Wednesday, December 23, 2015

God's Preparation for the Arrival of the Son in History

Galatians 4:4 "when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law".

It always astonishes me how much time and effort is expended in preparing for the celebration of Christmas. People spend months in advance preparing for the big day - from shopping to setting aside time on the calendar. Churches will spend months in choir rehearsals, newspaper ads and sermon series to make way for the focus on Jesus. These two observations pale in comparison to the great lengths God took in preparing for the entry of the Son into history. Lets consider today God's preparation for the arrival of the Son into time. 

God's big plans included all of history
When we consider the whole of history from Genesis up to the time of Jesus' birth, it is amazing to think about everything God orchestrated to make the entry of the Son of God into the world a possibility:

1. 3600 years from Genesis to Malachi.  From Adam to Noah = 1656 years.  From Noah to Abraham = another 350 to 400 years.  From Abraham to the end of Genesis = around 250 or so years.  From Moses' day in Exodus to David's time in 1 Samuel is around 400 years.  From David to Malachi's day is roughly 600 years.  God orchestrated the rise and fall of at least four world empires in between the Old and New Testaments (Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome). In addition to personages and political reigemes, the upsurge and spread of the Greek language following Alaexander the Great's conquest of the Mediterranean world in the 4th century b.c, as well as the building of the Roman roadway system following the conquest of the Greeks set the stage for what would be the spread of the Gospel following Jesus' ascension. Countless wars and 109 prophecies in preparation for when He would come were all used by God in the providential preparation for Jesus' arrival.

2. The silent years between Malachi and Matthew.  From Malachi to Matthew we see the word of God not being spoken.  Just because God hid His face did not mean His hand was not at work behind the scenes.  As we noted already, three world empires rose and fell.  At the end of the Old Testament, Babylon was in power.  In 539 b.c she fell to the Medo-Persia Empire.  This empire, predicted and spoken of in Daniel 2 and 7, was the first to begin the practice of crucifixion. 

Next came the Greeks, under Alexander the Great in 333 b.c.  After conquering Persia, Alexander began his program of making the whole world like the Greeks.  Everyone under his domain would speak Greek.  This language would be the language of the New Testament.  The Jews also made the world's first Bible translation - the Septuagint, in 275 b.c.

Greece gave away to Rome and the Roman empire devised the 50,000 mile roadway system throughout the Medditeranean world called "The Roman Road". It would be quite useful, especially when the early church would come to spread the goodnews of Jesus Christ. 

Rome by Jesus' day was experiencing politcal unreast in the Holy land.  Power had changed hands, and populations of people were being redistributed.  This is what prompted Caesar Augustus to issue the decree for everyone to return to their hometown to be counted.  Josephus the Jewish historian of the 1st century records this very census in his "Antiquities of the Jews", giving us a historical corroboration of the accuracy of Luke's Gospel. Because of that decree, Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, as predicted in the book of Micah.

3. The prophecies of the Old Testament. When you count up all of the prophecies that predict the first coming of Jesus Christ, the grand total comes to 109!  Some of these are so extraordinary, they are worthy of mention.  Genesis 49:10 tells us what tribe in Israel the Messiah would derive - from Judah.  Isaiah 7:14 tells us He would be virgin born, with Isaiah 9:6-7 revealing Him as both human and Divine.  Isaiah 53 reveals He would suffer and die, with Zechariah 12:10 using the term "pierced" to describe the marks on his hands and feet.  Psalm 22 unfolds the words He would speak on the cross and Micah 5:2-4 uncovers the place of His birth. 

All in all, God alone can cover the scope of the timing of events, peoples and places - for He alone is Big enough, Powerful enough and knowing enough to accomplish it.  If anything, the timing of Christmas shows us that salvation is of the Lord!

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