3. The Right Time

Meditations on the Reality of Christmas: 3.  The Right Time

Gal 4:4    when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,

There are indicators in the New Testament, that God’s timing for the coming of His Son was precise, there was no mistake about it.  The Message version has our verse above as, “when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son,” and the Living Bible puts it, “when the right time came, the time God decided on, he sent his Son,” and the same thought comes through – there was no mistake about God’s timing. There are other indicators around the New Testament.

Pastor, teacher and evangelist, Michael Green, in his book, “Evangelism in the Early Church” suggests there were a number of very specific and very practical reasons why Jesus and the start of the Christian faith came at this specific time in history.  This, in itself, is a contributory factor in being able to say that this was no made up, fairy story; these were events in time-space history, events that perfectly fitted in the records of history that we have subsequent to that time. Luke pounds us with this historical foundation in his Gospel: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)” (Lk 2:1,2) and then a bit later: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene.” (Lk 3:1) Historical events, historical people.

Now all this is very well from an intellectual point of view but if your names were Mary and Joseph you might not be quite so happy with this, because as we’ve seen before, “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” (Lk 2:4,5) Mary is expecting but she and Joseph now have to travel many miles to register their names in his family’s town, Bethlehem, purely at the whim of an emperor who had nothing better to do that show what a great empire he had. Forget the individuals, forget the discomfort and upset he may be causing many of his subjects.

So, as far as the big picture is concerned, it is just the right time; as far as Mary and Joseph are concerned, it is definitely not!  Now here’s the point I would like to make here: we may have relegated the Nativity to the realms of fairy story, folk-lore, or children’s play level, but the details of the story include many profound lessons. In what we have seen here, the main lesson is that God is never casual about timing and does things exactly so they fit the overall big plan. The secondary lesson is that when we look at our own individual personal circumstances we may not see how the circumstances are right for they may appear thoroughly inconvenient to us.

When we look at the Christmas story as it appears in both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, it is the story of God but a story that involves people and from their perspective things ‘just happen’ apparently without rhyme or reason. That is so often how it appears at the moment. So this is very real ‘where the rubber hits the road’ of practical reality. It is like it is because God who knows everything doesn’t share that ‘everything’ with us because we probably wouldn’t understand it or even believe it if He did. The underlying message of this story is that we “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7) So often we have to trust God with only partial understanding and we’ll have a look at that faith part a bit more in the next study. In the meantime, can we pray, “Lord open my eyes to understand the times and until I do, help me to simply trust you with what comes along.”

3. Jesus’ Timetable

Short Meditations in John 2:  3. Jesus’ Timetable

Jn 2:3-5   When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

As John’s Gospel appears to be the recollections of one man, John (as distinct from a collection as in say Luke), it is interesting to speculate that John was one of the ones at the wedding and how, in old age, he mused over the things he can still remember. He sees in his mind’s eye Mary turning to Jesus and quietly saying, “They have no more wine.” At this point John has no great expectations of Jesus and so is slightly surprised at Jesus’ slightly abrupt, “Why do you involve me?” Well, John might have thought, because she looks to you as the man of the house now your father has gone (no mention of Joseph in Jesus’ latter days – we assumed he has died).

But then Jesus adds something that might have had John wondering: “My time has not come.”  At the time John might have been a bit perplexed by that but perhaps later on he came to realise that Jesus had a timetable that he was working to, Jesus’ timing is not accidental. We find similar things later in the Gospel, e.g. Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right…. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come,” (Jn  7:6 & 8) and then, “At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come,” (Jn 7:30) and then, “He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.” (Jn 8:20)

There are a number of other time references in John that indicate Jesus was aware of what was yet to happen, e.g. “Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem….Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” (Jn 4:21 & 23) and “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (Jn 5:25) and “Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me.” (Jn 7:33) and “Jesus said…”Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (Jn 12:30-32)  The message is clear: throughout Jesus is aware of a timetable of things to achieve.

19. Time

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 19 :  A Time for Everything

Eccles 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven

Having reached a point of truth after all of his ponderings about the meaningless activities of life, in this new chapter Solomon considers the thought that although life seems meaningless from his jaded, somewhat godless perspective, nevertheless there is an order or rightness for living. Now it is no coincidence that this follows his declarations in the last three verses of the previous chapter where three times he refers to God. When atheists tell us there is no God, the one thing they cannot explain is why there is such an ordered world. They resort to mechanistic language such as ‘natural selection’ but that goes nowhere near explaining how inanimate material came into being and then created life, all of which ‘works’ with amazing order. It was that order which enabled the early scientists, who worked out of a Christian way of thinking – of an ordered universe designed by God – to investigate the world. We take for granted the orderliness of the world. If there was no God and it truly was all the result of random chance, then there would be no reason why it was not random chaos with things being very different from the incredible order that we see today.

Remember, Solomon was a ‘scientist’ of his day. He had studied and explored (1:12), he had applied himself to understand everything (1:17) like no one before him, and few since. Solomon knew about life, and many of his findings about human behaviour are what form the book of Proverbs. Solomon knew about order and about timing.  Order and timing go together.  In the way God has designed things, one particular thing follows another particular thing – in a certain time. You see this in child development and in the development of all creatures. Watch how that order brings forth a butterfly. You can’t change it and it takes time. Different animals have different lengths of time that they carry their babies in their womb. To bring to maturity ready to live in the world, it needs time. Growth is orderly development and it takes time.

Wherever we look we are constrained by time. Time appears again and again significantly in Scripture: he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” (Eph 1:4) The timing of salvation shows us that it was planned even before the Godhead brought the world into being. Then we see, when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” (Gal 4:4). The execution of that plan was brought into operation at exactly the right moment in history. As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Lk 9:51). The climax of the plan was being brought about according to an exact preplanned timing. The Passover, after three years of ministry was to be the climax resulting in the death of the Lamb of God. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6)

Paul understood this. Israel were utterly helpless in sin and in failure and spiritual barrenness under the Roman oppressors, after centuries of pointless squabbling. It was almost as if God waited for them to be at their weakest, and then He came in the form of His Son. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Psa 110:1) For the ongoing working out of the plan, there is that same sense if timing. Jesus will continue to reign at his Father’s right hand until he has achieved what the plan decreed.For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:25). It hasn’t happened instantly. In accordance with the way God has designed all things, so with salvation, there is a gradual working out of the plan of salvation of the world.

Again atheists struggle with the idea that God developed the world gradually. Surely they say this slow gradual social evolution of mankind can’t have been God. Why didn’t He just bring it all into being as it is now, why wait all those centuries of social development? Because that is how God designs everything – to grow and develop slowly, in stages, one stage building on the previous one. Why didn’t God accelerate it and give men ideas of great scientific inventions to bless mankind thousands of years ago? Why wait until modern history? Because three thousand years ago it would have been meaningless to them, so what they ‘invented’ was on a par with the level of their knowledge then. Wherever we look it is the same – gradual development. Order. Timing.

When you look at your life, the same will be true. We can’t rush maturity. It is a slow, gradual thing. There is no instant maturity. No, maturity takes time and experience. If that is true of me, it is true of all of us, and I therefore need to learn to be patient with other people and simply accept them where they are in their development now. Do you see, it applies in every area of life! In the days to come, we’re going to let Solomon open us this line of thought for us and, with the Lord’s help, perhaps come to a greater understanding of life than we’ve ever had before!