(An extract of the Presidential Charge delivered by Dr. Mrs. Lydia Olukemi Odedeji at the 2022 Women Conference of the Diocese of Lagos West (Anglican Communion) held at Caroline Adefiola Women Conference Centre, Ipaja, Lagos)
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.24 The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, ready armed to the war. 25 Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred. 26 Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred. 27 And Jehoiada was the leader of the Aaronites, and with him were three thousand and seven hundred; 28 And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father s house twenty and two captains. 29 And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul. 30 And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers. 31 And of the half tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, which were expressed by name, to come and make David king. 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. 33 Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart. 34 And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand. 35 And of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred. 36 And of Asher, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, forty thousand. 37 And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, an hundred and twenty thousand. 38 All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king. 39 And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had prepared for them. 40 Moreover they that were nigh them, even unto Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for there was joy in Israel. (1 Chronicle 12:23-40)
Understanding the times we are in is so crucial to our walk with God, our Christian faith, our preparation and readiness for Christ when He returns.
1 Chronicles 12:23 – 38 - Now these were the numbers of the divisions that were equipped for war, and came to David at Hebron to turn over the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord: The sons of Issachar 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. All these men of war, who could keep ranks, came to Hebron with a loyal heart, to make David king over all Israel; All the tribes of Israel came to make David king.
We have here an account of those who were active in perfecting the settlement of David upon the throne, after the death of Ishbosheth. (2 Sam.5:1) that all the tribes of Israel came, either themselves or by their representatives, to Hebron, to make David king; now here we have an account of the quota which every tribe brought, in ready armed to the war, in case there should be any opposition.
The Levites themselves, and the priests (called here the Aaronites), appeared very hearty in this cause, and were ready, if there were occasion, to fight for David, as well as pray for him, because they knew he was called of God to the government. The men of Issachar were the fewest af all, only 200, and yet as serviceable to David s interest as those that brought in the greatest numbers, these few being in effect the whole tribe. They were men of great skill above any of their neighbours, men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. The tribe of Issachar was especially known as wise men.
Our theme for this year s conference is thought-provoking and action-demanding. To understand the times, as implied in 1 Chron. 12:32, is to possess God-given insight into the spiritual peculiarities of a time/period and to be able to translate this into the natural context of human existence. When God s people apply their spiritual insight to natural context, they are able to formulate relevant strategies that will position society to tackle its emerging challenges in the areas of government, economy, diplomacy, security, health, technology, education or any other aspects of society life. By this insight, God s people are also equipped to exploit the spiritual and material opportunities that God has hidden in the new season, for the advancement of the kingdom of God here on earth.
The challenges facing today s church, coupled with how we are unpreparedly bumping into these challenges, are strong indications that there may be need to teach a new generation the rudiments of understanding the times and seasons. The women must take up this equipping task. The decision we are taking will inform the movements we are making. The ability to respond adequately to change is a function of the understanding. Growth is painful, change is painful but to remain stock where you are not supposed to be is more painful.
In the book of 1 Chronicles, our text, we find an interesting story of the great men who joined David in his battle against Saul. We learned about the, “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). They were astute observers of what was occurring around them, seeking to discern how best to respond to changing circumstances. The Chapter gives a list of men that were equipped for war. They were over 60,000. The tribe of Issachar was the least in number. Just 200 men!
The over 60,000 men from other tribes were ready to go to battle, which is good, but somehow not enough to win. This already must be telling us a major reason why nations fail, why businesses fail, why churches scatter, why relationships fail. People bereft of knowledge, understanding and wisdom have no business leading others. David may need hefty and well trained men but he needed more, men of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
This is the time to set our priorities right –God, family, career/vocation and others. This is the time to get close to God, in word and in prayerfulness. It is the time to wake up from sleep and slumber so that we can perceive and discern what to do. This is not the time to be fighting, envying and running down ourselves. 1 John 2:15 – This is the time to shun the lust of flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
Ecc. 3:1- To everything there is a time and a season under the heaven. Every woman should understand God, indentify the season she is and act appropriately. You can not afford to keep comparing yourself with others. Sometimes, women compare themselves with people who are not even their mates. There are 3 broad known phases in life – the morning, afternoon and evening phase. Each phase has its obligations, challenges and outcome. Inability to respond appropriately at one phase will adversely affect the other phase. It is expected of mothers with under 10 years old children to be available to train, nurse and nurtured the children. Failure to do this will bring unexpected outcome. In a nutshell, I want to encourage women to look upward to God and inward. We should trust what God will do for us and what you can do for yourself and not become a burden to our spouses instead of a blessing.
