound judgment regarding them than those who might have an opportunity of seeing them through a closer, but, for that very reason, a more contracted and clouded medium. In this matter the children of Issachar have left an example which is well worthy of our thoughtful regard. We are required, by the authority of our Lord Himself, "to mark the signs of the times" — to keep a wide and wakeful eye on the revolving events of Providence, with the view of discovering their bearing on the position and prospects of the Church. It is, no doubt, generally supposed that religious men are very incompetent judges of public affairs. Like the tribe spoken of in the text, they are, as a distinctive party, the smallest in the state; and like them, too, they live in comparative seclusion from the cabals and contentions of the world; and it is, therefore, presumed that they can have but little acquaintance with the movements which are going on around them. Let it be admitted that they are not, as a body, so conversant with the details of public transactions as those who are directly engaged about them, yet still we hesitate not to say that they may be, and that they generally are, even better fitted than these for apprehending the great moral principles which such transactions carry in their bosom, and the manner in which they are likely to affect the welfare of the community. We need not remind you that religious men are accustomed to view questions of this kind in a very different light from the men of the world. The latter look upon them as they stand related to the opinions and interests of their fellow-creatures. It is in this respect that religious men — men of enlarged and enlightened piety — have the advantage of mere worldly politicians. They form their estimate of passing events not as they influence the temporary interests either of one party or another, nor as they are reflected through the fluctuating medium of public opinion. They judge of them by a far higher and more comprehensive standard. They view them in connection with the great chain of Providence. They compare them with the fixed purposes of the Divine administration, and with the unalterable rules of the Divine Word; and, by examining therein the light of these clear and all-controlling principles, they are enabled to group in the disjointed and fragmentary measures of public men under distinct moral classifications, to analyse the impulses and the agencies from whence they proceed; and, by means of these testing and discriminating processes, they are led to an "understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do." It is important to mark the connection between the two separate members of the passage before us. It is stated, regarding the Children of Issachar, that they had "understanding of the times." They comprehended the circumstances in which their country was placed; they marked the spirit which prevailed among the people. It was not from any motives of mere curiosity that they studied the movements of the day, nor was it with the view of descanting upon them in private meetings or in popular assemblies; far less was it their object to busy themselves with public matters for personal ends or for party purposes. The welfare of their country was the subject of their concern and the source of their inquiries. For the same reason it is incumbent upon us, not merely as subjects of the State, but as office-bearers and members of the Church of Christ, to study the phenomena of the age in which we live — to watch the moral forces that are operating upon the mass of society, swaying the tide of public opinion, and influencing the measures of public men.

I. The grand capital characteristic feature of these times consists in THE GENERAL PREVALENCE OF NATIONAL INDIFFERENTISM OR NEGATIVE INFIDELITY. — a general want of faith on all subjects, whether moral, political, or religious.

II. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH REQUIRES —

1. That she should maintain a clear and decided testimony on behalf of the great fundamental principles of Divine truth.

2. A determined effort to resuscitate the sinking power of principle, and also a vigorous and combined movement to repel the creeping invasions — the subtle but forceful and successful encroachments of error.

(Walter M'Gilvray.)Understanding the times: — Some of the chapters of this book look as though they were so many of the newspapers of the period, that had been preserved; and there would be no history like that of a collection of newspapers, supposing there had been such things, successively issued, day by day, by different parties, affording a general view of events and transactions. We have here a very minute account of the political, military, and religious position of things at this time. We find different persons resorting to David, in larger or lesser numbers, and welcomed as they came. And among the rest there came a number of persons peculiar and distinct in character from all others. Instead of being told of their physical strength and vigour, their prowess and skill in using swords and spears, their incomparableness in war, we are told that they were "men who had understanding of the times, and knew what Israel ought to do" — men of political intelligence and sagacity, who could look about and see into things, who could interpret the prediction written upon a circumstance, who could tell what was the line marked out by such and such an event. They were not antiquarian men, who could tell you of the past; nor dreaming, poetical, prophetic men, talking about the future; but men who understood their own times — men who felt the great realities that were stirring about them. It was a great matter to have this understanding; for the consequence of having it was, they deduced "what Israel ought to do" — the movements that should be made, the things that the nation should determine upon. The accession of these men to David was, perhaps, of greater value than that of the thousands of fighting men; for wisdom and valour strengthen more than weapons of war. The wise man is strong. And these men, as a consequence of their understanding, ruled; "their brethren were at their commandment"; they had influence; other men and other minds recognised them as regal men, for, after all, I suppose, in the long run, it will always come to that — those that ought to rule, because they can do it, ultimately will do it. It is a blessed thing for a people, and for the world, when those who rule understand things, and really know what ought to be done, and every other body is at their command; for after all, the world wants guiding and ruling, and it is willing to be guided when it has confidence in the wisdom of those who are doing it, and knows it is being governed well. Well, we live in very stirring times; it is a great blessing to the world — though the world does not think of it or believe it — that God has an Israel in the world; an Israel mighty with God in prayer. And this Israel that is in the world ought always to remember that it is in the world; that it has not got to heaven yet. It belongs to earth, and to the movements of nations, political convulsions, and all things that are going on around it. The Israel of God has relations to them all, and is to look at them through that blessed atmosphere — the light of God's truth, and God's love — in which it lives. Let us, then, endeavour to understand our times, that we may know "what Israel ought to do."

I. RELIGIOUS MEN NATURALLY LOOK —

1. At the religious movements.

2. At the national and political movements of the times.

II. WHAT ISRAEL OUGHT TO DO.

1. It is the privilege of the Church to be making intercession and prayer, that God may guide and superintend the movements of politicians and the masses of men.

2. They should observe the bearings upon the Church of all the movements of peoples and countries.

3. They should remember that all times, of all sorts are hastening us on to eternity. Let us not forget that while it is very proper for us to have certain relations to the times that are passing over us, the great business of all times is, to save our souls, to be at peace with God through Christ, and be prepared for the everlasting glory of heaven.

(Thomas Binney.)

From the character given of the men of Issachar we shall show —

I. THAT OUR CONDUCT MUST OFTEN RE AFFECTED BY TIMES AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF WHATEVER NATURE.

1. Civil.

2. Social.

3. Personal.

II. HOW FAR IT MAY BE PROPERLY AFFECTED BY THEM IN THE CONCERNS OF RELIGION.

1. That we may attend to times, etc., is certain (example of Christ and apostles).

2. But how far is not easy to determine.

III. WHAT THERE IS IN THE TIMES, etc., OF THE PRESENT DAY TO AFFECT OUR CONDUCT. Application:

1. Guard against yielding to any corrupt bias.

2. The future judgment will be according to motives.

3. Seek for wisdom that is profitable to direct.

(C. Simeon, M. A.)

How important it is that men should study the times in which they live, and adapt their work to the conditions which constitute their opportunity. He is the wise man who considers all the features of a case and adapts the treasure of which he is possessed to meet new desires and new demands. There may be change without change; in other words, the change may be but superficial, whilst the immutable may be within, giving order and dignity and energy to all that is attempted from without. Love is eternal, but its expression consists of continual variety. Prayer never changes aa to its spirit and intent, yet every day may find it laden with new expressions, because human history has revealed wants which had not before been even suspected. He who understands every time but his own, will do no permanent work for society. He is like a man who knows every language but his own native tongue, and is therefore unable to speak to the person standing at his side.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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