Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 10: Providence in the Incarnation of Christ

"But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth His son...."
Galatians 4:4, quoted above, reminds us that God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, at the very time that had been prepared for His arrival. This preparation for His incarnation can be traced back for centuries before His birth, and right up unto the year in which He was born of Mary.

The word incarnation means, in this context, that God "took flesh upon himself" and became a man. Although still fully God, He became fully man in order to fulfill the prophecies and purposes related to His atonement for mankind's sins.

This chapter deals specifically with lessons from history and Scripture that point to God's providence in preparing the way for Christ's coming to earth as a man.

Lessons From History: Setting the stage for Christ's coming
  • Political Developments: A succession of empires (Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome) had come, grown, and gone in the eight centuries prior to Christ's birth. By the time of the Roman Empire of Christ's day, most of the western world was under one government. The Pax Romana provided ideal circumstances for the spread of the Gospel. Even the famous "decree from Caesar Augustus" (Luke 2:1) was a part of God's providential plan.
  • Developments in Commerce: Rome had advanced systems of communication and transportation (for its day), and God used Roman infrastructure to spread the Gospel.
  • Language: After Alexander the Great brought the Greek language throughout the New Testament world in the 4th century B.C., God directed the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek (today known as the Septuagint, or LXX). This enabled New Testament believers to have a widely accessible Bible, since Greek was far more common than Hebrew in the Roman world of the apostles.
  • Philosophy: The Greek-influenced world was accustomed to the debates of ideas (even in the year 2010 A.D., there are many places in the world where ideas inconsistent with the societal norm are scorned), making many more people receptive to at least hearing and thinking about the Gospel message. Both Greeks and Jews had ideas about logos (the Word, which is the literal meaning of logos, is a frequent biblical reference to Christ) that pointed in the general direction of Christ. See the book Not By Chance for a lengthy elaboration on this point.
Lessons From Scripture: The implications of Providence in the matters surrounding Christ's birth are unmistakable.
  • The timing of Zachariah's lot (Luke 1:9) was perhaps his only chance—in his lifetime—to offer the incense, and God had an announcement for him!
  • The conception and birth of John (Luke 1:5-7, 24-25, 57-66) was a miraculous fulfillment of prophecy. Like Sarah, Elizabeth was well past the age of childbearing.
  • The respective lineages of Mary and Joseph were planned (Luke 3, Matthew 1), and they brought up in the same town.
  • The conception of Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38) was timed in such a way, especially in relation to the betrothal, that Joseph was clearly not the child's father.
  • The ordering of the census (Luke 2:1-6) is clearly a circumstance Mary and Joseph could not have manipulated! No one could accuse Joseph of fabricating anything to make sure that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as prophesied.
  • The birth of Jesus (Luke 2:6-7)—the where, when, how, etc.—was all arranged to happen in a place for cattle.
  • Visits by the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) and Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38) were all planned by God to happen at precise times.
  • The Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) had knowledge of a prophecy of the birth of a king, and saw something in the night sky which was not seen or understood by everyone else, that accurately pointed them toward that king. They were first pointed to Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, in order that Herod learn of the event; then they were directed away from Jerusalem for their return trip.
  • The massacre of the infants (Matthew 2:13-23) was a horrible tragedy, and in truth, a rather inefficient way for Herod to try to eliminate the baby Jesus. Nevertheless, prophecies were fulfilled by this action (Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:15).
There are some lessons for us to take away from this chapter. God can, and does, direct and control all affairs of government, commerce, etc. God can, and will, lay the groundwork for the Second Coming of Christ. In short, God can, and will, do everything He has said He will do!

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

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