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Chapter 9

Great Givers

1 Chronicles 12:40

Moreover those who were near to them, from as far away as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, were bringing food on donkeys and camels, on mules and oxen-- provisions of flour and cakes of figs and cakes of raisins, wine and oil and oxen and sheep abundantly, for there was joy in Israel.

David was thirty years old when he began to reign. He reigned for forty years. He reigned in Hebron over Judah seven years and six months. Thereafter, he reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 5:4-5).

After the death of King Saul, his son, Ishbosheth began to reign over Israel. And he reigned two years. Only the house of Judah followed David. At this time, David was king only in Hebron over the house of Judah (2 Samuel 2:10-11).

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker (2 Samuel 3:1).

When the time was ready for David to be the king over all Israel, all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron. They spoke, saying, "Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, 'You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.'" All the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron. And King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel.(2 Samuel 5:1-3).

The sons of Issachar were instrumental in this crowning of King David over all of Israel. They provided the prophetic insights. They understood the times of God, and they knew what to do. They were able to command and lead their people in complete unity to make this one decision. It was recorded 1 Chronicles 12:38-40 that all the tribes of Israel came in battle array to Hebron with this single purpose of making David the king over all of Israel. And all of Israel was ready for this change.

They feasted and drank with David for three days. And preparations had been made even before their arrival. Guess who were the planners and providers for the food and celebrations. It was people nearby and far away, namely the sons of Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali. They had brought food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. Vast supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisins, wine, oil, cattle, and sheep were brought to celebrate the event. There was great joy throughout the land.

The sons of Issachar had forethoughts and foresights. They did the preparations way ahead of the events. They were fruitful and generous. They provided for both the materials and spiritual needs of the people. They were their brother-keepers. They had received and they gave. They were blessed, and they blessed others. They knew how to do the dirty works of the ministry, and they knew how to celebrate and worship the LORD in spirit and in truth! They were a joyful people, and they brought great joy to the people of God!

As the prophetic sons of Issachar, we have two basic ministries - to minister unto the Lord, and to minister unto others. We can see this clearly in the life of a great prophet of Israel, Elijah.

In 1 Kings 17:2-9, the word of the LORD came to Elijah, saying, ""Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.""

God’s first instruction to Elijah was to hide himself by the Brook Cherith. God was concerned for the overall welfare of His beloved prophet. He wanted to protect and to preserve him from his enemies. Elijah needed to withdraw himself from the public life. He had just dramatically intruded into the lives of an evil king and a wicked queen. The whole nation of Israel had no rain for three and a half years! Everyone hated him for prophesying the true word of God!

Humanly speaking, to take such a retreat after disturbing the livelihood of everyone in Israel might seem sneaky and weak. But God knew that was exactly what Elijah needed. He had a greater task for him ahead, which was even harder to face!

At Cherith, Elijah was shielded with complete security from his enemies who were hunting him down throughout the land. While famine raged all around, he was being fed by unclean ravens. This was indeed a very humiliating and humbling experience! While drought prevailed everywhere else, he was being refreshed by the waters of the brook.

To be hidden and sustained, in such a manner, even for a short while, was exactly what Elijah needed from God. By thrusting Elijah into a public ministry, God had made him to be a target for intense hatred of Ahab and Jezebel, and the starving people of Israel. Everybody was blaming him for the drought and disaster.

Elijah's experience at Cherith lasted long enough to teach him that whatever his future circumstances would be, he could be assured of God's continual protection and preservation! When he had no one to support him, he was sustained by the Lord Himself! Jehovah Jireh provided his every need!

To leave Elijah at Cherith for too long will be bad for him. This prophet was by nature not a social man. The solitude and quietness of Cherith would suit his character and preferences perfectly. But God told Elijah to arise and go to Zarephath.

In all the cities and villages of Israel, men, women and children were crying for help. They had no food and no water! They were toiling away, scraping the hardened ground for whatever little sustenance they could find.

Elijah must not divorce himself from all these. The man whom God chose to preach His Word to His people must be living in close contact with the sufferings, feelings and problems of those to whom he was sent to minister. Why should the prophet of God be exempted from the temptations and hardships of the people whom he was to serve?

Jesus came down to earth; He was involved with human life, and He showed us the way back to God. He did not send the angels! He came Himself! He knew our pains and shame because He went through all that! He even feed the multitudes with bread and fish!

After His transfiguration, the Lord came down from the mountain. He could have stayed there longer just as what His three disciples, Peter, James and John had suggested. But He knew what God the Father had called Him to do - to save the lost and to die for their sins! So He came down to the valleys.

After a while, the brook dried up. We need to seek the things that are above. But whenever we put too much attention or spend too much time cultivating the devotional life at the expense of our active Christian witness in the community, then the heavenly brooks at which we seek to refresh ourselves have a natural way of drying up. In spite of all our praying, Bible reading and church-going, we will soon become hungry and thirsty. Our brooks will dry out.

In John 7:38, Jesus said, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." There is something we need to know about wells and living water. Wells that are often being used will never run out of fresh waters. The running waters will keep the well clear of eroding soils and other debris from building up and blocking the inlets. Wells that are seldomly used will soon dry out. Their inlets are easily blocked over time. Any remaining water will become stale and smelly. When we give unto others, the Lord will replenish the supplies. There is always no lack of resources when He is our Boss.

If our devotional life is an end in itself, we will become unreal to the world in need. There is no way to satisfy self-indulgence in spiritual luxuries and activities. We will always crave for more. Our devotional life can only become meaningful when it is kept as an integral part of a community living and involvement with other people - touching them with the love of God in both tangible and intangible means.

We must not imagine that our devotional life is a place where we take in from God and our ministerial life is a place where we give out to others. Christian life is not a matter of storing up and accumulates resources through worship and prayer at one time, and then dispensing them through active service. It is a matter of obeying God, moment by moment, living His life in and out! Just as Elijah was to minister to the widow at Zarephath, she was also ministering to his needs. Elijah needed her just as she needed him! Our ministerial life is not just giving out but also receiving from others! Giving and receiving at the same time!

How hard it was for Elijah to believe that God had sent a desperate, poor widow to minister to his needs in the critical weeks and months ahead. How hard it is also for us to grasp today that our Lord Jesus Christ is seeking to help us by surrounding us with poor, despised, broken, desperate and rejected people of the society. The poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11). We always need His help. And the way He chooses to help us is often through vessels that seem the least likely to give us help.

God desires to minister His amazing grace to us through the most unlikely channels. Instead of shunning those who are needy and desperate, we may find that they are really God-sent ministers to us, and they bring to us God's answers to our prayers. The weak become strong and the poor become rich!

Like the sons of Issachar, we need to be blessings to bless others. We need to love and be loved. We need to give and receive. Tangibly and intangibly. And God loves a cheerful giver!

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