This is Sunday 7 June 2015. I have been in Tirana Albania for the last week, where some events prompted me to offer my perspective on the role and function of the “sons of Issachar” in the light of the Scriptures, and, the calling of the Apostles to serve the Body of Christ for strategic Kingdom purposes. The scripture reference here is:
1 Chr. 12:32 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
While I was praying for this nation, the Lord said “I will use you to speak to the Albanian church leaders”. The following morning Friday 5 June, the President of the Evangelical Alliance of Albania (Ali Kurti) came to one of the meetings of Balkan church & ministry leaders (for which we have come to Tirana). While we were praying for him, I felt I had a word for Albania, which I spoke out (available for info as end-note).
Other relevant events (that I will not share in depth here) include discussions I have had with local people and leaders in regards to revelations the Lord is giving to His people and the need for strategic prayer, in order to shape the future of this nation in line with God’s will, purpose and destiny (of note, elections are coming up soon).
However, as much as the need for strategic prayer is there, and the Lord from heaven speaks, the question for all of us everywhere is… is anyone listening?
And if/when someone is listening… is there a local army that has the capacity to translate the strategic word of the Lord into strategic intercession?
The word strategic comes from “stratos” and “ago” translated as “to lead an army”. The fact that Jesus sat on the Throne of David (Luke 1:30-33), automatically refers us to the headship of an army. Moreover, the fact that Jesus leads the armies of heaven (Rev. 19:11-16 in conjunction with Ephesians 2:6) establishes the fact that the Body of Jesus Christ is called to be like a mighty army on earth in full cooperation and alignment with our King and Lord who leads the war from His Throne in Heaven.
In order to fulfil our mandate to serve and guard our Lord’s creation in the spheres of responsibility over which He has given us authority, we need all the ministry gifts in operation, which the Head of the Army, has given to His Body on Earth. The particular gift of the “sons of Issachar” is among the most significant when it comes to knowing what the Lord says we ought to do. That is why they are called to be in command.
It has come to my attention that the “sons of Issachar” are typically considered to be the Prophets. Likewise, the gift of discernment of the times and seasons of God is regarded as part of the ministry of the Prophet. Please allow me to offer an alternative interpretation of what the Bible is trying to communicate to us.
I am going to suggest that the “sons of Issachar” are Apostolic leaders to whom the Lord gives prophetic insight for strategic purposes, so that they have the foresight to know what must be done (so that the armies in heaven may follow the King’s leading).
The first principle we need to establish in order to have the same foundational biblical understanding of words and concepts, is that the term “Prophet” is used in a variety of ways in the Bible, whereby only the context reveals what the term is meant to communicate. For example Jesus was celebrated as a Prophet of God; but was He a Prophet literally, in the sense of Ephesians 4:11 (i.e. one of the ministry gifts for the Body of Christ in the New Testament)? No! Jesus was not an “Ephesians-4:11-Prophet”.
Jesus was a Prophet in the sense of One who was sent from God to speak on behalf of the King of another Kingdom that is not of this world. Literally, the function of the Prophet as understood in the Person of Jesus, was the same function that Ambassadors are called to do, as they are sent by their Kingdom or Government to another nation. Now that is the precise function that Apostles are called to carry out.
The very word “Apostle” that comes from the days of Alexander the Great and was used by Jesus in the days of the Roman Empire (where the Hellenic language was still spoken, at least in the eastern provinces) meant one who carried the delegated authority of Alexander for a local territorial setting.
Moreover, as we look at the Old Testament setting, the function of the Prophet was not merely of one who prophesied only. Primarily, the Old Testament Prophets were leaders of the people of God, stewards of God’s Holiness, teachers of the Word of God, Priests of the Most High God, and their authority was almost equivalent to that of the Kings to whom they spoke on behalf of God. That is far beyond the job of a prophet!
We often think and teach about King David being a type of “Apostle” whereas Prophet Samuel was obviously the “Prophet”. Please allow me to respectfully disagree… Apostles throughout the Gospels, the Acts, as well as Paul’s Epistles, have been a ministry gift from Jesus for His Ecclesia, establishing, equipping, empowering and leading God’s people in an ecclesiastical way – not a secular one.
Anointed and powerful leaders are indeed sent by Jesus to operate in the secular environment, such as the example of Joseph in the stories of the Bible. They may also carry a profound Apostolic gifting and office of authority, but that does not constitute a new definition and identity for the calling of the Apostles, that is not in the Scriptures.
The second principle we need to agree upon in regards to the office of the Prophet in the New Testament is that the Prophets are not called to lead, or to be in command over their brethren. But the “sons of Issachar” are given the command over all their brethren according to 1 Chron. 12:32, and that we know (I hope) is the function of the office of the Apostle (I say “I hope” because I am not going to expound on that here).
