Wednesday, December 21, 2016
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 preparing for the big day. 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. Sometimes Biblical theologians refer to the 400 year period of time between the Old Testament and New Testament eras as the "silent years". This term is used due to God not revealing further written revelation between Malachi and Matthew. As will be seen today, much activity was underway as God worked behind the scenes and in history to prepare the way for the first coming of Jesus Christ. Lets consider today God's preparation for the arrival of the Son into time.
1. God prepared the way for Jesus by way of a particular nation - Israel
We can sketch out how God was working from the beginning of history to bring about the nation of Israel, which in turn would be responsible for providing the humanity of Jesus through Mary. In Genesis 5, we find that from Adam to Noah = 1656 years. Then, in Genesis 6-12, we discover that from Noah to Abraham = another 350 to 400 years. Genesis 12-50 then records that from Abraham to the end of Genesis = around 250 or so years. When we turn to the book of Exodus and trace Biblical history all the way to 1 Samuel, we find that from Moses' day in Exodus to David's time in 1 Samuel is around 400 years. Then in rounding out our survey of the Old Testament, from David's days in 1 and 2 Samuel to the prophet Malachi's day in the Book of Malachi (the last Old Testament book in our English Bibles) is roughly 600 years.
2. God prepared the way for Jesus' first coming by the provisions of history outside of the nation of Israel
From Malachi to Matthew we see no new written revelation. 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. The Book of Daniel in chapters 2 and 7-11 would focus mainly on the events that would unfold between Malachi and Matthew.
Not only was God working in and through the nation of Israel (which is the chief focus of His Old Testament revelation), but He was also working in the surrounding nations to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. God orchestrated the rise and fall of at least four world empires in between the Old and New Testaments (Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome). Amazingly, from each of these pagan empires would come detailed contributions that appear in the life and crucifixion of Jesus.
At the end of the Old Testament, Babylon was in power. It would be from the Babylonians that would derive the Aramaic language, the common language of Israel spoken in the days of Jesus. In 539 b.c Babylon would fall to the Medo-Persia Empire led by Darius the Great. 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 Mediterranean world called "The Roman Road". It would be quite useful, especially when the early church would come to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. God prepared the way for Jesus' arrival through prophetic fulfillment
We've seen thus far how God used a particular people (Israel) and the provisions of history to set the stage for Messiah's first coming. Unmistakably these two theaters of Divine preparation were not hermetically sealed off from one another. Israel was situated in a specific context and place in history. Her exiles and historic battles would lead her path to cross with those of the other nations. God's program for Israel and the nations not only included their historic circumstances, but also their prophetic ones.
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.
We saw how God's perfect timing worked in preparing for the first coming of Jesus. In today's post we noted three areas used by God:
1. Particular bloodline of Israel
2. Provisions of history
3. Prophetic fulfillment
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!