Monday, January 6, 2014

Issachar Spirit

Gen 49:14-15 -14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.

First of all, Gen 49 was a prophecy by Jacob, including prophecy on his 12 sons, who would form the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Issachar was the 9th son, and meaning of the name is recompense/reward (H3485). 

Gen 30:18 (KJV) - And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar (H3485).

The text was a metaphorical prophecy of Issachar, and the Tribe of Issachar.  It does NOT necessary mean the prophecy is “extendable” to us, but there could be good guides or principles we can apply in our lives. 

Issachar men were strong men built for work.  Gen 49:14-15 has been variedly interpreted, and there are people who said Issachar men were lazy, which I disagree.  I am NOT using the word, hardworking, but they were built for work or fit for work; perhaps, they were NOT proactive all the time, but when they took up a work assignment, they worked.  Remember, this was a metaphor, and donkey was a metaphorical object; some translation has it for “strong donkey”, “jawboned donkey”.  In other words, the well-built Issachar, could be men of battle (Scripture has a record of Samson using a jawbone of a donkey for battle, killing a 1,000 men).  Also, 1 Chronicles 7:2 tells us that Issachar men were valiant men of might in their generations. Gen 49:14 said that they were “caught” between two “burdens”; what were those two “burdens” or camps or “sheepfolds”? 

Couching down between two “burdens” there, in my view, was referring to a position of weighing set of two choices, and there could be various different two-choices sets.  I believe Jacob spoke about Issachar or Issachar men as men of astute choice maker.  Now, it is NOT necessary that his mother, Leah, her doing then, of making her choices (for reward), necessary means that Issachar would turn out to be a negative or bad choice maker, like it would be (choice) for material or vain or unrighteous reward; as are presented by some who write on this text.

What Issachar’s mother, Leah did, could be read from Gen 30.  When he was born, Issachar was given that name; the underlying scenario was that Leah weighed her two “burdens”, to be losing out to Rachel, not having children or enough children, or to be having her maidservant be intimate with her husband, Jacob.  Leah considered Issachar as recompense/wages for her, for her letting her maidservant to be intimate with Jacob.  Issachar took on the “trait” of weighing between two “burdens”, but it did mean that he or his descendants would be bad choice maker or bad in weighing of burdens.  In 1 Chronicle 12:32 we read of Issachar “were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”; and they rallied behind making David, King of Israel.

For verse 15 (Gen 49:15), one may tend to say, there we have it - the two burdens, waging battles, and the other, tilling the ground; meaning they could opt to be men of battles or war, one sheepfold or cluster/camp, or farmers, another sheepfold or cluster/camp.  It may NOT be exactly it, for there was no noting in Scripture of Issachar men turned to be farmers.

The land was metaphorical representation.  There were 2 occasions in Scripture that helped explain this:

Occasion 1 - Judges 5:15 - The princes of Issachar were with Deborah; yes, Issachar was with Barak, sent under his command into the valley.

Deborah (woman Judge, from Ephraim Tribe) and Barak (of Naphtali Tribe) headed one of the greatest last battles of the Israelites over the northern Canaanite armies - the "Battle of Deborah" (12 BC); this completed the conquest of Canaan, tens of years after Joshua first led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Deborah had a problem then - to convince the tribes to send soldiers to the Israelite Army against enemy Jabin, king of Hazor and his commander-in-chief, Sisera.  In the end, only a few of the tribes sent their men into the battle. The Zebulun joined (Barak requested that Deborah will join him in the battle as a condition for his acceptance of the command); and we read in the above Judges 5:15, the Issachar Tribe gave full support and went into the thick of the battle under the command of Barak, a commander of Naphtali, (NOT of Issachar). 

The land in Gen 49:15 was therefore a metaphor for the Promised Land; and it was indeed a pleasant land; this was what was said by the spies when they first explored the Promised Land – Num 13:27 - They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. Of the fruit, from Num 13:23, “they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.”

