Of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command;
1 Chronicles 12:32
When King David was gathering an army together at Hebron. He distinguished the sons of Issachar from the ranks because of their unusual gift to discern the times. Their understanding made known to the King that the sons of Issachar knew what Israel ought to do. The gift of discernment is valuable in times of uncertainty. Most people are so preoccupied with their personal daily lives, they cannot properly discern the times.
Jesus was critical of his generation for their inability to discern the times. Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? Luke 12:54-56
Why did Jesus rebuke them? Mostly because they were so steeped in their culture and religious tradition, that they missed what was right in front of them. The messiah they read about in the synagogue all their lives was with them, and yet they could not discern the times. They could discern natural things with precision and accuracy, but they missed the spiritual shift that was right in front of their noses.
Paul speaks to that same generation about knowing the times. The sons of Issachar had understanding of the times — Jesus rebuked His generation for not discerning the times; and Paul admonishes us to know the times in Romans 13:11-14. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
The primary difference between the Old Testament and New Testament as it relates to the times, is that Jesus and Paul introduce eternity. Salvation which brings everlasting life is the underpinning of the rebuke from Jesus and admonition from Paul. During the times in which we live, there is a temptation to focus on daily living more than things eternal. Simply because our lives have been disrupted and we long for normalcy. The risk lies in missing what is in front of us like those who missed Jesus. For those who are in Christ, we need to be like the sons of Issachar, so that we know what to do in this new environment. This is not a time to look back, we must discern the times in such a way that we have understanding of the times.
When God does a new thing, long standing tradition becomes a barrier because our eyes are fixed on what was, so that what is cannot be clearly seen. During these uncertain times, let us look to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. When we do this, the Spirit of truth will give us understanding of the times.