“32 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 NLT
The passage in 1 Chronicles has been one of my favorite verses in the Hebrew Bible. It arouses my interest because more Christ-followers, including myself, ought to focus not only on our personal walks with Christ, but on being like the leaders of Issacher’s lineage—redemptive change agents in the broader culture. I think Christ called this being salt and light ☺.
As I began to research for this teaching, I discovered that a significant number of authors, contemporary leaders, university business schools, and influential thought leaders have all addressed Contextual Intelligence. Christian thought leaders like Leonard Sweet and Len Wilson, as well as secular Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria and Anthony J. Mayo, a premier lecturer on leadership, have all addressed this issue. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that some of them actually address, or reference, 1 Chronicles 12:32. God’s truths are applicable for all times and in all disciplines!
Contextual Intelligence Defined:
Contextual Intelligence is the ability to accurately diagnose a context and make the correct decisions regarding what to do.
Jacob’s Son, Issachar
1 Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come [latter days KJV]. 2 “Come and listen, you sons of Jacob; listen to Israel, your father. – Genesis 49:1-2 NLT
On his deathbed, Jacob gathers his twelve sons around him and speaks to them concerning what lies ahead for each of them. He also provides a brief history of their lives and a smattering of their character traits.
May God grant us the opportunity to speak a blessing on our children and grandchildren before we are lifted into His presence.
The phrase “the last days,” is used fourteen times in the Old Testament—each time dealing with prophecy. Thus, Genesis 49 is one of those incredibly rich passages that deals with future events.
The Description of Issachar
14 “Issachar is a sturdy [stubborn) KJV] donkey, resting between two saddlebacks.” – Genesis 49:14 NLT
When times are troubled and transitions are uncertain, Issacharians are called upon to face liminality (positions of discomfort, confusion, or bewilderment) by reading the signs (rightly perceive) as well as to “know what to do” (implement strategies). They see the overlap and yoke content with context, and like the donkey that is the symbol of the tribe, they bear the weight of showing how to move forward with biblical behaviors.
In a pandemic world, now more than ever, we need contextually intelligent disciples to arise and lead local communities of believers to overcome the inertia to stay put. We need individual Christ-followers to penetrate their surroundings with the spirit of being a contextually intelligent leader.
This is our “Issachar moment,” like never before. This is the time for an “Issachar Movement!”
For the record, the other tribes are referred to as warriors or soldiers. Only those from the tribe of Issachar are called leaders. Why? Because of their contextual intelligence. They didn’t just have a pulse on the social, political, and spiritual temperature of the times. They were also innovators and entrepreneurs who knew how to turn their ideas into action plans.
Contextual intelligence is the ability to spot opportunity where others don’t. That’s what sets a leader apart; that’s what sets them up for success. Leaders see and seize divine and decisive moments. Call it a gut instinct. Call it a sixth sense. Or call it spiritually attuned common sense.
Managers do things right and leaders know the right things to do.
Good-bye Linear Thinking . . . Hello, Exponential
I remember the day I went into Costco to buy Kodak film for my camera. The shelves were empty!
In 1884, George Eastman invented rolled film; four years later he came up with a camera capable of taking advantage of that roll. In 1888, that camera became commercially available, later marketed under the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest.”
Later Eastman said, “we started out to make photography an everyday affair.” Later he rephrased it, he wanted to make photography “as convenient as a pencil.”
For nearly a hundred years, the Eastman Kodak company dominated the film industry. In 1996 Kodak had 140,000 employees and a valuation of $28 billion. A decade later they stopped turning a profit. And in 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Look to Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015, 16). Why?
In 1975, a small team of talented technicians at Kodak built the first digital camera. It was the size of a toaster, weighed 8.5 pounds. It took twenty-three seconds to snap the picture! That makes our iPhone cameras look pretty good doesn’t it? Kodak was on the cutting edge of technology, but they didn’t jump off the curb. Instead of embracing the new technology, they decided to do it the way it had always been done. They failed to exercise Contextual Intelligence!
Two thousand years ago Christ commanded us to, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
He gave us the green light, but he did not tell us how to go. For the better part of the twenty centuries, it was on foot, on horseback, or by ship. Now we go by plane, train, and automobile. We can even “go” at the speed of light, circumnavigating the globe six times per second with a digital gospel.
The game has changed but the rules haven’t. There are many ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. I think Covid has partially revealed this. Thousands of churches are doing zoom that never did before. Solid Biblical teachers are accessible with a simple click. In fact, as we see the apostasy of the institutional church move closer to the precipice, the righteous remnant is advancing! According to Alan Hirsch, approximately twenty-five million people have left organized churches while still displaying a vibrate and obedient walk with Christ. They are meeting in small gatherings, in coffee shops, business offices, classrooms, and in back yards and dormitories throughout our land. (Look to Hebrews 10:24, 25). They are incarnating the message of the Lord Jesus Christ into their schools, private businesses, social media expressions, law enforcement offices, and the world of politics (Acts 5:42). Perhaps there is an Issachar Movement afoot? Are you able or willing to see it and adjust?
What Can We Do?
“2 The LORD said to him [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff [a rod KJV].’” – Exodus 4:2 NASB
At times I am overwhelmed by the challenges of navigating the complexities we are facing at this present time. It’s daunting to think about what lies ahead for our children and grandchildren. There are other answers revealed in His Word, but for me it starts with answering the question that Jehovah God asked Moses—“What is in your hand”?
I can’t do some things, but I can do some things!
How are you using the staff in your hand?
For starters, it does not take money to disciple a few people (Matthew 28:19). Go!
Always have a ministry in which you are pouring out to other people (Acts 20:24). Go!
Look at your ministry as a launching pad or a base of operation to equip others to be sent out (Matthew 10:5). Go!
We learn best by doing so simply be obedient today (Hebrews 4:7). Go!
Remember the difference between the Hebraic and Hellenist worldviews? The Hebraic mindset acts their way into thinking correctly. The Hellenic mindset thinks their way into correct actions. We need both, but for most of us we have been paralyzed by thinking, thinking, and over thinking (Matthew 5:21). Go!
I close with this powerful thought from J. Oswald Sanders
“A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.”
32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.” – Matthew 24:32-33 NLT
Living with Christ Contextually,