Discernment for Our Time

“These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops who came to David in Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of the Lord….Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” 1 Chronicles 12:23, 32 (ESV)

Truly we live in a day where believers should seek to be like the sons of Issachar – to understand the times and act accordingly. In this passage, the tribes of Israel are coming to David, to establish him as the rightful king of Israel. Saul’s reign was over and now the time had come for David, God’s anointed, to ascend to the throne. The tribes were meeting together to begin the protocols and process of ending one reign and beginning the new one under King David. Each tribe brought their own strengths to the nation, but only Issachar is described as “understanding the times and knowing what to do.” They were men of discernment.

What is discernment exactly? The Hebrew word biynah, used in this passage, is translated as “understanding, knowledge, meaning, or wisdom.” In Greek, aisthesis and diakrisis are translated as discernment and its various synonyms. It is linked with and carries the nuances of wisdom, good judgment, understanding and distinguishing good from evil. And, it is vital for strong and effective leadership.

Discernment should be sought and cultivated by believers who seek to apply God’s truth to a circumstance as well as having a clear understanding of biblical principles. For example, God was pleased with Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 3, as he prayed for “an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil…” (Sometimes the difference between good and evil is not as obvious as we might expect.) In the story of the two mothers and the baby (1 Kings 3:16-28), Solomon wisely perceived the legitimate mother and gave the child to her, demonstrating how true discernment should lead to true justice. In the New Testament, Paul prayed for all believers to be characterized by discernment in Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV), “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness….” And the author of Hebrews agrees, in 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

But Charles Spurgeon took it a step further, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” God’s people should be characterized by this kind of wisdom. Listening to wise counselors, searching the scriptures, praying for the Spirit to guide us, and genuinely seeking truth (rather than our own agenda) are a few of the processes that develop discernment. Understanding these times require wise judgments. We have never walked this way before. Making sense of a global pandemic through a well- researched and faithful biblical worldview will enable us to know how to react to these days, as it did the Men of Issachar. Understanding the times will lead us to an appropriate course of action. One of the most crucial responsibilities we have as believers is to wisely answer the multitude of questions our world is asking right now. Peter tell us to “…always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;” (1 Peter 3:15.) How can we best answer the questions regarding God and faith that are such a large part of our national conversation right now? By seeking godly discernment and answering these questions accordingly.

Lord, grant us sound judgment and wisdom, that we might discern our times and point our hurting, frightened world to You.

Susie Hawkins enjoys teaching the Bible, speaking, and working with ministry wives from her home base in Dallas, Texas. She has an MA in Theology from Criswell College, and serves on the board of Baptist Global Response (associated with the International Mission Board of the SBC), LifeSavers Foundation. She is the author of  From One Ministry Wife to Another, and has contributed to blogs and various publications. She especially enjoys Tex-Mex lunches with friends and spending time with her grandkids who are beyond awesome.  Susie is married to Dr. O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.

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