Today’s readings.. Numbers 11, Proverbs 7, Luke 21
All my life we have read Luke ch. 21 and pondered its application to current events! Included in our ‘pondering’ is to understand the length of a generation! “Seventy” seems to be a significant number in the Old Testament, it occurs 3 times in today’s ch. 11 in Numbers and Israel went into captivity for “seventy years.” Tyre was judged for 70 years (Isaiah 23 v.15,17) and of course Israel was made to serve Babylon for “seventy years.” (Jeremiah 29 v.10; Daniel 9 v.2) From the birth of Jesus to the judgements on Jerusalem was a similar period. Psalm 90 tells us “The years of our life are seventy …” [v.10]
At the start of Luke 21 we see how the disciples are greatly concerned when Jesus says the Temple would be destroyed. “Teacher, when…” they ask “ [v.7] “what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” Jesus says, “when you hear of wars … do not be terrified … the end will not be at once.” [v.9]
Jesus then opens up a wide vision of the future. He tells his disciples (and us) that “Nation will rise against nation … there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this … they will lay their hands on you … you will be brought before kings and governors … This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” [v.10,11] It seems to us that this applies to ‘disciples’ of all ages – as history testifies. Today this is surely very largely complete.
It is after this that “… there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” [v.11] Nothing we know of in history really fits this picture. Verse 24 gives us a clear picture which indicates it is our days – a time when Jerusalem ceases to “be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles” that then, “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” That is time, says Jesus, when there will be “distress of nations in perplexity” with ” people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” [v.25,26]
These verses also imply there are physical events – but believers have puzzled whether Jesus is using symbolic or literal language!? Maybe they are both! For we also read in these verses that Jesus said that, “there will be signs in sun and moon and stars … the powers of the heavens will be shaken” and “the sea and the waves” will be “roaring.”
Finally, there is a message to us in v.28, that we should not be “fainting with fear” but “when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” That surely is a message for true believers in 2019 – and for whatever time remains, for it has been 70 years since Israel was re-established as a nation.