Summary: 3rd in series on Galatians 4:4, describing how Jesus came at just the right time. This shows that the time was right SPIRITUALLY - He fulfills our needs as the Law never could.
Galatians 3:23-4:7 – It’s About Time
When was Jesus born? The one that Isaiah called Wonderful - when was this child born, and when was this Son given? There are many ways to answer that question.
Was Jesus born on December 25th? For about 1800 years, that has been the date assigned to His birth. However, December 25th was also widely celebrated day in the Roman world. On that date, citizens celebrated the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun in honor of the Sun god, Mithras. The festival took place just after the winter solstace. Many modern Christmas customs, such as decorating a house with greenery, exchanging gifts and enjoying festive meals, originated with this pagan celebration. Scholars believe that Pope Julius selected December 25th as the date of the nativity in order to win followers of Mithras as well as giving Christians an opportunity to honor Christ on his birth date.
Well, maybe it was some other time in winter, then. It’s possible that the sheep in the fields were kept outside year round. However, I have also read that sheep were kept inside during the winter, from November to March. So, it may have been winter, maybe not.
Well, what about the year then? Did Jesus’ birth cleanly split BC and AD? Our modern calendar came about in 525AD, when Pope John the 1st asked the monk Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar. Unfortunately, the monk missed some history classes in his schooling, and he forgot to take into account that Herod died shortly after Jesus’ birth. Herod’s death was fairly well-documented. So, according to our calendar today, Jesus was born in either late 5BC or early 4BC.
So where do we go from here? Jesus may or may not have been born on December 25, He may or may not have been born in the winter, and He was born 4 or 5 years before the era we call, “in the year of our Lord.” What do we know? We do know one thing: He was born at just the right time.
Two weeks ago, we saw that Jesus was born at the right time culturally. Most of the world spoke one common language, Greek, so the message of God’s love could spread easily. Last week we saw that Jesus was born at the right time politically. There was one government, the Roman government, which brought many blessings to the spread of the message: peace, roads, citizenship, protection, privileges, a postal system, and so on. And this week we will see that Jesus was born at the right time spiritually. The world was as ready as they would ever be to hear and receive the message of the birth and death of a Savior.
Our passage of scripture today is a little longer than normal, but it reflects the longing that was in people’s hearts before Christ came. Let’s read Galatians 3:23-4:7, one paragraph at a time. V23-25.
It starts off by comparing “faith” or “this faith” (v23) to what it was like before. Faith set us free from the prison, the confinements that we had when we tried to get right with God by being good enough. The new way to God, by faith in His Son, was better by far than what the people had been living for so long. The world was ready to understand the one true God as He really was. Let’s recap some of the Israelite history.
In 2000BC, Abraham had an understanding and a revelation of the one true God. Considering he was in the midst of a polytheistic culture, he understood that there was only one God. He understood, but his children kept on following after as many gods as they could!
Skip ahead 600 years. In 1400BC, Moses had a further revelation of there being only one real God. Moses came to understood God’s nature. But at the same time Moses received the revelation, the Hebrew people at the bottom of the mountain were worshipping a golden calf. And the battle continued as the question lingered: Whom will you worship?
400 years later, David was a man after the heart of the one true God. However, even though David’s son Solomon had more wisdom than anyone, he ended up building shrines to stacks of other gods. Under his son, Rehoboam, the kingdom split, and idolatry flourished.
The northern kingdom was overrun by the Assyrians in 722BC, some 200 years after the kingdoms split. And the southern kingdom was overrun Babylonians in 586, almost 350 years later. But the Babylonian exile of the Southern kingdom of Judah really smartened them up, as hard times often do. It’s funny how, when things are going well, we can be pretty lazy on what we believe, what we think is important, what we worship, all the things that make up our faith “identity”. But send us into problems, and we tighten up our theological belt buckles. We begin to cling again to things that really matter. And it is true to say that in the furnace of Babylon the Jews began to cling to, to identify with once again, the One true God and monotheism, their true roots.