In the Bible, 1 Chronicles chapter 12 details Israel’s political transition from King Saul’s reign to King David. The list of warriors, their numbers, and their battle readiness that joined David and his mighty men is quite impressive. David and his band had previously been on the run from Saul and his armies. Initially, David’s mighty men numbered 400. (1 Samual 22:2). Over time others joined his band of misfits. I Chronicles chapter 12 details eleven captains who joined David’s growing army. These captains’ units ranged from 100 soldiers to over more than 1,000. In the transition of leadership from Saul to David, an additional 328,000 warriors, their weaponry, and their supplies joined David’s ranks.
The political tide was turning. Amid the list of the notable warriors joining David and his band of brothers is a reference to the sons of Issachar. “The sons of Issachar who had an understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.” (vs. 32) Highlighted is their understanding of the times, not their skill in battle.
The new King, David, was now fully arrayed for battle. What would be his next move? After consultation with his leaders, David’s first move was to bring back the Ark, God’s presence, to Jerusalem. The people said, “Amen!” “Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.” (1 Chronicles 13:4) In my imagination, I see David conferring with his warrior leaders, asking, what shall we do next? I would expect warrior leaders to say, “Let’s defeat our surrounding enemies so we can live in peace.” Someone in the crowd, maybe several someones, said, “Let’s check in with the sons of Issachar. They understand the times. These men will provide wise counsel as to our next move!” The guidance? First, return the presence of God to Jerusalem.
Like the sons of Issachar, we need to understand the times, especially those of us entrusted with leadership. The Body of Christ needs to know Jesus’ purposes during this spiritual era at the global and personal levels.
Solomon passes on a lesson that he may have learned from his father’s relationship with the sons of Issachar. The truth expressed in Solomon’s poem underscores the need to have a proper discernment about the times and the seasons.
“To everything, there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak; A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.”
During His earthly ministry, Jesus introduced a new spiritual era built upon a new covenant. His blood ratified this new covenant. Even at the moment of His departure from earth to begin His heavenly ministry, Jesus’ disciples did not fully comprehend the nature of the new season. They wanted Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom. Even today, people want a physical kingdom on earth. Jesus wants a people on earth.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus’ band of followers included a range of political world-views, from the far right to the far left, if you will. The tax collector, Matthew, financially benefited from the Roman occupation. Simon the Zealot advocated the violent overthrow of Roman occupiers. The Zealots ulitimately prevailed. It was a short term gain.
“In the fall of AD 66, the Jews combined in revolt, expelled the Romans from Jerusalem, and overwhelmed in the pass of Beth-Horon a Roman punitive force under Gallus, the imperial legate in Syria. A revolutionary government was then set up and extended its influence throughout the country.”
This rebellion set the stage for Jerusalem’s and the Temple’s ultimate destruction by the Romans in 70 AD.
On the occasion of His ascension, the question posed to Jesus by his disciples exposed their misunderstanding about Jesus’ political motives.
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4–8)
This present era is a time to increase the increase of Jesus’ spiritual Kingdom on earth. It is not the era for seeking political power. Jesus’ teachings and prophecies during his earthly ministry affirm this understanding. Jesus set the priority for His disciples when he decreed, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” He did not commission his disciples on the occasion of his ascension to make Israel great again.
We, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are Kingdom expanders, not nation builders. The gospel’s proclamation and the exercise of Jesus’ divine power through the Holy Spirit contributes to the continuing increase of Jesus’ Kingdom. Kingdom expansion is not dependent on human political power.