THE WORLD BEFORE THE APPEARANCE OF CHRIST ON EARTH
As we approach this season we call Christmas and honor the birth of Jesus, it is important for us to reflect on the condition of the world prior to His coming to earth. It seems that we confine the appearance of Jesus on this earth to the New Testament, especially to the Gospels. But God did not have a Kodak moment and devise a plan to bring the world out of its wretched condition and into a prosperous and peaceful existence.
Amid all the lights and bright shiny objects which are traditionally a large part of our Christmas celebration, we must understand that the only shining light at the time of Jesus’ birth was that star that guided the visitors to the stable to visit this new king.
John P. Meier, a biblical scholar, and professor of religion wrote: “Certainly there was tension. No one likes to have a murderer living over them or be heavily taxed.”
“The whole concept of civil rights did not exist,” “If Herod wanted to do away with you, he could slit the throat of anybody he wanted.”
It is necessary to understand the culture in the East at that time in order to understand society at that time. It was a time when gender separation was practiced.
The women spend the majority of their time inside their small houses, they cared for the children and tended the garden and whatever livestock the family-owned. As we learn in the Gospels the women went to the village well to fetch water. And, of course, this would have been the world in which Mary and Joseph lived and worked. Mary was in the home while Joseph worked in the carpenter shop.
In the world around that area, there was more darkness than there was light. We need to read from the prophet Isaiah to find the condition of the world. Is Isaiah saying in Chapter 8, verses 19-22: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult with the dead, on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land, when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” So, it was a dark and distressed world into which the Son of God would appear.
Isaiah’s prophecy we find in Chapter 7, verses 13-14 enlighten us to God’s plan to bring light into the world. There he says, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
But as we progress into the 9th Chapter of Isaiah, we begin to see some light and hope as he prophesies that “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by way of the sea, along the Jordan.
Hope for an improved life is seen as Isaiah continues: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. He speaks of the enlargement of the nation, of the joy of the harvest as they divide the plunder. He commends them for shattering the yoke that burdened them. The yoke is removed along with the bar across their shoulders and the rod by which they had been oppressed. The garments stained and soiled by their blood have become fuel for the fire.
And, then we come to verse 6 to see the ultimate hope for a world steeped in darkness. Isaiah says there, “For to you a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This is no leader who will be with the people for a time and then be removed from his position as King. We find further that there will be no end to the governing power of this King. “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
So, we understand that Jesus did not just appear and become a strong powerful leader of the people because of his personality or capable management skills. Rather, hundreds of years before His appearance on this earth, God already had the plan to bring forth His Son to bring a darkened sinful world out into Everlasting Light.
This article is Part One of Three articles leading up to the birth of Christ.
Gary’s Wednesday Word Princeton Christian Church 01 December 2021