This time in history is carved by the way of kings and kingdoms. For thousands of years prior to this moment, kingdoms conquered kingdoms that conquered kingdoms that conquered kingdoms. You get the idea. Think of Darwinian survival of the fittest on the scale of vast and powerful empires. The more land an empire governed and the further its territories were expanded, the more influence an empire controlled. The mindset of kingdoms shaped the world, and God's people were no different. It had been many, many years since the nation of Israel had ruled. It had been nearly uncountable, the amount of generations that had passed since the days of the great King David. They had known more slavery and had experienced more exile than any sense of true freedom in their history. Yet God's people eagerly waited for the days when God would send messiah to come and overthrow the power of the day, to set up His throne and reign sovereign over all, again. This is what all the prophecy had pointed toward. This is what God's people had longed for. But like we've seen so far in the story, things aren't always what they appear to be. This story continues to take unexpected turns and twists that involve obscure characters in the most unlikely of ways.
The creator God, sovereign king over everything, whose authority knows no bounds, whose divine presence presides over all of creation, has been orchestrating, ordering, and allowing the timeline of history to display and unravel His story. After all, all of history is His-story. The writings of the prophet Daniel have exposed past history and events yet to take place. Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, while Israel was in exile, God had given a young Hebrew boy named Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. Nebuchadnezzar, king of the ruling Babylonian empire, had an obscure and confusing dream and called Daniel in to interpret the dream:
"You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness,
stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.
The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze,
its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay,
and broke them in pieces.
Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces,
and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors;
and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found.
But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The interpretation revealed a coming prophecy. We now know that the first four kingdoms represented in the dream were the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. History tells us, completely in line with the scriptures, that the Babylonian empire fell to the Medes and the Persians, who were overthrown by Greece, who became the successor of the Medo-Persian Empire. The Roman Empire conquered the Greek empire. This is where the story lies as we open the New Testament. The Roman Empire is at its peak. The emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus, reigned for forty-one years, from 27 BC to AD 14. Under Augustus, the Roman Empire expanded its territories further and accumulated more power than ever before. It was called "the empire of the whole earth." Essentially, there were few places in the entire civilized world that weren’t in some way, shape, or form dependent upon the Roman Empire.
God has history exactly where He wants it to be.
His story is unfurling precisely as He authored for the most unlikely backdrop for the most unlikely of heroes.