It was a volatile time. Every adult had vivid, bitter memories of the demise of their nation. Some looked at their situation and into the future with anger, some with despair, and others with hope. There was one place where this hope was strong. Their capital. Though they no longer governed, their religious infrastructure still ran strong. But even here, confusion and disillusionment took the day.
It was in this temple, during this time, that a young couple brought a baby in. An old man singled them out and spoke a profound blessing. Then a woman “At that very moment, …came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38, CSB).
We know her in the story as Anna.
She was not a scholar well-versed in the intricacies of the Torah, making predictive calculations. She probably wasn’t a political scientist analyzing the conquests of her overlords, deducing that the situation for a deliverer was just right. But somehow, she knew where she was, precisely, on the timeline of God‘s redemptive history. Was this just a general sense she had from the talk around her? No, she knew what was happening because of an extraordinary relationship with God that impacted her life, her choices, and ultimately the people around her.
In contrast, my life often consists of doing the right things (work, ministry, etc.), and saying the right things (popular verses, current hypes, and pro-mission stuff, of course). If I need some excitement, I can respond to some type of emergency or crisis and feel like I’m a hero.
I think it is safe to say that this life is pretty typical for a lot of us. It practically becomes our theology. Time drags us along and we do our best to cope with it. If God has some type of timeline we’re living in, we certainly don’t see it.
But how did Jesus talk? Did he ever make it sound like there would be seasons of nothing but “normal grind” in the disciples’ life plans?
You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. You will be hated by everyone because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. By your endurance, gain your lives. (Luke 21:16-19, CSB)
This is just a glimpse into the typical Christian life as Jesus predicted it. It seems clear that Jesus viewed the age of the new covenant as a continuation of his life, one exciting saga that the disciples were privileged to be in. This comes out clearly as he prayed for them (us).
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:17-18, CSB)
God’s hand with His people throughout the ages of persecution, apostasy, mobility, and many other things, is writing an ongoing story. Are we aware of this? Do we know God so well that like Anna, we know right where we are in this timeline, this story? Do we know it specifically enough that our everyday actions and interactions are determined by it? Think about your favorite stories from church history. They made history because they knew where they were, they knew what God was doing in the world, and that’s what consumed their lives.
Recently, I was talking about this with a missionary who said, “I think we are in a closing epoch of time, in which God moves even more strategically than before to open hearts to the gospel and set the stage for the second coming!” Something about this rings true with me.
A few weeks ago I was driving down a narrow city street in a neighborhood where I have a lot of acquaintances. As I stopped to talk with someone, a rough character I barely knew pulled me aside. He wanted prayer. I clearly sensed desperation. It caught me off guard, but it shouldn’t have. Current world events are simply a part of God’s redemptive story. It’s our location, and it’s exciting.
My prayer is that God would put his Spirit in me, and my life choices would be inspired and altered by the acute awareness of where I am in His story. I trust it’s the same for you.