"In those days..." shows us our days are in God's hands

“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands

“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree… So Joseph also went up… to Bethlehem…”
(Luke 2:1).
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One of the most profound parts of the Christmas story is the small phrase “In those days.” This concept comes up repeatedly in the Nativity story. In those days there was a powerful Roman Caesar, a cruel Edomite king, a young virgin girl, an elderly Jewish priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, a righteous but clueless man named Joseph, startled shepherds in the fields,  Magi from the East, a devout man named Simeon, an old prophetess named Anna, and John the Baptist.[1] In those days…

God’s timing has always been perfect and will always be perfect.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…” (Ps. 139:16)

“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live… so that men would seek Him…” (Acts 17:26-27)

“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman born under the law” (Gal. 4:4).

“The mystery… to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment…” (Eph. 1:9-10).

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…” (Rom. 5:6).

“He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” (1 Tim. 2:6).

“The time has come… Repent and believe…” (Mark 1:15).

The coming of the Messiah was with exact timing. God does all things with precise timing.

Historians point out some elements of the exact timing of the arrival of the Messiah:

Pax Romana (Roman Peace)

For around 200 years (BC 27-180AD) there was remarkable peace or lack of war in the Roman empire. This provided a safe passage for the Messiah and His message.

Julius Caesar was killed and his stepson Octavius, later named Augustus, established peace by powerful armies and began taxing people to pay for those armies. He traveled with 23 legions—23,000 men. This tax is what is spoken about in Luke 2:1. Augustus also began the practice of deifying the Caesar. A practice the Jews and Christians resisted.

Roman Roads

During a period of 700 years the Romans built 55,000 miles of roads. These roads were built to move troops and maintain order in the kingdom (similar to our modern interstate system of highways).

The Roman roads were:

  1. straight, the Fosse Way only veered a few miles in 180 mile length
  2. paved with stone, had bridges, and drainage
  3. marked with signs and mapped
  4. protected and patrolled
  5. taxed and tolls were collected
  6. durable, it was the 19th century before roads of this quality and scale were built again

The Romans thought they built roads for the glory of the empire, but in reality, they built them for the glory of God. The Roman roads enabled the Gospel to quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire.

All the way to the British Isle and Germany and France, which affects many of us to this day.

Greek Language

At the time of Christ, the entire Roman empire spoke and wrote the Greek language and used Greek logic. This enabled the good news of Jesus to spread.[2]

The Greeks came first then the Romans. The Greeks by way of Alexander the Great introduced language, culture, and logic. The Romans used Greek culture and language but established Roman government and military might.

There were two Greek languages used, Classical Greek and koine/Common Greek. The koine Greek used Phoenician or Hebrew alphabet.

The Greeks, following Aristotle’s influence, introduced inductive inference/reasoning (e.g. Geometry).[3] Also, reasoned arguments like:

  • All humans are mortal, I am a human, Therefore I am mortal.
  • All have sinned therefore I am a sinner.

Septuagint

Sometime about 300BC in Alexandria Egypt, the Old Testament was translated into koine Greek. Tradition says by 72 translators. This translation is known as the Septuagint or LXX. Again, this prepared the way for the Gospel—God’s Word in man’s language. There is little to no doubt regarding the OT text because of the scholarship of these translators.

Diaspora

Beginning around 600BC, the Jewish people began to emigrate to the Mediterranean basin and eventually into all Europe and the Middle East. This was the initial channel for the Gospel into the cultures of the world.[4]

In the first century (at the time of Christ), there were more Jews living in Alexandria Egypt than in all Judea (see Acts 2:7-11). Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD and all the inhabitants killed and the Jews were driven out of the land. The land was renamed Syria-Palestine. So, Jews emigrated to North Africa, Persia, Caucuses, India, China (Kaifeng) North Europe, and eventually the Americas.

The North American Jews are the most intermarried of all the groups. According to DNA, the North European Jews came from four Germanic women. It is thought Jewish merchants followed Roman legions to Germania and married local women.

Synagogues

Synagogue is a Greek word. Before the coming of the Messiah, the Jews began to develop the concept of the “spiritual temple” as opposed to the actual physical Temple in Jerusalem.  So there were synagogues in all the towns and cities of the Roman empire. The priest became rabbi (cf. Mark 1:21).

This kept Judaism alive in all the diaspora.  There were two distinctives:

  1. Calendar – Sabbath and Feast days (The Greeks and Romans did not have a weekend in their calendar)
  2. Diet – kosher diet

Also, many Gentiles began to enter Judaism. For example, Cornelius in Acts 10:1-2. It was first to these synagogues that the apostles went with the Message (cf. Acts 17:1-4).

“In those days…”

Someone has said: A miracle is an event with precise timing that brings glory to God. This was part of the miracle of Christmas. “In those days…”

Our whole lives are made up of a series of miracles, from arrival to leaving this world. God is still orchestrating all the events of the world and in our individual lives—for His Glory and our good.

As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”

“In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful, in His time
 
Lord, please show me every day,
As You’re teaching me Your way,
That You do just what You say, in Your time.
 
In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful, in Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring,
May each song I have to sing,
Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.”
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Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

The second appearing of the Lord will also be with exact timing. As Matthew 24:36 says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

What is God doing with precise timing in your life today?

Colossians 1:9 should be our prayer: that God would fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

May we all have confidence in the Lord’s good timing this Christmas. As God did long ago—He makes all things beautiful in His time!

Amy, my missionary daughter, has had to wait for a visa and I have had to tell her repeatedly, you need to be patient, this is often the hardest thing for missionaries to do—be patient and wait for the Lord.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8-9).

“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands. And God is faithful.

Notes

[1] See Matt. 1:18-19 for Mary and Joseph, Matt. 2:1 for King Herod, Luke 1:5 for Zechariah and Elizabeth, Luke 2:1 for Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:8 for the shepherds in the field, Luke 2:25 for Simeon, Luke 2:36 for Anna, and Luke 3:1-2 for John the Baptist.

[2] Romans was wrote in precise Greek language and logic.

[3] Aristotle was born near Thessalonica (384-322BC). He was the tutor of Alexander the Great. What bearing does this have on Acts 17:11? Also, note: Very little of Aristotle’s writings remain yet no one doubts the authenticity of his work. Yet many doubt the Scriptures?!

[4] The apostles went to the Jews first (see Acts 17:1-4).

*Photo by Ivana Cajina

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