In March of 2002, my former colleague Mr. Cal Kalsbeek was approached by a member of the Standard Bearer editorial committee to write a column for their magazine aimed at evaluating current events in our world. The end result, forty-plus articles later, was not only a regular series for subscribers of the Standard Bearer to enjoy, but the creation of a textbook for the Worldviews course he was developing for Covenant Christian High School. Mr. Kalsbeek not only provided a course for me to teach after he retired, he inspired me to evaluate the times in which we live as part of God’s perfect plan in history. Now, in 2021, I have been asked to write articles for the current events rubric of Beacon Lights. The guidelines for this rubric mirror the principles and goals Mr. Kalsbeek set forth almost two decades earlier. It is with nervousness that I accept this role, for truly I have some big shoes to fill.
Mr. Kalsbeek was a wonderful colleague, a classroom neighbor, a mentor, a godly counselor, and a friend in Christ. In my formative years as a young teacher, he modeled faithfully what it means to be a Reformed, biblical teacher in our own Christian schools. Consider carefully the meaning of those words. When I came out of college in 1998, I believed that I had been well-prepared to serve as a Christian high school teacher. I am thankful, however, that the Lord directed me to receive and accept a teaching position at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, Michigan. It was here that my colleagues, especially my classroom neighbor, instructed me in how to be a Reformed and biblical teacher, not merely a Christian who happened to teach high school students. I hope you appreciate the difference. I see now that much of my classroom etiquette and management, my work ethic, and even my devotions have been inspired by Mr. Kalsbeek. I am humbled to be given the opportunity to take up the banner and continue the march onward with the present generation of young people.
More important than the size of any man’s shoes, however, is the grand topic of understanding the times. It is grand because it is both a blessed gift and a directive from God himself. Like Mr. Kalsbeek, I will be using 1 Chronicles 12:32 as my topic verse for this rubric: “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.” How important it was for King David to have men within the land of Israel upon whom both he and all of Israel could rely. And how much more so today does the church of Jesus Christ need young men and women, from the spiritual line of Issachar, to know what they and the church of God ought to do in these perilous times.
Using the rubric of Current Events, I intend to unfold biblical principles that we should use to properly understand the times in which we live. This topic is by nature ever-changing, but the principles in scripture that guide our understanding are not. Before we delve into the specifics of what is going on in the world around us, consider briefly with me a few principles that I hope you noticed in the above scripture passage. First and foremost, the children of Issachar were given the ability to know and understand God and God’s will. The spiritual descendants of the children of Issachar are not defined as “smart people” who read a lot of books, who watch a lot of documentaries, or who listen to the news all the time. God alone gives understanding, and he does so by his word and Spirit through the means of preaching, teaching, edifying, and instructing one another (2 Tim. 3:16–17). God gives this understanding to his people alone. The wicked do not and cannot understand God and his perfect will. Their hearts are hardened, and their eyes are dimmed so that they see only themselves and their desires.
The second principle to keep before our minds is that true understanding is not simply the accumulation of knowledge. This is very important for believers who seek to understand the times, for both the wicked and the Wicked One oftentimes know the events of history better than the saints of God do. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon wisely instructs his sons to avoid the foolish thinking that earthly knowledge alone is the solution for a happy and fulfilled life. Such knowledge is not only vain, but a “vexation of spirit” (v. 26). Our calling is not to have our minds satiated with the presentation of news and opinions from any singular talking head or cable program of today. Instead of simply knowing what is going on in the world, we are called to understanding. Understanding is much deeper and broader than knowledge in that it seeks to provide meaning and application of facts to our lives in the light of God’s word.
The final principle to consider based on 1 Chronicles 12:32 is that understanding implies a call to action. Mr. Kalsbeek was correct when he signed off his articles with the phrase “understand the times and live!” Understanding, guided by the Spirit through the principles of God’s word, compels us to live our lives before the face of God in wisdom. Wisdom is the actual putting into action of biblical understanding in our day-to-day walk as students, teachers, children, parents, and grandparents. The children of God who are given true understanding by their Lord are also given the inclination and ability to follow his will in time and history. Our calling is to understand the times, and then to live unto him!
This is why we all have big shoes to fill. Understanding of the times is not something that I will be able to explain to you with facts, with carefully crafted prose, or with humorous anecdotes. Understanding—true understanding—will require work for both you and me. Together I hope we can walk this road using the scriptures as our guide to understand the times in which we have been called to live. Our prayer remains, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Until that time is fulfilled, give us understanding of thy footsteps, for thou alone art the One who guides, governs, and sustains all things. We naturally see the footsteps of men and nations. Guide us to see thee in, through, above, and behind all things.” Amen!
Originally published August 2021, Vol 80 No 8