Understanding the Times

There’s a verse in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles that has always caught my eye. The context of the passage is a summary of the various tribal units under King David’s command and what special skills they have to offer. In Chapter 12 verse 32 we find this intriguing description: from the tribe of Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. As I recently read this again, I found myself wishing: oh that we had some men of Issachar today!

Clearly we live in interesting times. The word ‘unprecedented’ is getting worn out from overuse… We see around us massive disruptions in our economy, social systems and the rhythms of daily life. I was fascinated to read an article recently on how the vibration signature for the Earth has even changed as a result of reduced traffic! Even the macro-structure of our planet’s crust is bearing testimony to the times.

Our community patterns of life have also been shaken. Many of us have experienced significant isolation over the past many months [since the covid pandemic began in early 2020]. Some of us have not been able to meet with our small groups in person or attend prayer meetings. Our outreaches and mission have been hampered or have had to shut down for long periods. Most of us have plumbed the depths of “Zoom” and found them lacking.

How can we understand the times and know what to do?

Fortunately, we don’t need the men of Issachar to return from the grave. We serve a God who loves to reveal his plans and purposes and is lavish in his communications. A short selection:

  • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Therefore take the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

I had a friend once who explained to me the 2 different kinds of orders they give in the Army. One type is called ‘special orders’. Special orders give new, specific direction – take that hill, march over there, fall back to position X. On the other hand there are ‘standing orders’. ‘Standing orders’ tell you what to do if there are no ‘special orders’. The Christian life works in a similar way. If there are no special orders, just focus on the standing orders: love one another, preach the Gospel, fight for unity, etc. I find this very helpful in seasons such as the one we are in.

The Lord is also gracious in speaking to us in special ways—drawing back the curtains to reveal his specific purposes more clearly. Mike Heskamp’s talk at the North American regional prayer meeting was such a word for me: this is a time of preparation and purification for a season of mission and fruitfulness that lies ahead. As I’ve prayed about this, I’ve experienced a call to intercede for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit and a new boldness to speak the Gospel. It’s my hope and growing conviction that as the pandemic recedes, a new season of grace and missional opportunities will arise.

So let’s pray for this: a time of awakening, a season of revival, a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We were made for such times as these. Let’s look forward to the days to come… and in the meantime, we know just what to do.

Top image of rising sun through dark clouds, from ChristianPhotoshops.com, illustration © by Kevin Carden.

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