WISDOM IS SUPERIOR
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 says; This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me. There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. Then I said: “Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good.
Wisdom is indeed better than weapons of war. The Issacharites were few but were noted for their wisdom. They were small but big in the things that matter. They were insignificant in numbers but relevant in issues of substance. They had “understanding of the times,” that is, they were wise and discerning. They could interpret happenings. It was a God-given ability. It was this same God that gave David the wisdom of using his catapult instead of clashing swords with Goliath. This same God who told Gideon in Judges 7:2“The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me”. God pruned Gideon s army from 32,000 to just 300 men. Consider the army the three hundred men would fight in Judges 7:12 “Now the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude”. Winning in life is beyond physical attributes.
As Christian women, we need to understand the times in which we live. We owe our generation and our families this ability given by the Holy Spirit. Because there are different times and seasons in life; because days are speaking (Ps 19:2-3); because there are signs being divinely given (Dan 5:25), these call for understanding. God needs men and women who would be ready to relay his messages to others. It is dangerous to keep living oblivious of what God is saying or the times he put us in. The Psalmist in Psalm 74:9-10 lamented “We do not see our signs; There is no longer any prophet; nor is there any among us who knows how long. O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme your name forever?”
GOD CREATED TIMES AND SEASONS
Daniel 2:19-23 says “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king s matter. Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation”
The Bible mentions that God determined our pre-appointed times, for in Him we live and move and have our being. For us then to be successful in living, and moving according to the will and plan of God for our lives, we have to understand the God ordained times and seasons. In Acts 17:26, the Bible says: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings”
In Luke 19:44 we hear the Lord said how disaster and great tribulation would come upon a nation because they did not know the season of their visitation. We should note the following;
SPIRITUAL SEASONS OF LIFE
If you examine your life right now, what season would you say you are currently experiencing? The first step to flourishing in any spiritual season is recognizing which one you’re in and seek God s face on how to flourish in it. We are going to look at some common seasons of life. Which one describes your life at the moment.
This is no doubt a tough season. It s like God is quiet and you can’t hear His voice or sense His presence as you once did. In a dry season, God seems very distant. For Christians, a season of spiritual dryness can seem completely shaking. Suddenly your life experience doesn’t line up with what you know to be true about God. If God guides His children, why can’t I sense it? If he cares, why do not I feel it? I believe the keys in getting through this challenging season is: (1) Realize that you are in it, and (2) Press through it – draw close to God despite how far away he seems. do not wither up. (3) Continue reading his Word and (4) keep praying because is there. He hasn’t left.
Waiting is NOT easy! If you’re there now and it s hard, take heart. Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” Whether you're waiting for a godly husband, for the fruit of the womb, for business opportunities, for a child to change for the better, for healing of an ailment, for a difficult circumstance to change, or for God to finally fulfill a promise; the waiting season can range from mildly annoying to frustrating. We know from the story of Joseph in Exodus that God leverages waiting seasons for his glory and for our good. And we know from Abraham s story in Genesis that waiting might last a very long time. We also know from Hannah s story that pouring your heart out to God and waiting on Him is totally worth it.
In your season of waiting, trust that God is pruning you. He s chiseling away what s not needed for the next season. He s making you ready. Keep the faith, do not doubt God s plans and goodness and wait with expectancy. David cried out to God in Psalm 5:3, “Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly”. God is listening and knows exactly where you are. God has not forgotten you.
