400 Years of Silence
JULY 27 - Nº 208 Galatians 4:4
For 400 years God did not speak to His people. He did not send messengers to warn them or inform them of His plans. He was silent! But that did not mean He was absent. He was busy orchestrating events and preparing the stage for His Son to enter the world. And Israel was in the center of that stage geographically and politically. God began by completely realigning world politics. When Malachi wrote the last book in the Old Testament (see #207 - July 26), the Jews were ruled by Persia. But it wasn’t long before Alexander the Great, leading the armies of Greece, took control of the world. He brought with him the Greek culture and language. Soon the whole world was speaking his language. (As a matter of fact, the entire New Testament was written in Greek!) After Alexander’s death, his empire split into four parts. A Greek leader named Ptolemy, declared himself the Pharaoh of Egypt, and Israel became a part of his empire. He governed the nation kindly. But soon Antiochus Epiphanes, another Greek ruler, conquered Egypt and began to rule in Israel. He demanded that the Jews worship Greek gods. He set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and offered unclean sacrifices on the altar to defile it. Those who chose to worship God were persecuted. This difficult time solidified the Jews as a community and motivated them to understand their faith. Finally, the Maccabees family led a heroic revolt that gave the Jews their independence for a brief time. In 63 BC, Rome invaded Israel and took control. Augustus eventually became Emperor, and the world entered a time of unprecedented peace. Augustus set up uniform laws across the empire, and soon a network of magnificent roads linked all the major cities. For 400 years, God was powerfully at work preparing the world for the long-awaited Messiah! A common language (Greek), world-wide peace, and magnificent roads would allow the news about Jesus to spread quickly across the whole world. Several religious parties were formed during this time as the Jewish people developed a new zeal for their Law. The Pharisees believed that Moses had received many more laws from God than those recorded in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). They handed down this “Oral Law”—rigidly interpreting and obeying it. The Sadducees, however, kept only the laws Moses had recorded. They did not believe in angels and denied that there was life after death. These two groups fought bitterly. And then there were the Scribes, who became far more than just secretaries. Their familiarity with the Scriptures allowed them to take on the role of teachers. Also, during these 400 years, new institutions were established. The Sanhedrin was made up of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. It was the governing body responsible for Jewish political decisions. And synagogues, which had originated during the Jews’ time of captivity in Babylon (when there had been no Temple), became even more popular as community centers of learning. It was in many of these synagogues that Jesus would later preach and heal!
God’s silence does not indicate His absence or indifference. He is always present and at work—even if it is behind the scenes. As we wait, He positions us and our circumstances so that when the curtain goes up, we are prepared to accomplish His mission.