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In the fullness of time

Our seemingly random comings and goings carry a lot of importance

In the fullness of time

(Krieg Barrie)

Since 1986 I have saved my kitchen calendars, those unsentimental diaries of a life of chauffeuring, car inspections, and returning library books. Their tattered pages contain many cross-outs and reschedulings of events that did not come to pass as I had planned. 

I often marvel that nothing in the future—even two or three days hence—is ever certain. All is subject to the unforeseen: Someone wanted to swap Sunday school duty so I penciled through Feb. 23 and took the following week. A May 27 doctor’s appointment with Glassman: canceled, since Eun Kyung visited from Korea. Dina at Village Diner: X-ed out, and underneath the hasty scrawl, “See Juliette.”

In contrast to this, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). No postponements, nor bumping up the date due to a cancellation. The time of Messiah’s appearing is predicted by Daniel, down to the year, 600 years before: “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks” (Daniel 9:25).

Imagine the perfect coordination of every seemingly random molecule under the sun required for the delivery of a baby in a barn in Bethlehem. Noah had to wield his hammer at the right moment, Eli had to be in the temple the day Hannah was crying, Mordecai had to overhear the plot of the king’s two eunuchs. All must be achieved using agents making choices with authentic wills.

Beyond that, think of all the prophecies that Christ fulfilled: He had to be of the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3); proceeding through Isaac’s branch (Genesis 17:19); narrowing further through Jacob (Numbers 24:17) and Judah (Genesis 49:10); a descendant of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:7).

Besides Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-6), He had to be somehow from Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14-15), Nazareth (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 2:23), and Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:13-16). He needed a birthplace massacre (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18) and a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60).

Imagine the perfect coordination of every seemingly random molecule under the sun required for the delivery of a baby in a barn in Bethlehem.

He also needed a death following betrayal (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Luke 22:47-48), the exchange of money (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10), false accusations (Psalm 35:11; Mark 14:57-58), spitting (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67), vinegar (Psalm 69:21), bound hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; John 20:25-27) but no broken bones (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36), and a gambling game for garment spoils (Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34).

The man fitting this bill had to be both regal (Psalm 45) and meek (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:63; 27:12-14); every inch a king (Psalm 2:6; John 18:37) yet submitting to God (Psalm 40:7-8; Mark 10:45); ruler of the nations (Psalm 2:8-9) yet suffering servant (Isaiah 42:1); cut down in the prime of life (Psalm 89:45), yet master of the timing (John 7:6). 

That’s only the beginning. My get-together with Howard and Betsy has been bumped three times for circumstances beyond our control. But God’s calendar date for the spread of the Messiah’s message is a flawless confluence of thousand-mile Roman road-building projects, the Pax Romana, the religious vacuum following conquest, a universal linguistic delivery system in Koine Greek, a language unassociated with imperialism yet capable of the necessary subtlety. 

“Probably no period in the history of the world was better suited to receive the infant church than the first century A.D. … By the second century Christians … began to argue that it was a divine providence which had prepared the world for the advent of Christianity” (Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green).

Nevertheless, “the fullness of time” would be naught but a lovely daisy chain to be admired from a distant outpost, far from God and far from hope, had He not woven it still further till it reached to you and took in all your comings and your goings. Then the star that shone on Bethlehem did shine upon your soul, and you were smitten by its light.

Email aseupeterson@wng.org

Comments

  • Gene Chase
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:21 pm

    I've heard almost all of this before, but never as succinctly.  I'm saving it for passing on.  Thank you.One exception to "I knew it already":  I never thought that Koine Greek was "a language unassociated with imperialism." What a great thought!As a linguist, I take only one small exception: It's true that Koine Greek is "capable of the necessary subtlety."  But so is every other language.  That's not to say that an idea can be stated as succinctly in Quechua or Mandarin as in Greek, but it can be stated.Your essays are always a cause for much reflection.  Thanks again.

  • The Errant Economist
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:21 pm

    I learned just last night something about the "butterfly effect": the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.  (World readers can google this term to find out even more about it). I began to think of the spiritual implications: Christ's coming to earth; 'what you sow you shall reap', random or unplanned acts of kindnesses. I wouldn't say that Christ's first advent is a 'minute localized change' since his arrival was foreseen (and planned) to have major impacts from before eternity, but the birth of one little baby in the eyes of people living in a very big world would be seen as such. Random? No? Impacts: life changing and eternal. 

  • mizpahlady's picture
    mizpahlady
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:21 pm

    What beautiful sentiments, and truths.  It does astound the brain, doesn't it- seeing the detail of our Almighty God. 

  • bwsmith's picture
    bwsmith
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:21 pm

    Thanks for blessed reminder of all God has done in giving HIs Son. I loved your piece -- and I love the artwork!

  • Laura W
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:21 pm

    Amen. Praise God!