Skip Heitzig - Learning to Tell Time
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Galatians chapter 4, and while you're at it, keep a marker in Genesis 49. We're going to be looking at that toward the end of this message, principally Galatians 4, but also Genesis 49. And I think it's appropriate that we just have a few moments of prayer together over this message.
Lord, we understand that seeking you is something that is done intentionally. It doesn't happen by accident. It's something that we have purpose in our hearts to do by coming here, by bringing our bibles, by opening them up, by inviting you to speak to hearts. Lord, even though the instrument you have today is an imperfect one, I pray, Lord, that you will speak clearly to us all about the magnificence, the majesty, the incomparability of Jesus Christ. And I pray we would learn to trust him and rest in him. It's in his name we ask. Amen.
So there was a blonde who was asking somebody the time, and just to prevent getting any emails or messages about the blonde jokes, because some people don't like them, let's put it this way. There was a blond pastor. How's that? Will that work. So the blonde asked somebody, hey what time is it? And the answer came back, it's 4:45. And the blonde said, you know, it's the weirdest thing, but I've been asking that question all day long, and each time I get a different answer.
One of the most frequently asked questions that I get as a pastor is what time is it? Not what time is it, chronologically, as much as prophetically. Are we in the last days? What time is it in God's prophetic calendar? What's the time? What's going on? What's going to happen next? Unfortunately, there weren't enough people asking that question during Jesus' time 2000 years ago. They should have been asking, hey, what time is it? Because Jesus, when he comes on the scene, rebukes the leaders for not knowing what time it is. He said, how is it that you can discern the face of the skies, but not understand or discern this time? He held them accountable, responsible to the point of pronouncing judgment upon them, nationally, for not knowing the time.
He predicted the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and listen to what he said. Listen to why. Because you didn't know the time of your visitation. So I want to help you today learn how to tell time, biblically speaking. Why is it that Jesus came to earth at the time that he did? Why 2000 years ago? Why didn't God send his son into the world right after the fall in the garden with Adam and Eve? That's where the trouble began. Why not nip it in the bud early?
Or for that matter, why not send his son in more modern times, like today? There's more people on the earth. The technology is better. You could arguably say it would make a greater impact. I mean, could you imagine the Resurrection being televised worldwide? So why did God send his son into the world at the time in which he did? Now, in answering that question and in teaching you to tell time, I'm going to introduce you to a new term. Some of you have never heard the term. Others of you have, but you are not sure what it means exactly. And it's the word, the term, Shiloh. Shiloh.
Now, Shiloh is a word that first comes to us in Genesis 49 when Jacob the patriarch is about to die. He's on his deathbed and his boys are gathered around him. All the 12 sons of Jacob that will become the 12 tribes of Israel. And he goes through each one, one by one, and gives a deathbed prophecy. He predicts what's going to happen to them and their tribe later on. And he comes to his son Judah and he says this, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a law giver from between his feet until Shiloh comes."
Now what does that mean? Who or what is Shiloh? Well, it's interesting that the traditional Jewish interpretation, rabbinical interpretation through the ages is that it's some reference to the coming Messiah. Shiloh equals the Messiah. So who is Shiloh? We know what happened with those 12 boys. They became 12 tribes, they grew. They became a young, small nation of families. They went down to Egypt and for 400 years they were under the bondage of Pharaoh. They cried out to God. God sent them a deliver. Not Shiloh, but Moses.
Moses wasn't from the tribe of Judah. He was from the tribe of Levi. Eventually, under Joshua, they inherited the promised land. They occupied the land, they spread, they grew. But Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim, not Judah. He wasn't Shiloh. While they were in the land they cried out for a King. God allowed them to have King Saul as their first King of Israel. He was a Benjamite. He was not Shiloh. He was a failure.
So the Lord raised up King David, a man after God's own heart. Don't you love that description of him? A man after God's own heart from the tribe of Judah, but he wasn't Shiloh. God told David that he would have a son who would occupy the throne and we know who that was immediately. It was King Solomon, but Solomon wasn't Shiloh. So after many years, the world waited a long time for just the right time, until God sent that one.
