If you were outdoors at the right time this past week (June 17–27), you could see five planets align in sky about an hour before dawn. In ancient times, such an alignment portended a massive upheaval, like a change of government or religion. This planetary performance peaked on June 24, with the moon additionally pairing with Uranus (visible halfway between Venus and Mars). Draw whatever conclusion you want regarding the significance of that date in light of current events.
That sky show won’t be seen again until 2040.
My point? We can come close to something spectacular and still miss it.
When Saul was king of Israel, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. They got sick from committing that atrocity against God, so the Philistines loaded the Ark on a cart and trusted a couple cows to haul it out of their territory (1 Samuel 5–7). Tragically, Saul didn’t bother to look for the Ark—but it was practically in his back yard. For fifty years, it languished in Kiriath-jearim, less than a one-day hilly hike from Jerusalem.
You don’t look for something you feel you don’t need. You don’t find something unless you want to look for it.
The ultimate “they came so close” was four generations of Herods and their interactions with Jesus.
- Herod the Great lived five miles from Jesus’ birthplace. He had a golden opportunity to find Jesus (Matthew 2:1-8); instead, Herod tried to kill Him. Ironically, Herod’s burial site in Herodium overlooks Bethlehem.
- Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas, dealt with Jesus as a grown-up. When Jesus was arrested, Antipas was “eager” to meet Jesus but became furious when Jesus wouldn’t perform a miracle on demand. Antipas feared that Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated—so Antipas sent Jesus to Pilate, who had the authority to order Jesus’ crucifixion.
- Herod Agrippa I, nephew to Antipas and grandson of Herod the Great (convoluted family tree) continued the animosity that two generations before him had for Jesus. In an attempt to eradicate Jesus’ followers and the movement they’d started, Agrippa I killed the apostle James, imprisoned Peter, and killed or imprisoned other believers (Acts 12:1-19).
- Herod Agrippa II (son of Agrippa I) listened to the apostle Paul’s arraignment in Caesarea (Acts 26). While fascinated with what Paul said, Agrippa II resisted Paul’s persuasive arguments for becoming a Christian. Agrippa II felt Paul wasn’t guilty of his charges but sent Paul to Caesar in Rome (where Paul was killed).
All four generations of Herods had the opportunity to hear the Gospel—and in two cases, actually meet Jesus.
They came so close.
But “almost” and “not quite” don’t accomplish anything in God’s economy.
For example, we can settle for information about God instead of encountering the Living God.
We can believe in God without trusting His promises. That’s like owning a car with an engine but no wheels. And we can ignore chances to share His love, compassion, and good news with others.
I lovingly urge you to ask God what you are close to but missing in your life. Above all, don’t pass up an opportunity to get closer to Christ.
Lord, show me how and where to shine your light today. Thank you that You are always with me. I don’t understand why You co-opt me into your plans. I feel ill-equipped but grateful that You want me to do things with You that are beyond my wildest imagination. May I always listen with your ears and act on your heart cries as each opportunity arises. I don’t want to come close—I want to BE close to You. In your precious Name. Amen.
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