What kind of times are we living in? Are you an optimist, believing that the world is getting better and better? Or and things going downhill? What are the problems we face? What are the solutions?
One of the advantages of accumulating a lot of birthdays is that we gain perspective. We have a longer view, and can more easily see trends. Pete’s 80+-year-old grandmother (right) frequently observed, “The world is going to hell in a handbasket!” Being in our 20s, we thought it was just old age speaking. Now that I’m considerably older, I’m beginning to share her perspective.
Some things are obvious. On a positive note, science and technology have improved our lives to a great degree (and also caused a host of new problems). Due to the civil rights movement, past injustices are being corrected. In spite of the dire claims you hear, the environment is actually much cleaner than it was when I was coming of age in the ’70s. On a global scale, extreme poverty and child mortality are down, literacy rates are rising, and overall, if we look at the standard of living, a majority of people are living healthier and more comfortable lives.[i]
On the other hand, consider the utter lack of integrity that has pervaded our culture. We have more laws than ever before, but no one obeys them. People lie, cheat, and steal without a single twinge of conscience. In fact, we’ve come to expect it. We trade in spouses as we do cars, looking for something newer and better—if we bother to get married in the first place. There is no longer any shame for breaking any of the Ten Commandments—and morality continues to decline.
There are other trends that we may not realize. How is the church doing? Does this generation spend more, or less time in prayer and Bible study? And then, do we obey what we hear and read? We need to ask God for wisdom and understanding, as only His perspective is perfect.
It’s important to understand the times—and just as important to know what to do with that understanding. In 1 Chronicles 12, we find David amassing an army. Each tribe contributes men to fight, and one of those tribes was Issachar. Now, many generations later, Issachar’s descendants are described as “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (1 Chronicles 12:32)
How do we know what to do? Again, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit, praying for knowledge of His will.
The sons of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel was to do. At this point in the story, I begin to wonder what they did with this knowledge. What fruit did they produce? Did they change Israel’s history? I read through chapter 12, chapter 13… and I find—
They didn’t do anything.
At least, there is no record of them doing anything. The text explains that David became king in fact as well as in prophesy, and it was David who decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel. We hear more about the tribe of Issachar, and how it took its place in the Promised Land. But we never hear how the sons of Issachar influence Israel with their understanding and knowledge.
All the revelation in the world does us no good if we don’t act on what God tells us. It’s easy to complain about everything that’s going wrong in our society while we sit and do nothing about it. It’s no accident that we were born into these times, and not others. God has placed us here and now for His purposes.
Let’s not be like the sons of Issachar. We need to understand the times. We need to ask God what we should do, then listen to the Holy Spirit. He’ll tell us what He wants us to do. We need to do it!