Now, I want you to look at Galatians chapter 4. The key verse is going to be verse 4, but we do need to give a little context. We want to read what leads up to it, and so you'll notice in Galatians 4, beginning in verse one, Paul the apostle writing says, "Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is the master of all. But is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so, we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son. Born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts, crying out abba father."
You know, we sometimes forget that the central theme of all of scripture is the single person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the mega theme. He is the central character from Genesis to Revelation. So that the Old Testament prophets predict him. They promise him. The Old Testament Christ is promised. In the Gospels, Christ is presented. In the book of Acts, Christ is proclaimed. In the Apostles', Christ is pondered, and in the Book of Revelation, Christ is predicted, but it's all about Jesus Christ.
And unfortunately, we think we can sort of jump in right in the New Testament without the benefit of the Old Testament. That's why this series Against All Odds has been beneficial because you read this man fulfilled this prediction made by that prophet. You sort of have to know what that prophet said to really get there. So if you just jump into the New Testament without the Old Testament, it's like going to a play but you don't get there until Act Two. And you know, that's always a problem.
If you come into the play during Act Two, you're going to be that nuisance who has to whisper to people around you, who's that guy? Why did he say that? What's happening now? Well, if you had been here in Act One, you would have picked it up. Right? So we read the Old and the New Testament together because the whole package gives us the central character and the storyline, so that it all makes sense.
So with that in mind, I want to show you from this text, five elements that point to Jesus first coming at being at exactly the right time. And there were several things that were right. First of all, the expectation was right. Verse three, "Even so we, when we were children, we were in bondage, under the elements of this world." Now, Paul in this section, is describing his religion, Judaism, like being a child growing up in a home. A young child who's a minor, coming of age. He's at home, he stays at home, and he is trained at home until he grows up and he is launched into the world.
And so Paul the Apostle is saying, just as a child is tethered to teachers and guardians until he comes of age, we were tethered to our religious system of Judaism until Jesus Christ came. But interestingly, Paul calls that a bondage. Notice that in verse 3, we were in bondage. He uses the language of slavery in this section, and that word, bondage, is tied to another important word in verse 5, redeem. That's all bondage. That's all slavery language. Redeem means to buy back by paying a price. So he says, we were in bondage.
Now, the Jewish people understood slavery probably better than any other people group at the time because they had been in slavery, in bondage, for thousands of years on numerous occasions. The first being when they were down in Egypt, they were slaves under the oppression of Pharaoh for 400 years. Moses was their deliver. He brought them out, but it didn't end there.
Pretty soon the Assyrians would come in and take them captive. Later on the Babylonians would come in and take many more of them captive. They would come back to the land under Ezra and Nehemiah, but then once they're back in the land, there would be more slavery in the future when the Seleucid Syrians came in and killed, and plummeted, and plundered the people, and exiled many more of them.
God sent him another deliver between the Old and New Testament. A Jewish deliverer by the name of Judas Maccabeus. But their slavery didn't end. At that time the New Testament was written, at the time Paul is writing Galatians, the Roman government subjugated them and they were slaves of Rome. They paid exorbitant taxes, they had to obey all sorts of rules and regulations, the Roman government stripped away many of their rights as citizens. So they knew what it was to be in bondage.
And by the way, even if they didn't have any human taskmaster at all, they were still in bondage to their own religion, their own law. You know why? Because God gave them the law, but no one was ever able to keep it fully. They failed in keeping the law. That's Paul's whole premise in Galatians and the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews.
God gave them a law, they couldn't keep it, so the Lord put in the law a system of animal sacrifices to have bloodshed to cover all of their failures and sins. But those things never ended. There was a sacrifice every day, every week, every month, every year, for your whole lifetime you would be used to this endless, tedious pageant of sacrifice and ritual and ceremony that never brought you any closer to God.