To understand the New Testament function of the office of the Prophet we need to see what the Scriptures teach us. We shall look at two portions from the Bible where I will use the example of Agabus to support my teaching of this article; that the “sons of Issachar” are actually not Prophets but Apostolic leaders.
Acts.11:27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
The original Hellenic text of verse 29 that is translated here: “then the disciples” and “determined” is substantially different, and goes more like: “of the disciples”, and, “to ordain, appoint, define” (Hellenic word “horizo” - as people in authority over others do).
I understand this is not clear, but to shorten the explanation let me just go to the point; what happened in Antioch when the prophets came from Jerusalem was this: the local leaders ordained, appointed and defined what was to be done by the disciples, in response to the prophetic word (and verse 30 points the finger at Barnabas and Paul).
That is to say: the prophets spoke – end of the story for the prophets! The word of the prophets was submitted to the authority of the local Body of believers; then the local leaders took over from there and decided what the next steps would be…
The prophets did not have the command over their brethren in this story. In the next story, Agabus could see what was going to happen, but Apostle Paul had the wisdom to know what to do with what the prophet saw.
Acts.21:10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his [own] hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver [him] into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
The prophet has the gift to see, but does not have the wisdom to decide or the authority to command. The authority to lead, as well as to ordain, appoint, define (“horizo” as in Acts 11:29) is delegated by Jesus to His Apostles, to whom He gives the strategic foresight “to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32).
Now, the issue we are dealing with in this article is that a local army is needed in every place, with the capacity to receive the strategic foresight and turn it into strategic intercession and works of faith (meaning, obedience to specific instructions), so that we may truly pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven”.
More specifically, we are dealing with the issue that Apostolic oversight must be in place, with the capacity to receive and process Prophetic insight, in order to process it into strategic foresight that can lead the local Body of Christ to works and actions of obedience in response to the instructions that Jesus gives, when He speaks…
It is my experience, and therefore my motivational proposal here, together with some teaching to support it, that the Lord wants to call His Apostolic leaders to rise up to the call to lead His army, as the “sons of Issachar” were called to do.
Unless we understand what our calling is and until we make the choice to avail ourselves for the task, I don’t believe the Lord can use us in that particular role, which is part of our job description here on Earth.
I believe that all Apostolic leaders have access to Prophetic insight, especially one of strategic nature/foresight. As much as the ministry of the Prophets is essential and significant, the Lord did not delegate to them the responsibility to lead, but only to submit their “sight” to the leaders who have the “insight” as well as the “foresight” to know what to do with it. The Prophets may know, but only the Apostles have the strategic wisdom given by the Lord to lead on the basis of that knowledge.
Even though I understand that different Apostles have different tasks and spheres of authority delegated to them, I also understand that all Apostolic leaders carry the responsibility to lead some section of the Lord’s army in a strategic way, so that the Kingdom of our Lord can manifest with power in this world of Darkness.
I’d like to close with a thought to consider… the Bible reveals that Apostolic leaders are not waiting for the people to tell them “please come to lead us”. It is Jesus who appoints His leaders and sends them to go out and lead His people.
Same with the Army; I don’t know of any soldiers appointing Generals to lead them… It is the Army Generals who summon the troops and prepare them for war. I wonder… what should we conclude from that?
Meaning, in terms of choice of action, initiative, drive and motivation?
i Endnote: word for Albania spoken in the presence of the President of the Evangelical Alliance
I feel the Lord would say this is the hour of judgment; judgment either for good, or, for good in another way. The Church (i.e. Body of Christ) in Albania will decide which way the judgment will go.
Light comes either directly, or through direct confrontation with Darkness first. I sense the Lord would say to Albania at this hour: if the Church does not rise up in Holiness, to shine the Light of Jesus now, the days are coming very soon that the window of opportunity for a harvest of souls will be shut for a season.
If the Church does not rise up to keep the window open, if the 1 Tim chapter 2 principle is not applied, then days of Darkness will come upon the whole land. If the Church manifests division and a brother-slaying spirit, then for a season Albania will be torn apart by this brother-slaying spirit; and the Church will be heavily persecuted, as the spirit of Islam will come in with great force.
But if the Church rises up and spreads the Light of Jesus, then I believe the Lord would say that He will extend the season of harvest of souls, and Albania will make great steps towards prosperity. The Lord says “I have given to you My Church, the keys of the Kingdom; you decide which way the nation will go”.
If the Church does not rise up, there will be blood in the streets. There will again come Dark days of brother killing brother. It will not be a simple thing. This nation has gone through this before, and that spirit has not been defeated; it craves for more blood. The only thing that can quench that spirit is the spirit of brother loving brother, from the Church, spread in the land, through prayer.