This is the last edition of the Gazette for 2017. How was the year for you? Was it what you expected? In January did you respond to the leaflet “10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year”? I don’t do that sort of thing as a general practice, but am grateful that I did this year and that I can see where God has been gracious and prayer has been answered.
Perhaps you didn’t use that document, but how are you assessing things as we approach Christmas and the close of the year? I want to use some Biblical examples to help us each assess our response to life’s experiences.
On the day of the Resurrection, two of Christ’s disciples felt let down as they said “…we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Lk 24:21). Jesus took time to explain to them from the Old Testament all that God had prepared and accomplished in His own life. The crucifixion was not a horrible defeat for God, but the fulfilment of His purposes.
Samuel, in the Old Testament stands in contrast to those disciples, because he is able to say, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) Although God’s people had been through, and were probably still going through very difficult times, Samuel was ready not only to thank God, but also to set up some form of memorial stone. He knew that God is able to use both the difficult as well as the happy or blessed times to work out His purposes.
As we approach Christmas, let me ask, ‘How has 2017 been for you’? Was it painful or was it happy? Was it disappointing or a fulfilment?
However you assess it, it was a year in which God was still in control and working out His purposes. At the end of this month we will again celebrate Christmas and hopefully will be take up with the great facts of the Incarnation – God taking on humanity. Writing in Galatians 4 Paul states “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,”(v.4) Effectively Paul is saying that when all the necessary events of history were complete God sent His Son into the world. Not one event of history was wasted. The Old Testament shows us a people chosen by God, who on numerous occasions turned away and lived in ungodly ways. At the same time many of God’s chosen leaders made horrible mistakes and had they lived in our current culture would have been dismissed and ridiculed on every form of social media. But the expression ‘the fullness of time’ means that God used each of those people and events to prepare for the coming of His Son. In another letter Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
In the same sentence in Galatians he explains that all this was done “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (v.5) To put that in bald terms, it means that God used the mess of human history, including the mistakes of His people in the Old Testament to work out His purposes.
2017 may not have been what you expected or what you wanted, but it has not been wasted. God is still working His purposes out. We will all have our regrets, and where those are a result of our own sin then we must repent and put things right, but we leave one year and prepare for the next singing with the hymn writer, “All the way my Savior leads me; What have I to ask beside?… For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well,”.
Jesus came the first time, came in the fullness of time, and He will do exactly the same when he returns to earth a second time. May He help each of us prepare for and live to His glory in 2018.
Bernard Lewis Dec 2017