It's sort of like the opening scene from the movie Groundhog's Day. Remember that movie? Back in the 90s, Groundhog's Day? Bill Murray starred in it, and every day, the day opened the same way. Alarm clock went off, same old tune every day. Same sequence of events every day. Paul is saying Judaism was like Groundhog's Day. You wake up, you sacrifice, you wake up, you sacrifice, you sacrifice and it never brought you closer to God. So we were in bondage to those basic elements of the world.
Now with the bondage came a longing, and anticipation, and expectation. They were left in their bondage saying, when will Messiah come? When will the bondage end? And it was so inculcated into their culture that there was a prayer that the pious Jews prayed every single day, and many still do in orthodox circles to this day. It goes like this. I believe, with perfect faith, in the coming of Messiah. And even though he tarries, yet I will wait for him every coming day. So they had always expected the deliverer to come. But did you know that at the time of Jesus Christ, just before he was born, the expectation in Judaism for the Messiah was at its all time high. Sources tell us that at that time every Jewish woman wondered if perhaps she wouldn't be the mother of the Messiah.
There is a book called The History of Messianic Speculation in Israel. It was written back in 1959 by a very famous rabbi in Jewish circles at the time, Rabbi Hillel Silver. Listen to one paragraph I pulled out. He says, and I quote, "Prior to the first century, messianic interest was not excessive. The first century however, especially the generation before the destruction of the Second Temple, witnessed a remarkable outburst of messianic emotionalism. When Jesus came into Galilee spreading the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand, he was voicing the opinion universally held that the age of the Kingdom of God was at hand."
And he closes the paragraph by saying, "The Messiah was expected at the second quarter of the first century," close quote. You know when Jesus came? Second quarter, first century. No wonder when John the Baptist is down to the Jordan River, plopping people in the water, baptizing them. The first questions out of the mouth of the rulers in Jerusalem is are you the Messiah? They were expecting him and that expectation was at its all time high. So the expectation was right .
Second thing to make note of is the season was right. Look at Verse 4. Paul says, "When the fullness of the time had come." Stop. That's a very intriguing phrase. Fullness play Roma is the Greek word, means complete, or full, or plump, or ripe. The time was perfect, he is saying. The time was ripe like fruit hanging on a tree, ready to be plucked at just the right moment. It was the fullness of the time.
Now, have you noticed that God is into doing things on time? He's very precise about that. Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 tells us there is a time for every purpose under heaven. And if you notice that God keeps perfect time. His watch is perfect. Sometimes you think God is late. You're just early. You think God is slow. No, you're just a little too fast. Charles Spurgeon put it this way, the great clock of the universe keeps good time, and the whole machinery of Providence moves with an unerring punctuality.
I've had people tell me Jesus was a man ahead of his time. Or, well, Jesus was behind the times. No, no, no, no he came at the fullness of the time. First words out of his mouth recorded in the Gospel of Mark were the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand. So Paul says the season was right. It was the fullness of the time. Now, he does not tell us, specifically, what made the time so right, but let me make a few suggestions.
The time was right spiritually. I've already told you how there was an expectation a spiritual expectation at the time of Christ unlike any other time. They were open, they wanted, they were hungry for the Messiah to come. But not only that, did you know that other religions like the Roman religious system and the Greek religious system, that many of the people who subscribe to those beliefs, there was a hunger going on inside of them. They were burned out on the Roman polytheistic form of worship or the Greek polytheism, and they were attracted to Judaism's one God.
And so many were converting in different parts of the world in the first century, to Judaism. In fact, if you read your New Testament you know that the Centurion is spoken about favorably in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts. Many of them believed in the Lord Jesus commended one centurion for having more faith than any Jewish people in the entire land. In the book of Acts, there is a centurion who invites Peter into his house and comes to faith in Christ. Paul writes about people from Caesar's household converting and following Jesus. So it was the right time, spiritually. But it was also the right time, culturally, for Jesus to come.
