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Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Wendy Wippel

Ever wonder why baby Jesus arrived in that Bethlehem manger at the exact moment that he did.  It wasn’t a whim.  In fact, God says the time was pre-appointed.  So why this particular point in Roman history?  No doubt God will explain personally someday, but from a purely practical viewpoint, it was nearly perfect.

Paul explained, in Galatians, that  the Jews were held in protection under the law,

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,  to redeem those under law, (Gal.4:3-5 NKJV)

So Jesus was sent at a time representing a fullness of time that had arrived, implying a time in which all the preliminary necessary events had been put in place.  So why would Palestine, at that exact moment, represent a time when all necessary preliminaries had been put in place?

Actually, a lot of reasons.

First of all, Roman influence was pretty much at its height.  At that point Rome ruled most of the United Kingdom as well as the rest of Europe, as well as much of what is now Arab territory. The kingdom was also at peace, and the roads were famous for extending throughout the empire, permitting relatively safe and unfettered travel thus, paving the way (pun intended) for news of the arrival of the promised Messiah. 

And later, His crucifixion and resurrection.

Furthermore, the foundation laid by Greek philosophers paved the way for thinking about higher things and therefore set the stage for the gospel.  (Paul used Greek philosophy as a springboard for the gospel in Acts 17).

And although in Rome the population spoke Latin, Koine (common) Greek was the unofficial language of the Empire and the language spoken for intercultural commerce, so in essence the whole world could be communicated to with one language.   And the language they spoke had arisen out of the Greek penchant for scholarship and philosophy, so really the first language was complex enough, with a diverse and specific vocabulary and meaningful verb forms capable of communicating the gospel in an accurate manner.

The pagan philosophies of Greece and Rome, however, offered no hope. They consisted of endless circular arguments, with philosophers asking questions but never offering solutions. Crime was rampant, and sin still evident, with sexual sin, in particular common, even flaunted. (We’ve all read stories of those Roman Emperors). People were disillusioned and desperate for hope.

More importantly, for Jews the prophetic timeline had been laid out, and many recognized that the arrival of the Mashiach Nagid promised in the 9th chapter of Daniel had to be imminent.  

Daniel had recorded a promise from God:

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks."

Artaxerxes issued a command to restore the walls of Jerusalem, so that it could be safely rebuilt, in 445 BC.  “Seven weeks” and "sixty-two weeks” refer, in the context of Daniel’s prophecy, to seven periods of seven years and 62 periods of seven years.

A total of 69 periods of seven years or in other words, 483 years.

And 483 years from 445 (allowing for changes made in the calendar in the intervening time), puts the arrival of the Messiah at 32 AD.

People were expecting the Messiah, and the expectation had reached a fevered pitch. Roman domination of Israel and Judah by their Gentile Roman rulers was detested, and the public longing for the Messiah who would liberate them from Roman oppression, and bring in the "Olam Haba” “the world to come”, (otherwise known as the Messianic Kingdom) was intense. 

No surprise, there was also was no shortage of candidates for Messiah in Jerusalem at the time.

There was Simon of Perea, one of Herod the Great’s slaves, who was killed by the Romans about 4 BC.

There was Athronges, a former shepherd turned leader of the rebellion under Herald Archaeleus, also 4 BC. 

There were Menahem ben Judah and and Simon bar Kokhba, both of whom born right around Christ’s death.

And these are only the ones we have recorded names for.  All of Israel seethed with the prophetic hope.

They weren’t alone. Due to the reach of the Roman Empire, Gentile populations throughout the empire had also heard about the Messiah promised to the Jews, and also waited in expectation of a miraculous event.  And all humanity longed for an end to war. The peace that the promised Messiah would bring with His kingdom, a kingdom that would everlasting and righteous.

And then it happened.  The Angel Gabriel appeared to a teenage girl in a podunk village in Galilee. and said, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”.

She was dubious, the Bible tells us. When she saw him, she was “troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.”

You have to wonder what exactly bothered her, as it apparently wasn’t his appearance. Did men not usually speak to young girls?  Was it just a weird thing to say?  Maybe just women’s intuition?

But the angel speaks to her again:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary had to have been dumb struck. As a good Jewish girl she must have known what he was saying:  “Me? The mother of the Messiah?” But she only asks one question:

“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

"And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  For with God nothing will be impossible.”

I think Mary, in a fleeting instant, counted the cost. She was betrothed. How would she explain this to her future husband? Would he cast her off? Would she be shunned?  Who would raise such a child?  But Mary, in stark contrast to Sarah, Abraham, Lot, Zacharias, and many other men and women in the Bible, responded to a direct communication from God with no arguments, no smirking, and no disbelief.  She responded simply and obediently:

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

And, as they say, the rest is history.

But also not a whim.  Paul told the Greeks in Athens that the God of the Hebrews,

“made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

God chose that time for Mary too, to give birth to the one desired by all nations. Wonderful Counselor. Almighty God.  Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace. 

Born in the fullness of time.

We also live in a time where communication has reached a zenith, men despair, and war rages.  And for whatever reason there is a palpable prophetic expectation, even among unbelievers who don’t really know what they are expecting. 

With another, more significant fullness of time on the horizon.

The world still waits for a Prince of Peace. And there’s no better time to share Him.

Wippel" href="http://www.omegaletter.com/content/?Bio_Wendy_page">About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Wippel" href="http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=7945">Away From the Manger



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