Last week, I made the point that Christian leadership is never timeless. Instead, it is a timely application of God-given wisdom regarding specific decisions that must be made in particular moments in time.
We looked briefly at four spheres in which Christian leaders should know “the time:” biblically, personally, organizationally, and culturally. Today, I want to focus on several examples from Scripture of knowing “what time it is” biblically.
INHABITING THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE
What does it mean to know ”what time it is” biblically? It means the Christian leader will stand apart from worldly conceptions of leadership by the way he or she inhabits the world of the Bible. A proper understanding of where we are in the grand sweep of history, according to Scripture, impacts our ethical decisions.
Since Christians are called to live within the framework of a biblical worldview that takes us from creation to new creation, Christian leaders must influence others from within this grand narrative.
Today, I want to focus on several Old Testament examples of leaders who “understood the times” in which they lived and knew “what time it was” biblically.
1. The Sons of Issachar Who “Understood the Times”
The first example is the most obscure. In a list of names from 1 Chronicles, we find a reference to the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times and therefore knew what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Bible interpreters should not read too much into the brief, seemingly unrelated remarks found in the author’s genealogies and record-keeping. Still, it is intriguing that the author considered it necessary to describe these men as having a keen understanding of the times in which they lived and, as a result, knowing what actions Israel should take.
What were the times they understood? From a political standpoint, they knew the future was with David, the shepherd-boy-turned-warrior who had already been anointed king of Israel but who had yet to ascend his throne. Because they understood the times, they “cast their lot with David rather than Saul” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).
They were, in a sense, in a time between the times. The rightful king had been anointed and but not visibly enthroned.
It is not difficult to discern a parallel in the New Testament conception of living in the already / not yet nature of God’s kingdom. We also live in a time between the times: like David, Jesus has already been marked out as the Messiah of Israel and the true Lord of the world, and yet his reign is not at this time public and visible for all to see.
Note the connection between “understanding the times” and “knowing what Israel should do.” In other words, a proper understanding of the time in which they lived was essential for the men of Issachar to obtain the wisdom needed to know what Israel should do. Their leadership was contextual. God not only gave them the Torah to obey; he also expected them to discern the proper application of the Torah in the context in which they found themselves. They plotted their reality on the timeline of biblical history, and therefore had the wisdom to make decisions as leaders, to let others know what the right course of action was.