You know Alexander the Great had a dream. Of course, he was dead by this time, but he had a dream that he could make the world Greek. He was a Greek. He wanted to spread the love so he thought everybody in the world should speak his language and follow his culture. So his dream was to spread Greek language and Greek culture around the world.
And you know what? He was pretty successful because for the first time since the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis, during the New Testament times there was a common language around the world, and that was Greek. It was said that you could go from the British Isles all the way to India speaking the same language everywhere you went. And what a language it was. The language of Greek, the most precise language ever to convey human thought, and that is the language of the New Testament.
But not only that, Alexander the Great, when he conquered Jerusalem, he encouraged the Jews to travel around the world and colonize the world into pockets of Judaism wherever they went. So that by the time of Jesus, you had these things, you don't find him in the Old Testament, but you find him in the new, synagogues. Jewish meeting places in virtually every city around the world where somebody could pop in, speaking a common language, and share ideas. So it was the right time spiritually, culturally, but it was also the right time, politically.
And here's what I mean. The King of the world was Rome. Caesar was in charge and Rome brought with it what they called the Pax Romana. You've heard the term? It means the Roman peace. It was 200 years of peace on earth, at least in the Roman world, and it was pretty peaceful. It was a stability enforced by Roman military, essentially. The power of Rome ensured that the places Rome controlled were peaceful places.
So they brought in the Pax Romana. Rome also brought in a road system. Get this, this is 2000 years ago. Rome decided to connect all the places in the world that had not been connected by a road system. They built 250,000 miles of roads. Many of them are still paved today. You can walk on them. They're made out of stone. 250,000 miles. Folks, that's 2000 years ago. I know roads in Rio Rancho that still aren't paved. The Romans paved the world at the time.
So now you have relative safety where people can travel from one part of the world to another part of the world, speaking the same language, and bringing their ideas with them. And you know who took advantage of that? Paul the Apostle. It's estimated the Apostle Paul traveled 15,000 miles on foot or by sea during his lifetime. So, now you have the gospel in the most precise language ever, under the most ideal circumstances ever, to people who are hungrier than ever, going to places more freely than ever before. It was the fullness of time.
So the expectation was right, the season was right. There's something else that was right, the action was right. Look at Verse 4 again. "But when the fullness of the time had come, God,," now watch how this is written, "God sent forth His son." Stop right there. I want you to think about that. God sent forth His son. That implies that Jesus was in one place first, before he got sent somewhere else. This phraseology suggests preexistence. The Nox translation puts it this way, God sent out his son on a mission to us. He was somewhere else first, then he got sent here. No wonder then Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, as he stood before him, for this reason I came into the world. I came into the world. It's what Isaiah the prophet predicted.
In Isaiah Chapter 7, "Unto us a child is born, but unto us a son is given." Yes, Jesus was born, but first he was sent by the father. So in John Chapter 6, Jesus put it this way. I came down from heaven. John Chapter 8, I proceedeth forth and came from God. So let me spell it all out. Jesus Christ was in the presence of God the Father, eternally existing as the second person of the triune God, and at just the right time, God the Father sprung into action and dispatched his son on a mission to this earth, a rescue mission from his presence to our presence. The action was right.
Not only that, the person was right. Look again at the fourth verse. "When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son." And notice how he is described. "Born of a woman born under the law." Jesus was the right person for the job, and the listing of his qualifications is here. He was born of a woman. Now, that's an odd thing to say, isn't it, because who isn't? Everybody born is born of a woman.
There's a religion in Israel called the Druze religion. It's from Egypt, actually, and it's the belief that when the Messiah comes he's going to be born from a man, and it's an odd belief system. But Paul Skip's all that nonsense and says no, no, born of a woman. But the reason he includes this, because it's an obvious statement, everybody's born of woman, is he doesn't make mention of a man. He doesn't say born of a woman and a man. He isolates it and says he's born of a woman. Why? Because Jesus was born as the result of Mary being conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph had nothing to do with his birth at all. So he was born of a woman.
