“These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said…. men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do – 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command… all these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel.” 1 Chronicles 12v23, 32, 38.
It was time for a change in Israel. David had been anointed king by the prophet Samuel many years before but had spent most of that time hiding from the jealous King Saul, in fear of his life. When the right time came, Saul was killed in battle by the Philistines and Israel came to make David their king, but it was a long wait: David had support but he knew he couldn’t put out his hand to take the crown for himself until the Lord made the way (1 Samuel 24&26). Meanwhile bands of fighting men came to his side in Hebron – among them the sons of Issachar, who the record says, had the ability to understand the times and the wisdom to know what to do about it! Although it was common knowledge even during Saul’s reign that David was God’s chosen king (1 Chronicles 11v2) NOW the ‘kairos’ time had come.
Do we recognise God’s seasons and times? Some have the ability, like Issachar, to see on behalf of people groups or nations, but even if we cannot discern more widely we are responsible for the seasons and movements of God in our own lives and situations. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for asking for a sign from heaven but not having the discernment to read what was in front of them:
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Matthew 16v2-4.
He was telling them that, rather than an outbreak of heaven,
His death and resurrection were coming – the falling into the ground in order for fruit to come. Even His disciples thought He was going to bring in an earthly kingdom, but as with nature, as with all of us, winter has to precede summer. Jesus knew that was His Father’s path for Him and He wasn’t going to take any shortcuts (see Matthew 4v5-7 and 26v53-54!)
Remember when He said to His mother “My time has not yet come”? (John 2v4) – yet somehow she got Him to act anyway through her catalytic intervention. Remember when He said to His brothers, “I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for Me the right time has not yet come”?
(John7v8). Jesus was fully aware of the right times for things to happen.
On the other hand, Mary gives us a good example of when it IS the right time to act, when heaven has spoken and the obvious thing to do it to run with it! This is from Richard Rohr’s ‘Radical Grace’ devotional for the first week in Advent:
‘Upon receiving the sacred word, Mary does not contemplate, she acts immediately. She “went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country” (Luke 1v39). There is no mention of planning, companionship, means of travel or encountered difficulties… she moved with the action, toward the action of her cousin’s need. The events themselves will be her guide and teacher. She does not need to figure it out and plan accordingly; the plan will be given by God through life’s encounters. Reality is her teacher…’
I love this because it is so true. Sometimes the changes are so obvious we just have to get on with it! It is like the bursting out of a spring bud, calling for a response. We can sometimes discern the Lord speaking and moving through the circumstances and people around us and step out on that by faith; equally we must learn to heed the quiet voice that says, ‘withdraw, this is not your time’.
Are you in summer or winter right now? Is something about to break open or is it dying back? Are some interactions not as fruitful, enjoyable, easy-going? Do certain things bring a sense of life and joy? As Martin Scott used to say, there is no point arguing with the season: we can refuse to acknowledge it, dress as if it isn’t happening, pretend as much as we like – but the best thing to do is to line up with it. Summer shorts and sandals are no good in the snow, nor log fires on a warm spring day: deck-chairs are not the best thing to put out in a storm or a fur coat in a heat-wave. Blossom and bluebells belong to the spring and dying leaves to the fall; winter is for rest and hiddenness and summer for the outward manifestation of what has been stored away 🙂 As a wise man once said, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
What time is it? Help me keep listening out for You, Lord, because ‘my times are in Your hands.’