The night before a significant birthday, my husband said he was going to a meeting. After settling into a quiet evening, the doorbell rang. This was unusual but likely one of the neighbors who sometimes dropped over in the evening. When I opened the door, my hubby stood there with our daughter — all the way from Texas here to surprise me. I’d been set-up and simply loved the ‘deception’ that brought me to tears and laughter.
Being set-up is not always positive. This morning I’m reading about a negative third factor that was part of “the fullness of time” in preparing the world for the incarnation. Jesus Christ would come with the Hebrew nation longing for their Messiah, the Greek-speaking united empire with their common language, and the Roman system of law with good roads for travel. These positives were combined with a degeneration of morality and religion. People in that part of the world had lost faith in their ancient gods. State religions were formal and rigid, too impersonal. The current philosophies did not appeal to ordinary people. Many were longing for redemption as ‘mystery cults’ rose up offering it through their strange teachings.
Into this came Jesus Christ offering salvation, forgiveness, and peace through faith in Him, His life, death, and resurrection. He supplied the answer to the void of that day, and He still does.
This scenario is part of my story too. I had been living as I wanted, selfishly and doing whatever appealed to me. Such an attitude brought consequences. The man I married was an alcoholic and the marriage failed. I tried to support my children and we barely had enough to eat. Jobs were scarce and so was money. Socially, I felt like a fifth-wheel in most situations. The local church welcomed me as an outsider but I sensed rejection from all sides. I was humbled by my failures (me, who always succeeded) and wondering about life after death. I didn’t know that I was being set-up.
One day, Jesus walked into my living room and into my life. He revealed who He is and why He came. By this time, I was ready for salvation, forgiveness and peace. He knew it, He came — and He has never left.
This factor in “the fullness of time” is important. No one wants a feast if they are satisfied. No one wants a warm coat if they are already warm. No one wants a Tylenol if they are feeling no pain. No one wants a Savior unless they are lost. This horrible sense of having failed in life, failed God, done everything wrong, being a sinner is part of what God must do to prepare the world and prepare individual human hearts for a visit from Him. Unless I felt the need, I would never have welcomed the cure!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)
Lord Jesus, I cannot remember all the details of the room I was in except that the sun was shining through the south windows and my sofa faced them. I was reading a book of false teaching, but it had a verse of Scripture in it and for that moment, You set me up. You timed it exactly right because as soon as I read that verse, You became exceedingly real, offering yourself to be all that I needed. Yes, I’ve since resisted, squirmed, argued and tried again to run my own life, but you have never left. You persist in teaching me, picking me up when I fall down, and turning sorrow and folly into joy with meaning. Anytime, Lord, anytime You want to set me up, I am willing.