Week 5 Silence
THE MAIN POINT
The 400 year silence between the OT and the NT significantly shaped the world Jesus was born into. Sometimes silence speaks louder than we think.
Malachi 1:10, 3:1-6, 4:2
The Jewish people were experiencing a season of silence. A period of time, where they had not heard God speak. It had been almost 400 years since God spoke through his prophet Malach and the last thing that the Jewish people had heard from God was that they were not faithful to him. That they had not kept the covenant they had with God. That they had failed again and again and again. And while God will deal with their sin, he will not abandon them. He promises to redeem a remnant and send a Messiah to fulfill his covenant promises. For 400 years they have been waiting. Waiting for this Messiah. Messiah is a Hebrew word that simply means “the anointed one.” They were waiting for the anointed one who would fulfill the covenant promises and restore God’s people back into their relationship with him again.
This 400 years was known as the intertestamental period (ca 432-5 BC). During this period there were four key power shifts that impacted the culture Jesus grew up in:
The Persian Period (432-330 BC) – At the end of the OT, Judea was a Persian Territory but was locally run by Jewish High Priests. As long as the Jewish people remained compliant, they were mostly allowed to govern themselves and observe religious practices without interference.
The Hellenistic Period (330-167 BC) – Alexander the Great conquered Persia and Judea (and most of the world). He and his rulers who succeeded him were committed to unifying the world through the Greek language and culture. During this time The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) was commissioned and is highly quoted in the NT.
The Hasmonean Period (167-63 BC) – Antiochus Epiphanes prohibited core Jewish practices, like sabbath, circumcision, and destroyed copies of the Hebrew Scripture. He sacrificed a pig to Zeus in the holiest place of the temple, a highly offensive act that led the oppressed Jewish people to revolt. Judas Maccabeus led the rebellion, which resulted in the Jews retaking the temple, cleansing it, and restoring worship. This moment in Jewish history is remembered with the Festival of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah. Judea was temporarily established as an independent territory run by priests and kings. Judas Maccabeus and his brothers became the model for the expectation of a military, political messiah. Religious factions like the Pharisees and Sadducees emerged as powerful groups.
The Roman Period (Beginning in 63 BC) – The Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem, and the region became a territory of Rome. The Romans brutally enforced Roman laws as a means of keeping peace and stability. They also brought a culture of slavery and heavy taxation to the region. The local government was entrusted in part to local rulers, like Herod the Great, and in part to procurators appointed by the emperor.
Therefore Jesus is a born into a Jewish culture that has been interred with, controlled and changed multiple times over 400 years, and God has remained quiet throughout it all. The Jewish people were expecting a warrior, political, aggressive messiah who would once and for all over throw the authorities who have oppressed them. Jesus did not meet the expectations.
As you prepare the core of the message using personal stories and questions, keep in mind these points:
- God has not spoken for 400 years. I can imagine that many had given up and stopped believing that God would speak again. He’d been quiet for too long and why would he speak now? 400 years of silence. Generations of families never hearing the fresh words of God or experiencing his presence. Imagine that. Imagine how dry your faith would be? How gruelling the hard days would be? How desperate you would be for God to speak again?
- The world Jesus grew up in looked dramatically different from when Malachi last spoke the words of God. Greek culture had over taken and religiosity and Jewish hierarchy was the norm. Jesus did not fit the expectations of the messiah.
- Silence has a way of shaping our understanding of God. It either draws us to him or makes us so uncomfortable we run the other way. Have you ever experienced this?
As you prepare the application, challenge and/or encouragement, keep in mind these points:
- God is no longer silent. He spoke through Jesus and meets us through the Holy Spirit. However throughout the Bible God often speaks loudest in the silence. Do you ever have times where you embrace silence and allow God to speak?