Sometimes God’s designs and ways are cloaked with mystery. (Proverbs 25:2) But other times His works and miracles are simply overlooked or misinterpreted due to selfish preoccupation, faulty presuppositions, or crass disobedience. In Galatians 4:4, the Scriptures declare that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son to redeem us”. The “fullness” mentioned in this passage was the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy that provided insight into the time of Messiah’s appearance.
Calculating forward from Daniel 9:24-27 and Nehemiah 2, the first century Jewish leaders had good reason to believe that The Advent was upon them. Even the location was public knowledge. (Matt. 2:1-6) But a misplaced concern for Jewish nationalism (and ensuing political power-mongering) blinded them to the larger Kingdom agenda set forth by God. This, in turn, led to an inability to perceive “the fullness of the times”. Isaiah prophetically warned of this condition, and Jesus testified to the outworking effects. (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matt. 16:1-2)
Instead of waiting in expectant faith, the rabbinical leaders become despondent due to the loss of their national sovereignty. One tradition reports that in response to the taxation census of Caesar Augustus mentioned in Luke 2:1, they sat by the roads outside Jerusalem mourning yet another evidence of Roman rule. Instead of prompting repentance, this event fostered their questioning the goodness and sovereignty of God, and the immutability of His Word. They reportedly shouted, “The scepter has departed from Judah, and Shiloh (Messiah) has not come!” (cf, Gen. 49:10)
Ironically, as they tore their robes and tossed dust over their heads, a young couple, wearied from their journey from Nazareth, passed by on the way to Bethlehem to register for the same census. The woman was riding on a donkey and expecting a Baby who was the fulfillment of the times and all hopes. But they didn’t recognize Him or the signs of His coming. Their agenda was too earthbound to see or participate in the heavenly visitation.
This makes me wonder what I’m missing. Too often, I’m troubled by the loss of personal privilege, or angry when reminded that I don’t retain any real control over life’s issues. In response, I grumble inwardly, questioning the goodness of God and His wisdom. (I grumble in silence because I’m too proud to allow my colleagues to actually hear me complain and question my maturity.)
As a leader in the contemporary church, I’m too often preoccupied with matters other than discipleship and the care-of-souls. Externals matter more than internals. I pay lip-service to Christlikeness evidenced by sacrificial love, but do I actually practice it? (This is beginning to sound and feel a lot like those other religious leaders who missed the First Advent. Might I be unprepared for His Second Coming in the same way, and for the same reasons, they missed His First?)
I remember Jesus pointing out that wisdom is a prerequisite for being prepared for His Second Coming. He warned that there were two sets of maidens who were anticipating the arrival of The Bridegroom. (Matt. 25: 1-13) But only one group retained wisdom. The second suffered for their lack of preparation. It’s interesting that at the conclusion of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised that the man who hears His words and “puts them into practice” (emphasis mine) is considered wise, able to withstand the storms of life. (Matt. 7: 24-29)
Putting truth into practice seems to be a necessary requisite as we prepare for His Second Advent. When “The Final Storm” comes, only the man with a heart of wisdom will be adequately prepared, and his house will stand in that deluge. (cf. II Pet. 3: 3-14) I wonder if this isn’t what Jesus intended when He urged His disciples before His Ascension to “go into all the world and make disciples… and teach them to put into practice, (emphasis again mine) everything I commanded you”?
Often Christian leaders emphasize the first portion of The Great Commission, but there doesn’t seem to be the same emphasis on the latter portion: teaching disciples to “put truth into practice.” This raises a question: When we emphasize one part of Scripture to the neglect of other parts, aren’t we in danger of falling into the same error of the first century Jewish elders who missed His First Coming?
Oh that God might raise up modern day “Sons of Issachar” with the ability to understand the times in which we live. (I Chron. 12:32) Will you join me in praying that God will open our eyes and help us see opportunities to put His truth into practice, thus enabling us to see clearly? Blessed Advent Season!
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