This is the, “I do not have enough time to get everything done!” time in life. You seem to be doing many things at a time with little or no results. Sometimes we have big projects or little children that need more of our time than in other seasons. If you find yourself in a busy season, chase after God. The key to succeeding in this time is seeking God for direction the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning. Recognize and organize what needs to get done, then plow through those priorities. Attacking your priorities first will also help alleviate undue stress. These days of mental wellness, you need God to help you figure out what is most important per time. Multitasking is good but can deposit stress very quickly. Do you still remember what Jesus told Martha in Luke 10:41-42? “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” The whole world does not rest in your hands – it rests in God s hands. You are in charge, God is in control. “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him,” (Psalm 95:4).Pace yourself and your tasks. Breathe. Pray. Take a lunch break. Play. Recreate. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and help you. Then carry on in your grind and press through with the strength God gives you.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” Galatians 6:9. If you’re going through some hard times in this season, know that God is with you in the midst of it all. He s totally at work. I know it s hard when you’re in the middle of it, and you might not even understand what you’re going through or why. But be encouraged that God knows, and in due time, all will be revealed. In the meantime, do not give up or get tired of doing good. If you need comfort, let God comfort you. If you need strength beyond yourself, let him strengthen you. If you need wisdom, ask and the Bible promises that it will be given to you (James 1:5).
As hard as the tests and trials may be, allow God to be God. Allow Him to do the supernatural work that only He can do. Allow Him to strengthen and increase your faith in this season of hardship or affliction. 2 Corinthians 4:17-19 says “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” In this season, it s essential to fix your thoughts on heavenly things, not on temporary things of this earth. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is the God who understands every temptation (Hebrews 4:15); he understands suffering and pain; and he understands our weaknesses.
UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES COMES THROUGH;
Daniel 9:2 “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” In the first year of Darius’ reign, Daniel was moved to make a careful study of the “books” of the Scripture. The sudden shift of world domination by the Babylonians to the conquering Persians made him wonder how it would affect the future of Israel. As he studied the book of Jeremiah, he began to understand that the Lord s “seventy years” of “desolations” for Jerusalem were nearing an end (Jeremiah 25:11-12). The seventy years of captivity was God s discipline for not keeping the Sabbath Year (Leviticus 25:4), allowing the land to rest from planting every seven years. Since they had not obeyed the Sabbath Year for 490 years, God rested the land Himself for seventy years (2 Chronicles. 36:20-21).
The understanding Daniel derived from his careful Bible study drove him to his knees in prayers of confession and repentance on behalf of his people. He made supplication to the Lord that He might turn his anger and fury away from Jerusalem (Daniel 9:16). And the Lord answered Daniel s prayers. That same year, Cyrus king of Persia was moved by the Lord to make a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
How persistent, hungry and intentional are we in studying the word of God. Understanding of the times comes from the Scriptures. If we devote time for the Bible, God will keep opening our understanding to happenings not just in the world but in our immediate environment. Romans 15:4 says “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope”. There is no modern issue or problem that eludes the wisdom of God in His word.This scripture holds the key that unlocks the mystery surrounding major events, shifts and transitions on earth.
While Jesus was about leaving, he told the disciples that he had many things to tell them but he couldn’t because time would not permit but the Holy Spirit will come and do just that. John 16: 12-13 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” We should not forget that it was the Holy Spirit who moved men to write the Scriptures. We can attain an understanding of God s Word only through the illumination of the Spirit by which the Word was given. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
Jesus’ teachings gave new insight into the Old Testament Scriptures. Where did He get that understanding? “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3) We too can have deep understanding into God s Word and the times we are in through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the Laodicean church to “anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18). The Holy Spirit is given to do that. “The Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13)
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-12
Prophecy is saying that something is going to take place sometime in the future. Revelation is the clarification of something which has happened. The two go hand-in-hand and help us understand God s actions. Genesis 18:17 tells us how important God wants us to understand his actions. It says “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do”.I think one of the reasons Paul desired that the Corinthian prophesy more than speak in tongues is because of the power of prophecy in guiding and edifying the people. “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1Corinthians 14:5).God always announce his approaching seasons to his prophets (Amos 3:7). In fact, this is what it truly means to understand times and seasons. By the revelation of the Spirit, we foresee what a coming season holds. Let me remind you that prophecies have time and season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”. Prophecies respond to this principle.A classic example is in Genesis 18:10, the Angel told Abraham “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” Also in 2Kings 7:1 “Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria”
Understanding of the times”: means to know what is going on, and what needs to be done, and how to do it. The men of Issachar were not only knowledgeable of God s Word, they were knowledgeable of God s world. They understood the trends of the age so that they knew how to apply God s Word to life. They did not have their heads in the sand. Jesus condemned some Pharisees and Sadducees for their lack of such insight in their age. Mt 16:1-3 “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
This is the time to humble ourselves before God and seek God s mercy (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). God is calling us to humble ourselves, seek His face; spend more time with Him, turn from our sinful ways and repent.Top of Form 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 tells us that whenever there is a pestilence in the land, the people of God must take decisive action. The people of God must be very deliberate. We must think carefully about our lives, reflect on our actions and then take steps to bring us out of where we are to where God wants us to be. Our response at this trying time is to go back to our Maker, the One that calls us His people and seek His mercy and intervention. It s a time for prayer of repentance. Like Nehemiah did, it s a time to stay before God and weep, a time to confess our personal sins, the sins of our families, and the sins of all believers in our nation and all over the world (Nehemiah 1:4-7).
