9. The Tribe of Issachar

By John Thiel, The Characteristics of the Twelve Tribes of the 144,000 Conference, study 9, mp3

Among the many negative influences because of the dysfunctional circumstances of the family of Jacob, with those multiple mothers and the conflict that was being generated because of envy and the yearning for the love of their husband, we see such a vast display of things that are so contrary to God’s ways. It is just unbelievable. These men of God, like Jacob, demonstrate at first something that doesn’t make much sense, but as we keep on reading we can see how much it actually applies to the issues of life in our own experiences.

In Issachar we have an example of an influence that came upon him for good. Among the negative influences of our beginnings there are also good ones. Observe the very strange beginning of Issachar. The Lord came to the help of Leah. She had stopped giving birth, but she then somehow gave birth to another child; and that was Issachar.

An Influence Passed On

Genesis 30:14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes. 15 And she said unto her, [Is it] a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also?

You can see the longstanding feud that was going on between these two sisters.

Genesis 30:14 …And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes. 

What was she saying? I want those mandrakes, so if you give me the mandrakes, he can lie with you.

Genesis 30:16 And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. 17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son. 18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

Here was a scenario in which there was an influence in the heart of Leah where, in all this conflict, God actually stepped in and gave her another son; and it was an influence of hire. “I’ve hired my husband to have another child.” What was the influence? With that ingredient of hire in place, what personality became revealed in this son?

Jacob was here blessing Issachar:

Genesis 49:14 Issachar [is] a strong ass couching down between two burdens:

An ass couching between two burdens and lifting them up. This is Issachar – a burden-bearer.

Genesis 49:15 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.

A hired servant. This rubbed off on him so that he represented a tribe who were burden-bearers. It’s a good trait. This is the personality which came through that line. Observe the development of this characteristic in the tribe.

1 Chronicles 7:1 Now the sons of Issachar [were], Tola, and Puah, Jashub, and Shimrom, four. … 4 And with them, by their generations, after the house of their fathers, [were] bands of soldiers for war, six and thirty thousand [men]: for they had many wives and sons. 5 And their brethren among all the families of Issachar [were] valiant men of might, reckoned in all by their genealogies fourscore and seven thousand.

This is a revelation of the development within that tribe. This takes you into the experience of the Israelites as they were keeping the enemies from taking over in Canaan in the story of the Judges.

Judges 5:15 And the princes of Issachar [were] with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben [there were] great thoughts of heart.

In sustaining the protection of Canaan Deborah and Barak were used in a war, but here you see Issachar coming there as a burden-bearer in this war.

Knowing What Ought to Be Done

When King Saul was later demoted and died, there were people who were with Saul and others who were with David. But when it came to support David after King Saul had died, instead of supporting the son of King Saul, who came to support David and revealed a quality of support by putting their shoulder under the wheel to help to push forward in David’s cause?

1 Chronicles 12:32 And of the children of Issachar, [which were men] that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them [were] two hundred; and all their brethren [were] at their commandment.

The children of Issachar had an understanding of what had to be done.

1 Chronicles 12:22 For at [that] time day by day there came to David to help him, until [it was] a great host, like the host of God. 23 And these [are] the numbers of the bands [that were] ready armed to the war, [and] came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD.

There was David who had been anointed as the future king, and when Saul died Issachar’s tribe knew what Israel had to do, and they came there with that knowledge that they were to bear that burden and support him. Among all the other tribes that also came to help, we are told that they were the ones who knew what had to be done. The other ones just came there to help and stand, but they, the Issacharites, knew; they had a sense of responsibility, a sense of burden-bearing. This is the tribe of Issachar, a good quality, a good characteristic.

Self-Denying Service

The servant of God Elisha needed support and help.

2 Kings 4:8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where [was] a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And [so] it was, [that] as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. 9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this [is] an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. 10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.

In Elisha’s travels as a minister he came to Shunem; and Shunem was a place that belonged to Issachar’s lot in Canaan. Here you have a woman of Issachar with her husband, who was prepared to support the minister in such a wonderful way. And as they were doing this work for the cause and they recognised this holy man of God, they wanted to support and help him. Can you see something here in the characteristic of Issachar?

2 Kings 4:12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what [is] to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. 14 And he said, What then [is] to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. 15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. 16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, [thou] man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. 17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. 20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and [then] died.

Here is the story of the blessing that had been passed on to this woman because she was so faithful. Elijah prayed for her and she gave birth in the old age of her husband. And in her faithfulness God listened and, as you know, Elisha came, he saw the child and took it up into the room and restored that child back to life again. We observe the quality of self-denying service and the reward that is passed on to this labour of love that is recorded here.

God’s Call for the Cause

Brother D’s testimony needs to be enlivened by the grace of God. He needs a new anointing, that he may be able to comprehend the magnitude of the work and devote his entire being to the advancement of the cause of God. The Lord has work enough to employ all His followers. {2T 645.2}

Not just ministers, but every church member; He has work enough to employ all His followers.

