GENESIS 30 : 16 - 18 (NIV)
16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. "You must sleep with me," she said. "I have hired you with my son's mandrakes." So he slept with her that night. 17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, "God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband." So she named him Issachar.
The story behind Issachar's birth is indeed quite unique. About 9 months before Issachar was born, Reuben (Leah's first son) went to the fields and found some mandrakes which he meant to give to his mother. When Rachel saw those mandrakes, however, she wanted them and pleaded for them to Leah. Leah and Rachel are sisters, and both are wives to Jacob. Knowing that Rachel wanted the mandrakes, Leah proposed to her a transaction: she would give her the mandrakes in exchange for a time with Jacob. The day this happened, Jacob was supposed to spend the night with Rachel. But Rachel gave in to her desire for the mandrakes and agreed. Verse 16 shows what happened next: Leah told Jacob of their agreement, and eventually gave birth to Issachar.
GENESIS 49 : 14 (NIV)
14 "Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags.
The meaning of Issachar's name is "man for rent", a name that brings its bearer discomfort, if not shame. Issachar was likened to a donkey, a depiction of the Gentiles (non-Jews/non-Israelites). Donkeys are considered unholy animals; their carcasses may not be buried in Jerusalem. We were all, before, Gentiles who do not have the right to stay in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the house of peace, the house of God.
Gentiles like Issachar are always burdened by 'two saddlebags', even in their rest and in their sleep. All humans bear burdens - these burdens we bear 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year. For this reason, we must not be jealous of others who, in our own opinion, 'lead better lives than ours'.
Then how do we free ourselves of our burdens? Change our names? No. Should we, as children of God, bear names that displease us, to regret these names is something we must not do. Many parents blame their children's names for misfortune in life, and then change them in hope for better luck. Again, such is not a solution. What we can do is for us -not our parents- to struggle ourselves to free our burdens off our shoulders. With faith, in this struggle we shall succeed.
JOB 7 : 1 - 4 (NIV)
1 "Does not man have hard service on earth? Are not his days like those of a hired man? 2 Like a slave longing for the evening shadows, or a hired man waiting eagerly for his wages, 3 so I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. 4 When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up?' The night drags on, and I toss till dawn.
Job said that man's life is filled with hard service, and his days are like those of a hired man. In other words, a man bears burdens in his life - the burden of sin. The mandrakes that Rachel desired were a depiction of lust. Every human born of lust is bound to the burden of sin. As such, every human thus yearns to be under protection - we have a need to be under God's divine protection, to which we can depend.
The pressures Job received made him deem his life worthless, and started to push him to the point of desperation. In contrary, this is the fact: the life of a man who lives in God is never in vain. One who is desperate does everything wrong: in daylight they wish for night to arrive quickly, that they may run, though only for a while, from what ordeals they face in life. Yet the burdens they bear will keep haunting their minds, depriving them of sleep.
Why do stressful women tend to be fatter with each passing day? Because a stressed person will often do things unconsciously. Watch television while eating, without being entirely aware of what they are doing, for example. Her mind is not focused on what she is watching, and she is not aware of how much food she had swallowed. Eating without being aware of it, even feeling like one has not yet eaten, will make a person eat and eat again.
GENESIS 49 : 15
15 When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor.
Issachar's mind wasn't focused on the burden that pushed him down from above. His sight was fixed on how beautiful his resting place is: Jesus Christ. His focused sight on Jesus made him bend his shoulders, alleviating them off the burden that he used to bear all the time; handing them over to Jesus.
Bearing burdens is something I had experienced before when I was in primary school. Due to my parents' economical condition, I had to go to school without shoes for a year. Even the school fees and expenses were paid by another man. But in God I could persevere, and can now be glorified. So, let us focus our sights on how beautiful Jesus is and ask Him to take our burdens, and let ourselves willingly be servants of God. We no longer want to be satan's servants, and now we offer our lives to God as our Lord.
MATTHEW 11 : 28 - 29 (NIV)
28 "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
A long time before Jesus was born into the world, Issachar foresaw salvation from Jesus Christ. That salvation took form as Jesus' invitation for all who are weary and burdened to come to Him. Jesus Christ will give them rest, as Issachar saw in Genesis 49 : 15 - "how good is his resting place." Come to Jesus, and let us bend our shoulders so that God can free us of our burdens.
After we are free of our burdens, why did God want us to carry His yoke? This yoke from God is not a burden that we have to bear with difficulty; this yoke is light, pleasing and fills our lives with peace. This yoke is no other than an instruction to act or "perform" the Word of God in our lives. By willing ourselves to carry the Word of God, our lives will change into a successful life that is blessed.
DEUTERONOMY 33 : 18 - 19 (NIV)
18 About Zebulun he said: "Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and you, Issachar, in your tents. 19 They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand."
The first blessing that Issachar (the Issachar tribe) received was to own a resting place, to own tents. 300 years before, Issachar was a mere 'donkey' lying down between two saddlebags. By willing to struggle to come to Jesus and hand over his burdens, Issachar was blessed with tents.
The next blessing was to feast on the abundance of the seas and on the treasures hidden in the sand. This great blessing enabled Issachar to give offerings to God. The 'abundance of the seas' is a blessing that will never be depleted due to its overwhelming amount. While the 'treasures hidden in the sand' means wisdom, understanding and knowledge. It refers to 1 Kings 4 : 29, when God granted Solomon wisdom and great understanding, as well as knowledge that is broad as the deserts. By having wisdom, understanding and knowledge, our families will be sweet and harmonious. This valuable treasure we can receive if we fulfill Jesus' invitation to come to Him.
1 CHRONICLES 12 : 32 (NIV)
32 men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do - 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;
The Issachar tribe understood what had to be done and when. This is the key to success. In business, we must know what to do and know the proper timing to do so. As an example, without knowing whether to sell or buy and when, we would suffer losses.
The meaning of Issachar's name was no longer a burden to him. By handing his burdens over to Jesus and carrying the Word of God, Issachar received a resting place in Jesus and a very valuable treasure: wisdom and understanding. Amen.