In the Steps of Issachar

As Christians we find that instructions and truths given in the New Testament always parallel and restate what was given in the Old.  One example of this are the gifts of the Spirit and the roles in the church to the gifts and roles of the tribes of Israel.  Each tribe served a role and was given a special blessing or gift.  God designed his people, both his chosen people and the body of Christ, to work together as a team.

One vibrant example of this is shown by the tribe of Issachar.   The blessing of Jacob on Issachar is as follows:

“Issachar is a sturdy donkey, resting between two saddlepacks.
When he sees how good the countryside and how pleasant the land, he will bend his shoulder to the load and submit himself to hard labor.  ~ Genesis 49: 14-15 NLT

That sounds a little odd, until you look at the role the tribe played in the fortunes of the nation of Israel.

When the nation of Israel under the rule of King Saul, by that time apostate, was in the midst of turmoil and dissension, David gathered members of the tribes of Israel to his army.  There were representatives from all of the tribes in David’s army, but Issachar was unique in that 200 of the tribes leaders came, those of the other tribes were, for the most part, the foot soldiers.

“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives.  All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.”  ~ 1 Chronicles 12:32

They saw what needed to be done and they themselves rose up to do it.

This throws new light on their blessing:

“Issachar is a sturdy donkey (capable, up to the task), resting between two saddlepacks (stable and balanced.)  When he sees how good the countryside and how pleasant the land (he takes ownership of and commits himself to the land), he will bend his shoulder to the load and submit himself to hard labor (he will do what needs to be done.)

We see this same commitment in Judges 5 after Deborah and Barak won victory over Sisera and the Caananites:

“The princes of Issachar were with Deborah and Barak.  They followed Barak, rushing into the valley.”  ~ Judges 5:15 NLT

The princes, the leaders of the tribe, rose up and took action.  They didn’t delegate. Unlike the tribe of Reuben (vs 16,) they didn’t sit around talking about it.  They didn’t say, “It’s not my problem.”  They did what needed to be done.

According to rabbinic literature, this tribe was known for its scholarship and judgment.  In the language of the spiritual gifts, the tribe had a generational blessing of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment.  As one of my pastors, Quanidos McGowen, says,

“Knowledge is information.  Wisdom is direction.”

But both are worthless if action isn’t taken.

This march is about following in the steps of Issachar, about leaders who recognize the signs . . . who heed the warning and who are willing to rise up, to shoulder the load, and to do what needs to be done.