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Have you had to wait for a very long time for God to answer a specific prayer of yours? You know that what you are asking is within His will. It matches up with what is promised in Scripture. But, it’s not happening. Did you think God was being lazy or had forgotten you?
Maybe God has been preparing the background for answering your prayer today or in the future. That’s what God did for the Jews during the years before Jesus showed up for all to see. We celebrate Christmas beginning with Luke 1 and Luke 2—the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. But, have you ever considered that God started preparing for Christmas hundreds of years before?
I just finished writing and teaching a Bible Study of the gospel of Mark. Once again, I was reminded of the many things God did during the 500 years before Jesus came that not only made Jesus’s ministry more effective but also enhanced the spread of the gospel after the resurrection.
God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of His people for deliverance.
God promised Israel a Messiah, an anointed one from Him, who would be their deliverer and their king. But, in 586 BC, Israel found herself in exile in Babylon because of her idolatry. The people were cut off from their temple, divested of nationhood and surrounded by pagan religious practices. They couldn’t depend on those travels to Jerusalem for festivals and sacrifices a few times a year to satisfy their spiritual needs. In their places of exile, though, they carried their scriptures with them, especially the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament (Acts 15:21). The Jews met together in community groups for worship and reading of their Scriptures in what we now know as synagogues.
As a result, Judaism became a faith that could be practiced wherever the Torah could be carried. This helped to not only preserve Judaism but also prepared the way for the Christian gospel. The Diaspora (dispersion) of Israel begun in the exile accelerated during the years that followed so that by Jesus’s time Jews literally filled every land. Jews outside Palestine concentrated their religious life in the study of the Torah and the life of the synagogue. God-fearing Gentiles joined the Jews for the weekly worship times.
As Israel went into captivity, they disseminated the knowledge of the living and the true God. From then on, they walked the highways of the world, carrying a pack, doing business, building synagogues in every place, telling out: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.” That was their mission. All was in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. (Dr. J. Vernon McGee, How God Prepared the World for the First Coming of Christ)
The missionaries of the early church began their Gentile ministries among those dispersed Jews, using the weekly synagogue meetings as the platform for sharing the good news about Jesus.
Through the dispersion of Jews and the development of the synagogue, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of the people for their Messiah to come to deliver them.
A Common Language
Do you remember Alexander the Great from your world history studies? Not only did he conquer lots of territories from Greece eastward, but this action also spread the Greek language and culture to all those conquered nations. For the next 200 years, just about everyone learned to speak and write Greek. And, all the ancient documents were translated into Greek including the Old Testament ~200 B.C. This Greek version of the Old Testament scriptures is called “The Septuagint” (from the Latin meaning, “seventy”) because it was prepared by 70 scholars in 70 days. Guess what? Most of those people meeting in synagogues around the Mediterranean Sea were using the Septuagint as their Scriptures.
Alexander took Greek civilization to the ends of the earth, and may I say that he accomplished a purpose: God was disseminating a language that was to become the vehicle of the gospel, the Greek language. (Dr. J. Vernon McGee, How God Prepared the World for the First Coming of Christ)
Paul and other New Testament writers wrote in Greek which could be read everywhere in those countries influenced by the Greek culture.
Through the spread of the Greek empire, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of His people for deliverance.
Roman Roads and “Peace”
In the century before Jesus was born, Rome conquered Israel and the rest of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. And, they brought “peace” to the whole region, albeit a forced peace. Law and order prevailed. Anyone who rebelled was quickly squashed. The Romans were into major construction not only of magnificent buildings but also of roads so people could travel from the farthest reaches of the Empire back to mother Rome. This facilitated travel and communication between towns along these roadways. Paul and the other missionaries of the first century utilized these roads for their travel as well as the many shipping options available to them for sea travel.
Through the activity of the Romans, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of all people for deliverance.
Babies must be born and grow up
Thirty years before the Jewish people as a nation finally heard from Him again, God was at work. The angel Gabriel delivered the message to two people that their sons would be the ones through whom God would answer the prayers of His people for deliverance. But, before that time, the babies had to be born, experience childhood, and grow up into men prepared to do their work. That took 30+ more years of waiting. Only a few people knew what was going on during this time. And, they didn’t really understand it. But, they did their part in the preparation. John the Baptist appeared on the scene at the appointed time. Jesus left his carpenter’s shop a short time later and began His full-time ministry of teaching the people about getting ready for the Kingdom of God to come to them and healing them of their sicknesses.
Through normal human birth and development, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of all people for deliverance.
God is at work in the background for you, too.
I can look back and see how God was at work in the background preparing the way for answering some of my specific prayers that were within His will. It took time. I had to wait. But, the wait was worth it, and I praise Him for what He did during that time of waiting.
Can you look back now and recognize how God was at work on your behalf or for someone you love? Praise Him for that.
Are you still waiting for God to answer a specific prayer of yours? You know that what you are asking is within His will. It matches up with what is promised in Scripture. But, it’s not happening. Maybe God has been preparing the background for answering your prayer today or in the future. Trust Him.
Heartbreak to Hope Bible Study of Mark (read online)
Heartbreak to Hope Bible Study of Mark (download pdf)