William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible commentary on the gospel of Matthew, wrote, “Men were waiting for God and the desire for God was in their hearts.”* Is it not ever so? Indeed, times there may be, such as at the birth of Christ, when that wait reaches fever pitch and that desire burns hotly within. But in all man’s searching, in all his clamor midst the crockery of life, and even in his negation of God, underneath simmers the plea for the divine presence.
Undoubtedly, Christ came “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), at that point in history specially prepared by the Father, when all the conditions were ripe and the millennial plans of heaven bore their sweetest fruit, when across the empire hearts looked for another hope, a stronger peace, a stabler government, a wiser leader, a higher purpose.
Even in the worst of times, however, when the hearts of men grow cold and love, except for self, turns stale, that inner void for eternal things still aches, the dead soul whimpers still, for no physical comfort nor carnal thrill can quench the thirst for the Creator. That divine image stamped upon the human psyche, engineered as part of his molecular state, calls to him; the shadow cannot stray from the body, nor can the breath subsist when the chest fails to rise and fall. As much as he may try, as far as he may run, man cannot flee from God and his inner being can never squelch completely the consciousness of the Lord.
David, king and psalmist, poignantly expresses in Psalm 139 that consciousness as one who rejoiced in God’s presence:
Where can I go to escape your spirit?
Where can I flee to escape your presence?
If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there.
If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.
If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn,
and settle down on the other side of the sea,
even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand would grab hold of me.
If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me,
and the light will turn to night all around me,”
even the darkness is not too dark for you to see,
and the night is as bright as day;
darkness and light are the same to you.
In God’s permeation of all creation David rejoices, while others — atheists, agnostics, rebellious — rail or lament, and ultimately deny it. But their denial permits the truth to raise its head, and in their perennial dissatisfaction they confess what their lips deny.
God give us strength to proclaim Christ in such a way that, whether men wait and watch for his saving hand to appear, whether they desire it openly or feel, in spite of declarations to the contrary, the merest twinge and slightest wish to fill the void, the message of God in the flesh, come to dwell among men and restore in them the divine intention, may extract the confession of Jesus as Lord and prompt obedience to that perfect plan so well adapted to man’s ultimate needs.
*William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, rev. ed., Daily Study Bible, vol. 1 (Philadelphia PA: Westminster, 1975): 27.