All can show forth His glory if they will. But the majority refuse to do this. They profess faith, but have not works. Their faith is dead, being alone. They shun responsibilities and burdens, and will be rewarded as their works have been. {Ibid.}

We have this woman and her husband who would do the work, even building an extra room, and supporting and blessing Elisha and his servant with food. That’s labour. You know what it’s like to provide for someone. The ladies know what it means. That was part of the Lord’s work, and it says here that they were rewarded. According to the work they do they are rewarded.

Because some will not lift the burdens they could lift, or do the work they might do, the work is too great for the few who will engage in it. They see so much to do that they overtax their strength and are fast wearing out. {Ibid.}

God calls at this time for laborers whose interests are fully identified with His work and His cause. {2T 645.3}

Especially when we are so few in number. The burden lies on different shoulders, and every one of us can work and support the cause. And it is even in caring for the ministers, anything that has to be done.

The ministers engaged in this work must be energized by the spirit and power of the truths they preach, and then they will have an influence. The people will seldom rise higher than their minister. A world-loving spirit in him has a tremendous influence upon others. The people make his deficiencies an excuse to cover their world-loving spirit. They quiet their own consciences, thinking that they may be free to love the things of this life and be indifferent to spiritual things because their ministers are so. They deceive their own souls and remain in friendship with the world, which the apostle declares to be enmity with God. {Ibid.}

Here you can see the contrast between the ones who labour, Issachar, and those that don’t. Which tribe are we of in regards to labour? Those who have that particular gift to labour and put the effort into it, make up the tribe of Issachar mentality.

Not Immune to Ungodliness

With those good qualities of laying the shoulder to the wheel as it were, of lifting the burdens to make the work easier for others because they are carrying a lot of burden (and some people have that good quality), yet does that make them immune to ungodliness? Which part of the house of Israel did the tribe of Issachar join in the time of Jeroboam? Israel split up into two kingdoms – the north, with the ten tribes, and Jerusalem, the two tribes. Issachar went with the bad. So even though they were a very productive, hard-working tribe, they still went corrupt with the rest of the tribes of Israel.

As they went with Jeroboam there was a good trait of Issachar that came into action to deal with the corruptions of Jeroboam. Although there is a trait, that good trait can be corrupted, as it happened here. Jeroboam had first led out, and now Nadab took over:

1 Kings 15:25 And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. 26 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. 27 And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which [belonged] to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. 28 Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead.

Here was an Issacharite, Baasha, and he came there and conquered the evil king. That was good. But it continues:

1 Kings 15:29 And it came to pass, when he reigned, [that] he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: 30 Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.

God had already warned Jeroboam and his son that this would happen.

1 Kings 15:32 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. 33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.

So he reigned 24 years, but unfortunately, although the good trait is in action, the bad comes into action as well; because you can actually be a good worker and lose your focus on the Lord. This is what happened here. He succeeded in conquering the corrupt kings, but now he becomes corrupt.

1 Kings 15:34 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.

Good traits don’t necessarily mean that those good traits will continue; they have to be looked after carefully. And if they aren’t, then you can fall.

Now although the Issacharites became fallen with the rest of the tribes of Israel and ignorant of God’s expectations, are they able to recover themselves? Are they able to be victorious to overcome this corrupting development? We are here looking at the story of someone with good traits who apostatises; but can there be a possibility of recovery from that?

Returning to the Lord

2 Chronicles 30:17 For [there were] many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one [that was] not clean, to sanctify [them] unto the LORD. 18 For a multitude of the people, [even] many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written.

Some of the tribes went to the Passover in Jerusalem instead of following the corruptions of the fallen tribes. They came to “eat the passover otherwise than it was written.”

2 Chronicles 30:18 But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one 19 [That] prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though [he be] not [cleansed] according to the purification of the sanctuary. 20 And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.

These people were the corrupt fallen tribes, and Issachar was one of them that came down there to Jerusalem to partake of the Passover. They should have gone through the cleansing process, but they didn’t and still partook of the Passover. So although they were so corrupt and were not cleansed, they were being prayed for by King Hezekiah. What was the prayer? He prayed that God would pardon everyone that prepared his heart to seek the Lord, though they were not cleansed. Here you get a picture of a fallen tribe who are restoring themselves by preparing their hearts to seek the Lord. And if they prepare their hearts to seek the Lord, let us accept the possibility that they could return unto the Lord. In the tribe of Issachar there were people who came and prepared their hearts to seek the Lord. If we fall, if we go astray, even though we started out good, we can seek the Lord and prepare our hearts again. This tribe, although they had such a good quality and laboured hard, and although they went astray, they could recover themselves. Returning to God as they did will not be in vain.

Invitation upon invitation was sent to erring Israel to return to their allegiance to Jehovah. Tender were the pleadings of the prophets; and as they stood before the people, earnestly exhorting to repentance and reformation, their words bore fruit to the glory of God.  {PK 325.1} 

Through Micah came the wonderful appeal, “Hear ye now what the Lord saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with His people, and He will plead with Israel. {PK 325.2} 

“O My people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against Me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. {PK 325.3}

This was the appeal for them to seek the Lord with all their heart.

