Erick wrote a post yesterday titled “To Understand the Beginning of the End, You Must Understand the End of the Beginning” which beautifully described God’s covenants with Abraham, Moses and Israel, and the connection to Christmas. I posted a comment posing the question “Did you ever wonder why God used angels to speak to Mary and Zechariah and Joseph?” with a possible answer. This post is the expanded version of that answer with lots of Scripture to back it up and an interesting twist at the end.
The left’s Christmas tradition is to minimize the holiday, because they have no understanding of Christmas or the Person being celebrated. They even go so far as to claim Jesus never existed. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that Jesus is not God when you start with the position that there is no God at all. And I think God might want it that way.
The deniers see a vengeful, capricious deity, whose rapacity for our affection and devotion causes him to become our ultimate stalker—watching every move we make, ready to pounce in judgment. This god has no plan, other than to force our worship at the business end of a very hellish gun. Their god is not worthy of worship, and certainly not exemplary of love.
God does have a plan, and very possibly part of that plan is the “strong delusion”. Because God is really good at going undercover. When he does, you never see Him coming.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
For thousands of years, God revealed His divine will by speaking through prophets, who were divinely inspired to write and speak. The entirety of the Law and the Prophets (the Tanakh, or canon of the Old Testament) was written in this manner, and all who read it were given the roadmap pointing to a Savior.
And “…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.” (Galatians 4:4), God did not speak through prophets. He spoke using angels as messengers. Why?
Perhaps God pulled off the biggest counterintelligence operation the universe had ever seen.
From the time God created Adam and Eve, we have had an enemy: Satan (which literally means “the adversary”) knows God’s Word, and his fallen angels hear much of what we say and write about God. Satan was on high alert for the birth of the Messiah in the years after the last prophet to Israel, Malachi, penned these words:
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
And Malachi’s final words:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
A prophet was coming, in the spirit of Elijah, a messenger of God, to prepare the way; and the Lord will suddenly come to His Temple. Satan knew this, and prepared for it. He knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah (Micah 5:2). And he watched closely.
Then there was 400 years of silence from Heaven. It wasn’t that nothing was happening, but God’s plan was unfolding without any further word. Satan wasn’t sitting still either. He inspired Alexander the Great to conquer the known world (the same bargain he offered Jesus in Matthew 4:8-9). He inspired Antiochus Epiphanes to destroy the Jews and spread Greek culture throughout Asia.
Antiochus is the poster child for Satan’s plan to deal with the Messiah. All circumcised children in Judea were to be killed, along with their mothers. We have to look at the Apocrypha (Maccabees I) to find this.
Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death according to the edict with their babies hung round their necks, and the members of their household and those who had performed the circumcision were executed with them.
Maccabees I 1:60-61
Satan had no problem killing every baby in Judea to foil God’s plan of redemption. But Satan didn’t know when it would happen. He thought that it might be Judah Maccabius (“Judah the Hammer”) who successfully defeated Antiochus’ army and rededicated the Temple. This is the story behind the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, celebrated for eight days on the 25th of Kislev.
When the “fulness of time” had come, under Roman rule, Satan was still watching, with his servant King Herod on the throne in Jerusalem, and many of the priests in the Sanhedrin on the devil’s side. These priests expected a prophet in the spirit of Elijah to rise up and proclaim the Messiah, which they would anoint and usher in a time of Israel’s ascendance above all nations, as God had covenanted.
But God confounded the wise, and they never saw it coming. God raised up a prophet in the spirit of Elijah, a messenger to prepare the way, but He didn’t allow human imperfection to get in the way of His plan. He used angels as His messengers. First, an angel called Gabriel spoke to Zechariah, a priest and a righteous man. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were the least likely couple to have a child, since they were both well over sixty years old. And when Zechariah challenged Gabriel, Gabriel struck him mute. This was a sign to Gabriel and also a protection: there could be no loose lips of this plan. The birth of John the Baptist was the universe’s greatest secret, and Satan would not be allowed to find out.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Gabriel directly quoted Malachi. There’s no doubt that John the Baptist is the messenger Malachi wrote about.
Then Gabriel visited Mary, Zechariah’s niece. Satan was looking for a priestly line in Bethlehem, not a priest’s niece in Nazareth. The chief Priests and Pharisees were looking for a great man to show himself through their Yeshiva (seminary), so they might test him. Mary was driven from Nazareth by the scandal of her pregnancy. This was no miracle to be announced, it was a shame to be hidden.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
Joseph was happy when Mary left to be with her uncle Zechariah and aunt Elizabeth. It gave him time to think.
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Elizabeth and Mary’s pregnancies overlapped by about three months: John the Baptist was six months older than his cousin Jesus. Instead of a grown man, a Priest, proclaiming the birth of a child, with the public miracle of a virgin birth, here a baby, the Messiah’s own cousin, who knew him from his youth, would announce the coming of the Son of God, and this knowledge was given by the Holy Spirit.
God was operating “outside the box” of the established religious order, and of Satan’s plan against God. They never saw Him coming.
When Jesus was born, only Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary knew the real story, and they didn’t know much, only enough to give them faith that God was about to redeem His covenant. The first to learn of Jesus’ birth were shepherds in the field outside Jerusalem, and they were told by an angel (and glimpsed the joy of Heaven as a choir of angels sung).
By the time Herod learned of Christ’s birth, the young child was at least a year old, when the wise men from the East arrived. Herod sought to learn the baby’s identity and location from these men, so he could murder the child. When the men were warned (again, likely by an angel) to return another way after presenting their gifts and worshipping, Herod reacted the same way Antiochus did hundreds of years earlier.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”
In keeping the birth of Christ a secret, God fulfilled all the Scripture that was publicly known and also known by Satan, without having to deceive (for there is no lie in God), and without allowing Satan to compromise the plan of redemption.
It was the greatest counterintelligence operation the universe had ever seen.
But there’s one more counterintelligence operation that is even greater. If God can use angels to keep secret the birth of Christ, how much more can the Holy Spirit speak directly to believers to keep secret His return?
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
God intends to tell believers of Christ’s coming directly, through the Holy Spirit dwelling inside each who willingly accepts Jesus as Lord. God spoke directly to Noah, not by an angel, not through a prophet (Genesis 6:13).
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
This day will come upon the world, and the only way to know with surety that the day has arrived is to know God through Jesus Christ. There will be no drill, no practice session, no rehearsal. It will simply happen.
And Satan, and the rulers of this world, and those who scoff at the name of Jesus, will never see Him coming.
(crosspost on sgberman.com as “Jesus: They Never Saw Him Coming“)