“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” ~Galatians 4:4-5
I’ve been teaching through Chad Bird’s wonderful book on Christ and the Old Testament at Daytimers Bible Study this fall. Early on I knew his second chapter had inspired my Evangel article for Advent. Bird, a Hebrew scholar and author, points out an interesting way that our description of past and future differs from that of the Israelites. We say that the past is “behind us.” We walk toward the future that lies “ahead of us.” The Hebrew way of thinking reverses this.
The Hebrew word qedem means “east” or “in front.” You orient yourself by facing east. By the way, this is where we get the outdated reference to Asia as the “Orient.” Interestingly, qedem also has a third meaning: “past” or “olden days.” To the Hebrew mind, the past is not behind but before our eyes. We have seen it. The Hebrew words for future, acharit and acharon, also mean “behind” or “at the back.” It is the future “behind us,” not the past.
A trip through the Old Testament yields many prophecies, foreshadowings, and prefigurements of the Messiah/Christ to come. With an eye to the past “before them,” the people of Israel walked backwards into the future “behind them.” Bird describes where this is going,
“By the time we’ve walked backward all the way to Bethlehem, bumped our legs against the manger, and look down at the human face of the divine Son, we will say, “Oh, yes, no shock there. God made it abundantly clear that one day he’d go all the way and take the human plunge.” (Bird, Chad. The Christ Key: Unlocking the Centrality of Christ in the Old Testament (p. 22). 1517 Publishing.)
Dear Bethesda, in “the fullness of time” the Christ child was born for you. Although our present world is troubled, and the near future is most uncertain, we are reoriented by the Holy Spirit. Repent, turn around, face backwards. Look upon all that God has done for us in Christ. Oh God our help in ages past is our hope in years to come. In faith, not sight, we walk backwards into the future and await the advent of Christ coming in glory.