That Was Then?

All time is of a piece.

Deliver me, Jesus,
my soul from every vengeance,
as you delivered Martin
from the priest of the idol.

Deliver me, Jesus,
for the sake of your followers,
as you delivered Patrick
from poison in Tara.

  - Oengus mac Oengobann, Féilire Oengusso, Irish, 9th century[1]

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

  - Hebrews 11.39, 40

Some Christians seem to think there are two kinds of history, two kinds of time.

First, there is Bible time, and Bible history. Things happened in the Bible that were unique, and that we don’t expect to see happen in normal time and history, where we live, you know, today. Bible time was then. This is now, and we live in a different frame of reference than all those saints of Scripture.

Thus, we don’t expect God to do extraordinary acts of deliverance, help, and support, or extraordinary empowerments for witness or service. We don’t expect God’s people being suddenly and thoroughly revived and renewed in Him, or large numbers of people coming to faith in Jesus. That was then, in Bible times. In the here and now, such things don’t happen.

There is some truth to this view, but mainly concerning what we should expect as to how God reveals Himself (cf. Heb. 1.1-3). Apart from His ceasing to give special revelation in time, time and history then, in Bible times, are the same as time and history now, in which we live today.

Celtic Christians believed that their times were of a piece with Biblical time and history. The two stanzas from The Martyrdom of Oengus, cited above are numbers 27 and 28 of 30 stanzas in a row that begin with the supplication, “Deliver me, Jesus…” The first 26 recall incidents of the Lord’s deliverance of people in Scripture. Our stanzas carry the theme into Church history, through Martin of Tours and Patrick, then (stanza 29) to Coemgen (mid-6th century), and finally insisting, in the last stanza of this series, “Your miracles are everlasting.”

The implication is clear: The God Who worked in time to deliver the saints and martyrs of Scripture is still in the business of delivering His people today. His covenant, so powerful in its unfolding in Scripture, is still unfolding by His same power in our times. His miracles are everlasting.

The writer of Hebrews is, if anything, even more emphatic. After reviewing the saints of Scripture throughout chapter 11, he makes it clear that their times were not as fraught with power and potential as ours. The fullness of time, the consummation of the ages, was notduring Bible times, but now, in the latter days, when God is pouring out His Spirit and bringing the rich blessings of His covenant to full expression for His people.

There is no diminishing of divine activity during the times in which we live. Quite the contrary: God is more at work, more powerfully, and more widespread than He ever was in the days when Scripture was being given. His power to revive, renew, awaken, and bless is more active, more concentrated, and more effective today than it has ever been before!

Which is simply to say, we may trust Jesus and expect from Him more and greater things than we typically seek (Jer. 33.3; Jn. 14.12; Eph. 3.20).

But it takes faith to engage that power – the power of God’s Spirit and promises – and to enter the exciting and dynamic unfolding of that covenant story. Faith believes what God has written in His Word, and faith brings belief to fruition in everyday acts of obedience.

Jesus is ready to deliver you today. He is poised to meet your needs today. To empower you to be His witness today. To revive you to greater depths of life and love, and to flow living waters of grace and truth through you today. To startle the lost and encourage the saints through your servant-like care and love today. To turn your Personal Mission Field rightside-up for Him today.

The promises of Bible times – of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God – continue and find their fulfillment in our times, today.

Do you expect to know God’s power at work in you today? Because what was then is even more possible – not less – now.

Psalm 105.1, 2, 8-11 (Warrington: Give to Our God Immortal Praise)
Give thanks unto the Lord Most High; call on His Name, before Him cry!
Make known His deeds in every land; sing praise for all the works of His hand.

He will His covenant faithfully guard – His oath, the promise of His Word.
That which He to our fathers swore, He will perform forevermore!

Lord, help me to follow the example of Christ and His royal company, living for you in every way today. Adapted from Féilire Oengusso

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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Carey, p. 227.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore