The four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments is commonly referred to as the “silent years.” From the time of Malachi in the Old Testament until John the Baptist in the New Testament, there was no word from the Lord to his people. How many generations were born and died during that time with no word from the Lord? Four hundred years is a very long time.
Even though the Lord was not speaking as such during this time, He was working behind the scenes preparing for the sending of the Messiah. Galatians 4:4 tells us that the Christ was born in “the fullness of time.” That meant the exact time had come.
The Israelites had returned from Babylonian captivity. The Medo-Persian Empire still ruled Israel. Even though the Jews had given up worshipping idols, they were still not honoring God in many ways. About a hundred years later, Israel fell to the Greeks and then 10 years later to the Egyptians. They adopted the Greek language and many Greek customs.
Approximately 100 years later, the Syrians captured Israel, treating them badly even to the point of descretating the holy of holies. This horrendous act resulted in an uprising by Judas Maccabeus of the priestly line of Aaron.
Even though this group recaptured Jerusalem and cleansed the temple, fighting continued with the Syrians until the Romans gained control of Israel in 63 B.C. As the New Testament opens, Herod was king.
What was God’s purpose in the silent years? During that time, He was working behind the scenes to prepare the world stage for the birth of the Messiah.
Several prophecies were fulfilled.
Most scholars believe that was to be a time for Israel to be studying the Scriptures and seeking God and preparing their hearts for the coming of the Messiah, but yet they did not put that time to good use.
In fact when the fullness of time was come, most of God’s people were not ready, nor did they recognize the Christ.
Have there been times in your life when God seemed to be silent?
When God seems to be silent, it is easy to think that He has forgotten about us. When God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers, we are tempted to think that He just doesn’t care.
When we are going through some trial in life, we sometimes wonder where He is in the midst of our pain, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental.
Erwin Lutzer, author and former pastor of Moody Church, reminds us, “Don’t misinterpret the silence of God for indifference. “
When God was “silent” for 400 years, the Israelites must have had similar thoughts. Most were unaware that God was working behind the scenes and making preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
When Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and he ended up in prison, he must have thought God was silent.
Yet years later, it became clear that the Lord had Joseph right where he needed to be.
God had a plan for Israel even during the silent years. God has a plan for your life and my life even when He seems to be silent.
When God seems to be silent, we must live by faith. If He revealed everything to us, we wouldn’t need faith.
“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:11
Chip Warren is the past President of the Albertville Ministerial Fellowship.