Silence Please

Where’s God?

At the time of the events of Luke chapter 1, the people of Judea had been without a Word from God for over 400 years. Over 400 years separated the final events and final prophecy recorded in the Old Testament from the appearance of the angel Gabriel in Luke 1. The silence of those 400 years was deafening. Though the voice of God was silent, the hand of God was actively directing the course of events during those four centuries.

At the close of the Old Testament:

  • Israel was under Persian rule, (such as we see in the book of Esther).
  • Later, Alexander the Great defeated Persia, and the Jews were now subject to the rule of the Greeks. Alexander promoted Greek living (Hellenism) which produced a current of secularizing for the Jews. Most Jews began to adopt Greek as their everyday language.
  • For a short period, the Jews were under Seleucid rule and ultimately, under Roman domination at the time of Luke chapter 1.
  • The Jews were under foreign rule for over 400 years and consequently had been dispersed from Jerusalem and scattered all over the Mediterranean basin and Mesopotamia.

So What?

Don’t you love history and context? Well, regardless, stay with me — this may not be the greatest devotional message, but the context will shed light on what is really happening at the time of the birth of John and Jesus.
You know how we current-day Christians tend to gravitate to certain Bible passages and themes more than others? It’s true for all of us, to a certain degree. Popular preachers and authors tend to speak and write about subjects that are appealing to us. As an example, Joel Olsteen doesn’t preach the “whole counsel of God” from the Bible. He tends to stay within certain themes, and we keep consuming his content because, well, it feels good. The Bible does contain much about God’s anger, wrath, and judgement. But let’s face it, we all prefer love, joy, and peace. And go ahead and throw in some abundance and healings as well.

Where’s the Messiah I was expecting?

However, we are often hard on the Jews for missing Jesus. Jesus simply didn’t fit the bill of the Messiah they wanted and were waiting for. Throughout the years of the prophets and most likely during the 400 silent years, the Jews focused their attention on a Messiah of power, greatness, and might. A Messiah who would subdue the earthly enemies of Israel and set up a Kingdom on earth where the Messiah would rule and reign and Israel would enjoy their place as in the Kingdom as God’s chosen people.
The last prophecy given by Malachi before the 400 silent years began was focused on the Messiah as King and His Kingdom rule on earth.

‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.’ Malachi 4:1
Yikes, that’s harsh. But can’t you imagine that if you, like the Jews during the 400 silent years, had been under various foreign governments, you’d be hoping for this day that Malachi wrote about? Being one who is living under foreign rule, you might write this verse down on an index card, keep it under your pillow and read it every night.
You might also add the next couple of verses in Malachi to your index card:

But for you who fear My name, (the Jews are saying, ‘yea, that’s us. What’s it going to be like for us when the Messiah comes?’), the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall, (yes, freedom from foreign rule; we’re going to dance in the streets; preach it brother). You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,’ says the Lord of Hosts. Malachi 4:2,3.

Suffering Messiah?

Sure, the teachings of the suffering Messiah were there (Isaiah 53), but the Jews really didn’t see it. All they could see is the power and strength of the coming Messiah to conquer the Romans, set up His Kingdom on earth and elevate the nation of Israel. After centuries of foreign rule, Israel was ready for a Savior… a Savior that fit their liking.

I remember as a young, enthusiastic Christian at the age of 18, that I saw a placard that said, “‘I am meek and lowly of heart,’ Jesus.” I remember thinking, ‘I don’t like that image of Jesus.’ How short-sighted I was. Similar to the nation of Israel at the time of Jesus.

The Buzz

With this context, next time we’ll discover why the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist caused such a buzz. After all the years of silence and foreign rule, God is doing something. Is this baby born, called John, going to be the prophesied Elijah announcing the coming of the Messiah — the only Messiah that we really want… and need? THE KING!

Father, this topic reminds me that we often create You in our own image according to the God we want and we feel like we need. We have a hard time letting You be You. Lead us to love you fully as the God of all Your attributes. All Your attributes are beautiful, so help us to embrace them all by faith and full trust in You. Amen!