Today Didn’t Just Happen
JUNE 8, 2022
God is into preparation.
God hardly ever acts in a vacuum.
God almost always prepares before he acts, before he leads and before he calls us. The writer of Hebrews, before he expounds on the profound truths surrounding Christ, opens with these words: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
If you like to read mystery novels—and I do—you know that a good mystery writer puts hints throughout the story pointing to the bad guy. So when you get to the end of the novel and you know the whole story, you can say, “Oh yes, I should have known.”
The incarnation of God in Christ is like that.
God prepared everything beforehand. He brought the Romans, the Greeks and the Jews together, preparing their histories, so that when Christ was born, he was born at precisely the right moment. If Jesus had been born just sixty years before or after, you would have never known his name.
God prepared thought forms so that when Jesus was born everybody would understand. For instance, John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). The Greek word for “word” was one with which both Jews and Greeks were familiar. The Jews associated it with the “creative wisdom” of God and the Greeks with their philosophy as the glue that held the world together. The Romans (with their military prowess) conquered the entire Western World, creating a common coinage, a common language, and a road system that made the spread of the story of Jesus possible. Even the idea of sacrifice had been a part of every culture in the entire world—“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22)–developed completely apart from each culture. Add to that the fact that prophecies were quite clear about the coming Messiah and they were spoken hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
You begin to see a pattern. The incarnation didn’t just happen.
God prepared for Christ’s coming from the very beginning, putting the pieces of the puzzle together very slowly, carefully and intentionally so that when it came together, we would stand up and sing “The Hallelujah Chorus.”
So? Let me tell you. Knowing how God worked in preparing for the single most important event in all of human history suggests that it’s the way God works everywhere in general and the way he works in our lives in particular. That’s why it’s important to know our “stories.” In them, we find God’s work and preparation in our lives from the day we were born. Today didn’t just happen. Today is the result of the days that have gone on before—the people we’ve known, the experiences (both good and bad) we’ve had, the joys we’ve encountered and the tears we’ve shed. And more important than preparation is the awareness that every bit of that was overseen by a sovereign and good God who is good all the time even when it doesn’t feel that way. It means our lives have meaning and purpose. It means we are valuable and loved. “All things” really do “work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
You can trust God because he prepared for you to be his own and to trust him.
That’s the way God works.
There is one other thing. When God acted, he confirmed his action. Angels are everywhere.
Elizabeth was pregnant with John when she was too old to get pregnant…way too old. Wise men from other cultures showed when there was no reason for them to have left their own countries. There was the star in the east and even Herod knew that something was up. What was going on? God was saying, “It’s me! It’s really me!
That’s why there’s so much joy.
A physician friend once called to tell me that he no longer believed. “Well,” he said, “I do believe, but sometimes I can’t get it into my heart.” “Of course you have trouble believing,” I told him. “That’s why Christ died for you. He died for your unbelief too.” And then I said to him, “If you don’t believe, why in the world did you call me? Why are you still struggling? Where do you think you got this stuff that haunts you if it weren’t true? This is all too weird to make up and you wouldn’t have done it on your own.” He laughed and said, “I hadn’t thought about that.”
What was I saying to him? Just what I’m saying to you. God brought you to this point and prepared it all for you just the way he prepared for Christ’s coming. And not only that, he confirmed it in your heart.
It’s God’s way to prepare. It’s also his way to confirm.
For those of us who know him, God’s confirmation is everywhere. There is confirmation in the “lights” that come on, especially at Christmas time, when we’re reminded that it isn’t a story, but a space/time historical event. The stable was real, the shepherds didn’t make it up, and the angels really did make the announcement of his birth. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus came.
God’s confirmation is reflected in the shared self-confirming knowledge Christians have that God is there, he is kind and he doesn’t just love but defines himself as love. It is the present experience of knowing that we are forgiven, we are valuable, and we are acceptable because Jesus made us acceptable and told us so.
Do you remember the guys on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24)? After the resurrection, they were walking on the road to Jerusalem…when this stranger showed. (I believe, by the way, that was Jesus’ sense of humor.) The stranger, of course, was Jesus. In his kind of supernatural disguise, he taught the Scriptures that referred to himself.
Then it hit them. It was Jesus.
They said (Luke 24:32), “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
The “burning heart” was Jesus saying, “It’s me! It’s really me!”