What about “the rest was good”?  By this time, the Israelites had entered and occupied much of the land, and they had rested, and that was why Deborah had the problem of convincing the Tribes to fight in one of the remaining fierce battles of the Promised Land.  The rest was good, but like we nowadays say it, “it ain’t over!” And the Issachar men knew it, and made the right choice of going into battle, instead of going about their lives, like what was being done by some of the other tribes; they might have searched their hearts, but still they did NOT go to the battle, leaving others to fight.  We are to note that the Issachar men were NOT lazy; they went to work (“bowed his shoulder to bear”); they went into the thick of the battle.  Yes, for what was good and pleasant – the rest and the land.  And they became a servant unto tribute; what was this?  They submitted to the leadership of Barak who was NOT of their tribe, and went to battle as servants of Barak and of the people; and Judge Deborah, we can read from Judges 5 (vv9-12), paid tribute to the volunteers – the Issachar men became servants unto tribute.  For an account of Judges 5, read this article of mine - Judges 5 - Song of Deborah.

Occasion 2: 1 Ch 12:32 - we read of Issachar “were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”; and they rallied behind making David, King of Israel.  1 Ch 12:23 said these men (inclusive of others), “armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said:” In 1 Ch 12:38, we read, “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. …

David was banished from the presence of (King) Saul (1 Ch 12:1); there were two burdens – Saul or David?  Issachar couched down between Saul and David?  Was the home (land), and therefore, rest, too, good and pleasant?  Was Israel, the Holy Land, good and pleasant?  It was; and still, choice had to be made, shoulders needed to be bowed to bear, and the Issachar men, chose to be servants to bear up David.  Again, Issachar men would NOT be “the” leaders, but would be servants unto tribute, to the Judah head, David.

What we can glean from the above:
1.   Prophecy does come to pass.  And so, we should NOT make the mistake of a writer or two, who brushed away this prophecy; even saying, the life of Issachar (we got to include his descendants) did NOT bear it out!  No, careful study, as above, shows, that prophecy did come to pass.

2.   Like the men of Issachar, we have to believe we are born for such a time as this, and we can be astute choice makers, knowing of the times or have understanding of the times; and we are to recognise “the rest” and the “land”.
3.   The Christian life is the rest and the land; we have entered it.  We have entered into the Kingdom of God, albeit the earthly phase of it.  The rest is good and the land is pleasant, but like I have said above, “it ain’t over!”  We still have to make choices, and right ones; and for the choices we make, for the “good rest and pleasant land”, we have to bow our shoulders to bear.  Yes, we have to work when we have made the choice(!); and we are “jawboned donkeys”; and we have what it takes to do the work (And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work – 2 Cor 9:8). We are called into the Servanthood that the Lord, Jesus, had come to re-establish, that we, believers, are servants unto tribute, serving the Almighty God.  Eph 2:10 tells us that we are saved for good works (unto the Lord).

As long as we are still living, we are to continue to be like Issachar, strong ass couching down between two burdens, and we have chosen (NEVER to deny) the Kingdom (as opposed to the world) and because the Kingdom rest is good, and the Kingdom is pleasant; we bow our shoulders to bear, to work for its interest, and continue to be a servant unto tribute, unto our King and God, until the day He brings us to the Kingdom in Heaven, for the most awesome, awesome, and awesome rest and land.

4.   My long distance friend, Ps Prentis, wrote an entry on his blog, touching on retirement issue, quoting this text – Gen 49:14-15.  There is no retirement, there is only we are called home to the Kingdom in Heaven, when God said we have finished.  May we all know the moment, when it is about to come, like Jesus did, in His moment, “It is finished”.  Until then, it ain’t over!  Yah, we should NOT get too comfy, even when we have passed any worldly retirement age, and NOT to forget our Christian “duties”.

Lastly, Elieen, if you are reading this, that some prophet prophesied that your husband has the Issachar spirit (you told me some years back; and I remember I said, “It means he needs to work with people, not alone”), it is NOT a negative prophecy; it is a great prophecy.  No, the Issachar spirit does NOT mean your husband will be mundane hireling or simply a man full of burden; it is a great honour to be a man of burden of the Lord; to be a servant unto tribute, to the Almighty God; to arise to the occasion, just at the right time, to step in, and be instrument of God for blessing and breakthrough. Yes, it may mean the one with Issachar spirit may NOT lead in the highest level, but there again, how many highest level leaders are there; must we be the one?!

May God bless the reading of this article.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Once a servant (of God), always a servant of God.
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