A kangaroo was recently seen bouncing through the deserted streets of the South Australian capital of Adelaide. A pride of lions was pictured lounging across a road in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
But for an iconic image of the pandemic’s stay-at-home restrictions, it will be hard to surpass the sheep seen grazing at a McDonald’s in Ebbw Vale, Wales.
A man who posted their picture to a community social media page remarked, “Even the sheep . . . are having McDonald’s withdrawals.” They didn’t try the drive through, choosing instead to graze on a patch of grass.
I had not heard of Ebbw Vale, Wales, before seeing this story. Now its sheep at McDonald’s will be the way I picture the town.
How will you be remembered?
A single image can be how history remembers us. When I think of World War II, for instance, I picture the bombing of Pearl Harbor and General Eisenhower exhorting the troops before D-Day.
In a similar fashion, a single verse in Scripture has become my enduring image of a tribe of Israel and its significance today.
In Numbers 1 we learn that the tribe of Issachar numbered 54,400 men “able to go to war” (vv. 28–29). They seem to be like the rest of the tribes, varying by size but not by function.
Fast forward to 1 Chronicles 12, where we find a similar listing of the troops of Israel. This time, however, amid the other tribes and their troop numbers we read, “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command” (v. 32).
The setting is the transition from King Saul to David (v. 23). These men joined others “to make David king over all Israel” (v. 38), but they would be especially significant to the new king and his reign.
We can be in the 54,200, or we can be in the 200. The difference is two-fold: seeking an “understanding of the times” that leads us to “know what Israel ought to do.”
“Understanding” translates a Hebrew word which means to separate something mentally and understand its parts. It describes a person who can analyze the times and understand the patterns of significance within them. As a result, these men could apply their understanding to practice and show the entire nation what it “ought to do.”
John Wesley said of them, “They understood public affairs, the temper of the nation, and the tendencies of the present events.”
Do we need more “men of Issachar”? How can we join them?
One: Pray for wisdom from the Spirit to understand the culture and influences of our day. Ask for discernment to know not just what is happening but why.
For instance, the uncertainties of our day point to the uncertainties of life. We are no more mortal than we were in January. The future is no less clear today than it was then. But people are now aware of their mortality and finitude on a new level.
Two: Pray for courage to do what wisdom requires, applying God’s word and will to the opportunities and challenges of the day.
For instance, the fear of death gripping so many people is a significant opportunity for the gospel. But we must be courageous and bold enough to share God’s word with those who do not know it, to explain our faith to those who do not understand it, to pray and work for the salvation of those who are open to Christ in a new way.
When the pandemic is over, will others remember you as one of the “men of Issachar”?