God ordained the times and the seasons and expects us to understand them in order to know what we are supposed to be doing in every season. If we do not know what God expects from us in a particular season, how do we end up knowing if we were successful or not? In Acts 17:26, the Bible says: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings”. The Bible mentions that God determined our preappointed times for in Him we live and move and have our being. For us then to be successful in living, and moving according to the will and plan of God for our lives, we have to understand the God ordained times and seasons. In Daniel 2:21 the Bible says that “God changes the times and the seasons…”
If God ordained the times and the seasons and changes them, then it befits us to find out from Him what season we are living in and what we ought to be doing in every season. This has nothing to do with the natural seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring but has everything to do with spiritual seasons in a God pre-determined calendar for every individual or group of individuals. In 1 Chronicles 12:32 the Bible says that the sons of Issachar had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do.
BEHAVIOURAL INDICATORS OF THE TIME WE ARE IN – THE LAST DAYS
No doubt we are in the ‘last days’ which could mean thousands of years in our own material time. Paul called these days ‘perilous’. Apostle Peter told us in 2Peter 3:8“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends; with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”. The phrase ‘last days’ indicates a period of time preceding the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Second coming is termed ‘the day of the Lord’. Again that signifies a period of time, beginning with the appearance of Jesus in the sky (2 Peter 3:10).
There are behavioral indicators we are in the last days as highlighted in 2 Timothy 3:1-8. These should help everyone adjust and stay wise like the five wise virgins. Luke 21:28 says “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near”
People will be lovers of themselves. People will be covetous. People will be boasters. People will be proud. People will be blasphemers. People will be disobedient to parents. People will be unthankful. People will consider nothing as sacred. People will be unloving. People will be unforgiving. People will slander others. People will have no self-control. People will be unusually cruel. People will have no interest in what is good. People will betray friends. People will be reckless. People will be puffed up with pride. People will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. People will have a form of godliness but deny God. People will take advantage of women, weakened by sin. People will always been learning but not coming to knowledge of truth. People will resist and fight the truth. People will have corrupt minds. People will have fake faith from a depraved mind (2 Timothy 3:2-8)
The times we found ourselves in are definitely the last days; the end-time. We are in the final lap of the jubilee of jubilees. Romans 13:11 says “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”.
Immediately Daniel was able to relay and interpret the King s dream, he saved lives and got elevated. As soon as Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh s dream, he saved lives and got elevated. Our ability to understand the times will save lives and will promote the name of the Lord. In Luke 2:25-35, Simeon knew who Jesus is immediately he saw him. He had been told he wouldn’t die until he sees the Messiah. He was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. When he saw Jesus, he glorified God and got a release to depart from the earth in peace. My counsel is, let us seek to know and to understand what God is saying in our days and our situations. do not let us live in denial. There must be a reason for the seasons we find ourselves. Angel Gabriel told Daniel in Daniel 10:12“….for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them”. If we seek to understand, God will respond.
Worthy vessels that He will use;
To accomplish, His great purpose
And make His kingdom widely known.
Lord here I am myself I give:
My TALENT, TIME, SILVER & GOLD,
Father use me, to build your Church,
To show your praise among all men.
Your thundering voice and do obey
Where some have failed, others abscond
Lord help me stand what’er the cost
Lord here I am myself I give...
When champions rise, and others fall
Satan fights his final battles
Making the race so tough to run.
Lord here I am myself I give...
On thee alone, lest I should fall
Living for thee, father of love
Until I end my journey home
Thank you for listening. God bless you all.
Mrs. Lydia Odedeji
President, Women Organization
Diocese of Lagos West
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