In the days of apostasy in Judah and Israel, many were inquiring: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” The answer is plain and positive: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:6-8. {PK 326.1}

As some of the men of the tribe of Issachar came and prepared their heart to meet the Lord, they were asking, What should we do? And although they didn’t have the offerings of cleansing, they were asking, What are we to do? They were prayed for. And the answer was, “I am not looking for the cleansing by the symbolism of things; what is required is that you should do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

In urging the value of practical godliness, the prophet was only repeating the counsel given Israel centuries before. Through Moses, as they were about to enter the Promised Land, the word of the Lord had been: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” Deuteronomy 10:12, 13. From age to age these counsels were repeated by the servants of Jehovah to those who were in danger of falling into habits of formalism and of forgetting to show mercy. When Christ Himself, during His earthly ministry, was approached by a lawyer with the question, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40. {PK 326.2}

Although this tribal nature was so good, yet they went astray. But now, if they would inquire of the Lord, the Lord would give them the answer. And if they did it, they could recover. That is why the tribe of Issachar is among the twelve tribes of the 144,000. Among them there could be people of this nature – hard-working people, like Martha. Martha was hard-working, but she wasn’t like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. But if she responded to the call she would be among the saved. There is this privilege to be among the 144,000.

It is the purpose of redemption, not only to blot out sin, but to give back to man those spiritual gifts lost because of sin’s dwarfing power. {COL 266.2}

That which Issachar had but which he lost by sin’s dwarfing power, that good thing that he had will be given back to him.

Money cannot be carried into the next life; it is not needed there; but the good deeds done in winning souls to Christ are carried to the heavenly courts. But those who selfishly spend the Lord’s gifts on themselves, leaving their needy fellow creatures without aid and doing nothing to advance God’s work in the world, dishonor their Maker. {Ibid.}

The good qualities that have been lost because of a fall into sin could be returned, and these people could be among the 144,000. In this work of preparing to be among the 144,000 we should not be disheartened because some of the good qualities I had I haven’t practised for the Lord; I can prepare my heart; I can do the work of restoring myself. And if I will do that, then those good qualities that qualified this tribe will be returned. God will give back to man those spiritual gifts lost because of sin’s dwarfing power. Isn’t that encouraging?

Issachars Needed

When the emergencies of today come up before us we need Issachars. Sr. White talks here about those who are workers in the institutions:

But when an emergency arises, and help is needed, no worker should say, That is not my work. The helper who has the idea that he is only to do the work assigned him, and no more, who feels no responsibility to help wherever and whenever help is needed, should at once dismiss this idea from his mind. He should never feel that a wrong is done him if in an emergency he is asked to work overtime. When extra help is needed, let the workers assist willingly, in Christian meekness, and they will receive a blessing. {MM 176.4}

Here you have the need of the Issachars. They will lift the burden even if the burden is something which is not really their responsability. “But that’s not really my job; I’ve got my job” But there is a need to help somewhere else as well. Be the donkey. Put the shoulder under the extra burden and do the job.

It may be that some will rebel when they are asked to do the small, common duties. But these are the duties they need to know how to perform. It is faithfulness in little things that prepares us for usefulness in larger responsibilities. The most successful toilers are those who cheerfully take up the work of serving God in little things. Every human being is to work with his life thread, weaving it into the fabric to help to complete the pattern. Those who desire to be useful can always find employment. Time will never hang heavy on their hands. {MM 177.1}

Issachars are needed, especially in these last days when difficulties arise. When people drop out, who is going to do the job? A job has to be done that has been left by those who drop out, so we grapple and we get into it and we do things that sometimes mean that we have to do more than what was expected of us at first.

I was shown that some ministers among us fail to bear all the responsibility that God would have them. This lack throws extra labor upon those who are burden bearers, especially upon my husband. Some ministers fail to move out and venture something in the cause and work of God. Important decisions are to be made; but as mortal man cannot see the end from the beginning, some shrink from venturing and advancing as the providence of God leads. Someone must advance; someone must venture in the fear of God, trusting the result with Him. Those ministers who shun this part of the labor are losing much. They are failing to obtain that experience which God designed they should have to make them strong, efficient men that can be relied upon in any emergency. {3T 13.3}

Do the 144,000 have to be relied upon in an emergency today? You know exactly what this means. Issachars are needed. Even though they may have fallen, they need to take courage and prepare their hearts, and those qualities which they lost will be restored to them. And they can press the labour onward and be among those 144,000, because that tribe also has twelve thousand among those 144,000.

Revelation 7:7 …Of the tribe of Issachar [were] sealed twelve thousand. 

And their sealing has to do with, where they fail and fall, to prepare their hearts and come to the Lord to be cleansed and partake of the Passover, partake of redemption, so that their quality, the good quality that they were born with, can be exercised to be among that company.

May God help us to take this seriously again.


Posted on 05/01/2018, in The Twelve Tribes of the 144,000 (2017 Conference) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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