Then look what else it says, born under the law. He's not just a man, he's a Jewish man. He was circumcised the eighth day. He was dedicated in the temple. He was raised in a Jewish home reading the Torah, worshipping the God of Israel. He attended the synagogue services. We know that. Like every Jewish male, he was bar mitzvah-ed. He became a son of the commandment, but unlike every other male, he actually kept the commandments because he was sinless. He was perfect. There was no sin at all in him. So this is the right person.
Now, I've said this before, but I need to underscore this. Jesus had to be both God and man to be a Savior, otherwise it wouldn't work. He has to be fully God and fully man, and that's how Paul presents him, that's how the prophets present him, that's how the Gospel writers present him. He was fully God, but he was also fully man, and he had to be both, otherwise what he did wouldn't of any consequence at all. He had to be human because he is representing humanity. So he has to feel all the pain of the punishment that is put upon him at the cross, but he also has to be God for his sacrifice to have enough value to atone for sin.
If I tell you I'm going to die for the sins of the world, and then I die, you know what just happened? I died. That's it. My death is of no value even though I said I'm dying for the sins of the world. The only one who would have value is somebody who is absolutely perfect, who lived the perfect life that we could never live, and then was sacrificed. Fully God, fully man.
Now I want to just step back from this for a moment and just tell you that this is what differentiates Christianity from every other belief system, every other philosophy, every other religion. It sinners on a person. Not on somebody's teachings. So many other religions it's all about follow the teachings of this person, or follow the example of that person. With Christianity, it centers on Christ, period.
Jesus never said follow my teachings, though his teachings are important. He said follow me. He never said, my teachings are the way, the truth, and the life. He said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. He never says, as many has received my core belief system will become children of God. He said, whoever received Him would have the right to become children of God. So he had to be God, had a be man, had to be a Jewish man, had to come at the right time, had to come when the expectation was at an all time high. And to what end? For what reason?
Verse 5 tells us. The reason was right. Look at the first two words. To what? To redeem. That's why he came, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption, I love that, as sons or children of God. And because you are sons, God sent forth the spirit of His son into your hearts, crying out abba Father. If you go to Israel today, you'll see little kids calling after their dads, and they'll say abba, abba! It means daddy. It's an intimate term of relationship. abba, daddy.
So here, once again, is the language of slavery. To redeem, to buy back by paying a price to set a slave free. That's what the word exagerado, or to redeem means. So to redeem. God went to the slave market of sin, he bought you, he took you home, and he adopted you. That's beautiful. That's what Paul is saying. The Son of God became a slave to allow slaves to become sons of God.
Now, what does that mean to us? It means you're not under bondage any longer. This is what it means to you. You don't have to grit your teeth and try to perform to make God like you. I got to work really hard so God likes me and accepts me. Done. Sorry, too late. He's already did that for you. What he did was enough for him to go to the slave market, by you, bring you home, and adopt you. So you don't have to perform for Him. Yes, he wants you to be obedient to Him. Don't mistake what I'm saying, but you are accepted, you are adopted, you are a child, a son or daughter of God.
So everything was set up perfectly, and at the right time, God sent the right person, and that right person was Shiloh. Remember, I said that at the beginning, and I mentioned genesis 49. So let's close on that note. Look with me at the 49th chapter of Genesis, and I want to show you something from that text. Genesis 49, as I mentioned, is the old patriarch Jacob. He is a death bed prophet. He brings his sons around him and goes through one son, and another son, then another son. Says something about their personalities. Says something about their future.
We get to Genesis 49, Verse 8. He gets to his son Judah, who will be the father of the tribe of Judah. And he says, Judah, you are he whom your brother shall praise. That's a play on the word Judah. Judah means praise. Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies. Your father's children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down. He lies down as a lion, and as a lion who shall rouse him. This is where the term the lion of the tribe of Judah from the Book of Revelation, comes from this idea in Genesis 49.
But look at Verse 10. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a law giver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes. And to him shall be the obedience of the people. You know what a scepter is, right? A scepter is a staff, a tribal staff that shows identity and authority. And in this case, it's the identity and the authority of the tribe of Judah. So the scepter, the rule, the identity shall not depart, notice what it says, a law giver from between his feet.
