Thursday, December 10, 2020

Sovereign Serendipity

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

(Luke 2:1–5)
Eleven years ago (the first year writing this blog), I reflected upon the upcoming 2010 Census and compared it to the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. What an amazing thing to think of Jesus being listed in a Roman census!

This year our country underwent a census again. But its execution ended up drastically different from the initial plan. Human plans have that tendency. We cannot fully foresee things like pandemics, natural disasters, economic plight, social unrest. We have trouble factoring in the possibility of something we could have never imagined seeing in our lifetime.

When Caesar Augustus decreed that the whole world should be registered, he could not have known that he was bringing the actors of Christ’s birth story closer and closer to their intended setting. If we didn’t know any better, we could call it coincidence. I think it’s sovereign serendipity. A marvelously orchestrated puzzle in the Master’s hands.

A few years ago, John Piper compiled a PDF of daily Advent readings called Good News of Great Joy. The reading for December 4, “For God’s Little People,” speaks to just this theme:
Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and legal father were living in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town?

Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige?

If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people — the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.

Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world. As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.
How many times have we looked at the pandemic, or politics, or the economy, or the topic of races and equality and asked God why things haven’t turned out differently? God isn’t above using things like these to teach us lessons, but if we look at the dramatic events of 2000 years ago, we see that God wielded a very empire to show His love. This year has not gone the way we expected. But I’m confident that we will look back on these days and see miraculous channels of God’s sovereignty and grace. His timing is not our timing, nor are His ways our ways.

God is an advocate for those who feel insignificant and disheartened. He is a God of compassion with hands big enough to move mountains and shape all of human history. We need only remember that He sent flood and plagues, famines and war, exile and silence in order to move us closer and closer to the birth of His Son. And He has the mercy and strength to do it again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.