Most folks know A.W. Pink for his book on the Sovereignty of God. You may have had a “cage stage” Calvinist slap you upside the head with a copy. I still remember the first time I read it as well. It is definitely a classic, well worth the time to ponder.
I was thinking about the events of Christmas. I do not like calling it “the Christmas story” because it almost makes it sound like a fairy tale, and one thing is for certain, Luke in particular takes great pains to tell us this happened, when, and where, who was involved, etc. It happened in history. In fact I was listening to the Christmas concert at First Baptist, Lindale, and Dallas Holm sang a “Texas style” version of the Christmas events. And it got me thinking.
We focus almost exclusively on the events of that blessed night, for obvious reasons. But have you ever stepped back and thought about, say, the week before? No, we are not given almost any information about that time period, but we are told of the couple’s travel and why it was necessary.
I was struck this morning by the necessary reality of God’s utter sovereignty over not only the natural events of time, but the actions of men and nations as well. This event was prophesied hundreds of years in advance. Let’s think of the literally millions of “free will choices” that went into bringing Mary and Joseph to that cattle stall in Bethlehem at that time, at that particular night. It involved entire empires. It required the Greek empire to decline and Rome to rise and take over. It required Herod to be born and put in the particular location and position he was in, along with all the odd peculiarities (and even evil predispositions!) that he brought to the situation. Think of the travel itself: how many bandits and robbers were kept from their evil intentions as the couple traveled slowly along the road? How many others were moved to give assistance to the very obviously expecting Mary? How often could the mule have stumbled, causing Mary to tumble to the ground? What of the weather they endured? Provision of food? Protection from sickness? Movement of Roman soldiers along the roads? Millions and millions of interactions between the decisions of men and women and the natural world, political realities, local skirmishes—a mind-numbing myriad of factors. And yet, Bethlehem was the prophesied location, that very night the determined time, all of those involved, chosen, purposefully, from eternity past.
Does this make it a mere play, a story of robots? Only if you ignore the very central part of the narrative: the eternal Logos became flesh and entered into the world of time and space, and was born that night. The Logos did not become a robot. His actions were real, His words life. Eternity and time exist together in God’s purpose, the realities of both important and true. The one gives rise to the other, to be sure, but it is the reality of the eternal decree that makes the events of time meaningful and coherent.
So as you contemplate the manger today, wonder at the reality that the scene found on so many lawns and countertops and fireplaces around the world came about as the result of God’s eternal decree. It involved the decisions and actions of nations and empires, kings and emperors, generals and captains, shepherds and inn-keepers, even robbers and brigands, sheep and mules. Truly the Christmas event witnesses to the truth of these words from the Psalter:
Yahweh nullifies the counsel of the nations, He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of Yahweh stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Psalm 33:10-11).