So the Jewish interpretation was the right to rule and the right to enforce the law of Moses on the people. So that's going to be intact in Judah, until Shiloh comes. You know what Shiloh means? It means the one to whom it belongs. The one to whom it belongs. And for centuries, rabbis taught this verse a prediction of the Messiah who would come. The Jewish targums, remember that book I told you about a few weeks ago? We went through all this, the targums, the Jewish targums, the Jewish midrash, the Jewish Talmud all agree this is a messianic prophecy giving a specific time of his arrival.
So to expand it all, it says Judah's national identity, which includes its right to enforce the Mosaic law, will not depart from Judah until the Messiah comes. You follow me so far? We have a little bit of a problem. Judah was taken captive by the Babylonians for 70 years. Remember that? When they were taken captive in 586 BC, they lost national sovereignty because they were slaves now, but they never lost national identity. In fact, they still in Babylon, had law givers and judges among their own tribe. The Babylonians let them do that. Then they came back. They repopulated the land.
But then something happened in the first quarter of the first century, just before the second quarter of the first century. To be precise, 23 years before the trial of Jesus of Nazareth, something happened. Rome, that had taken over the world, including the Jewish nation, took away from Judah, the right to adjudicate in capital cases. They took away the right to impose the law of Moses in capital cases. This is why they had to bring Jesus to Pilot to get him crucified, because the right of capital punishment was taken away from the Jews. They got to get him killed. They go to pilot to have the Romans sentence dropped, and Jesus died.
So, what happened when that happened? The Jews knew. This is what Genesis 49 is written about. Now, I'm going to read to you a passage from the Jerusalem Talmud by Rabbi Rachmon, who said, and I quote, "When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them. They covered themselves with sackcloth and ashes, exclaiming woe to us, for the scepter has departed from Judah, but the Messiah has not come."
That actually happened. 23 years before the trial of Jesus of Nazareth, in the first quarter of the first century, the Jewish leaders said we know what this means. The scepter has indeed departed, Genesis 49:10, but the Messiah, Shiloh, has not come. While they were parading in mourning in Jerusalem, a little boy was playing in Nazareth.
He was growing up under Joseph and Mary, and he was about to put his carpentry tools down and start his public ministry. And one day he would be sitting on a donkey and he would be riding into Jerusalem fulfilling what the prophecy said. And when he did, some knew, not all, Shiloh had come. The scepter has departed, but Shiloh, this is it, has come at just the right time, under just the right circumstances, for exactly the right reason.
Now, as we close today, I want some of you who are discouraged by whatever is going on in your life, and you feel like God's timing is way off, and you're looking and going, God, you're late. No. You may be early. You may be looking at the wrong clock, but God is on time. And if God would go through all of this intricate plan to send his son from heaven to earth, don't you think that he's got you covered? Do you think anything is slipping through his fingers at this point in your life? Do you have any right to pull out your hair and go, I'm worried. What? What, what, what? Perfect timing, perfect plan, perfect person, perfect reason. So this is a good time for you to lay down your worry, lay down your burden, and start trusting in Him.
Father, that's where we want to leave it. We want to leave our lives in your hands and we want to say to you that your timing is perfect. And even though we don't understand so many of the things that you allow to happen to us, or for that matter, actually put us into. And even though we sometimes squawk, and wonder, and worry because we, for some reason, figure life ought to be problem free. You are using even this, just like you used Rome, the tyrant of Caesar and the circumstances of Alexander the Great, to ensure the gospel would spread. You think far in advance. You think beyond the present situation. You always develop a long term strategy and we're a part of that. And even though we don't understand it, we've learned enough in the last few weeks to just stop our fretting and start our trusting. And so father, we intentionally lay down before you, our lives, commit ourselves afresh to you. For some who don't know you, I pray they would see this as a time to turn to you and to trust in you. In Jesus' name, Amen.