For the six weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be surveying the Old Testament. From creation and the fall of man to the prophets anticipation, the entire Old Testament points to the coming of Christ. The rest of this year we will accomplish two things: 1) Teach a very brief history of the Old Testament and 2) demonstrate how every stage of the Old Testament is leading us to Bethlehem.
Perspective is everything. On Christmas morning, kids excitedly wake up early to check the tree and their stockings. They joyfully unwrap presents and play with their new toys. Parents are equally excited, however their perspective is quite a bit different. I spent most of Christmas morning assembling a princess castle. And I cannot tell you how may cuts I have from opening hard plastic packaging. The exuberance is the same – the perception is quite a bit different.
I’d like to do my best to present the birth of Christ from a different perspective than we’re used to. Obviously we know the full story. We’ve spent the past few weeks showing how the Old Testament points towards the coming of the Messiah. Many of us have read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and know about the salvation of the cross of Christ. But the Hebrews alive during the time of Jesus’ birth did not understand any of that. They had a totally different perspective.
After the exile, Hebrews were allowed to return to their homes. What they found was desolate cities, poverty, and constant opposition from the surrounding inhabitants. For a while, God still used prophets to instruct the people. And then one day, He stopped. For four hundred years, we do not have any record of a national prophet. God is silent again.
During this time, hopes for a Messiah began to wane. Questions of God’s faithfulness continued and the Hebrew people once again were left wondering, “when?” By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem, many of the Jews had given up or lost their sense of anticipation of a Messiah.
Galatians 4:4 says, “When the time came to completion [some translations say, ‘At just the right time’], God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” We actually see the timing of the birth of Christ is a common theme throughout the narrative of His birth. Luke 2:6 is one example: “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”
We often expect God to answer our prayers immediately. But His will requires patience on our part. God not only knows how to best answer our prayers, but also when best to answer them. Let’s see three observations about the timing of God moving.
1. God is moving when He is silent. Nobody understands waiting on God like the Old Testament character Job. In Job 30:20 he laments, “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; when I stand up, You merely look at me.” Do you ever feel as if God is refusing to intervene in your struggles? You cry out for help, but He just looks at you? Perhaps you wonder if God even cares. From our perspective, God is silent. But the reality is that He is constantly moving. Perspective certainly matters. Think about this: from our perspective, the earth appears flat. But when we zoom out and are able to see the big picture, we realize the reality of a spherical globe. God’s silent is how it feels, but it certainly is not how it is.
2. God understands our needs better than we do. God can see things that we cannot see. He knows us intimately – all of us. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” The question then becomes: if God can see fully, why is He often silent? Certainly God can be silent as a form of discipline (Hebrews 12:10). But I think most often God is silent because he knows what is best for us. Deprivation can draw out our desire for God.
3. The time for salvation is now. God waited 400 years between the final prophecy of the Old Testament and the birth of Christ. He spent centuries between the fall of man and the salvation of the Messiah. It just wasn’t the right time. But then the time came to completion. The era of salvation became a reality. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son….” We are no longer waiting for salvation. Salvation is here.
How is God speaking to you? Is He speaking through silence? Is He guiding you to salvation? What keeps us from obeying the voice of God? Right now is the right time. God has revealed His Son and salvation is before you. God has called you to respond right here and right now.