The breaking of the silence.
It was a dark time in the history of the Jewish nation, God had not spoken to the people in over 400 years. The 400 years in question is the time span between the Old and the New Testament.
The Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi; Malachi in Hebrew means, “my messenger”. Malachi is the final messenger or prophet of God in the Old Testament and then there is nothing but a long, eerie silence.
400 years is a long, long time. Does this mean God was not talking, working, acting on behalf of the Jewish people or even the world? No of course not, God said with certainty and a promise – “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Today when people ask the question “Why was God silent?” I wonder, are they really asking about the 400 years back then or are they asking about God’s voice in their own life – today.
We all have times, seasons if you will, when we feel God is silent, we look and search but He seems too busy, not available, perhaps silent.
How did God break the 400 years of silence? Not with anything remotely close to what we would think.
He spoke to a priest named Zechariah, whose name means “God remembers.” Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are elderly, they live in a little rural community and there is nothing about them that stands out. As a matter of fact, village gossip was probably such as to when Zechariah would retire, he was getting on you know and that trip to Jerusalem to minister in the temple was quite the journey for him in his advanced years. (Luke 1:7)
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, we know nothing much about them except they cannot have children, Elizabeth was barren and now elderly, they are past the point of having children. In spite of this huge disappointment in their life, they continued to stay faithful and serve God. Although the Bible does not say it, this couple stands out from almost everyone on earth, they did not know it, others did not know it, but God knew it. Faithfulness counts, even if not one other person on earth sees it, God does.
Picture it, God is standing around talking and He decides to send His angel, not just any angel, but one of His main guys, Gabriel to talk to Zechariah. I wonder if God had to strengthen Zechariah’s heart for the occasion. A priest only gets to go into the Holy of Holies by lot, chance, the pulling of his name, Zechariah’s name is pulled (seemingly at random) for this sacred occasion, he has waited his whole life, for this moment. He prepares and shuffles into the secret, silent most holy place in the temple all by himself to burn the incense on the altar. He is standing there preparing the incense and all of the sudden an angel appears and begins talking to him. Man talk about unnerving; the Bible says Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear! Luke 1:11-12. Probably that is an understatement and I hope Zechariah was wearing his brown pants that day.
Remember God has been silent for 400 years and now, on your turn in the temple, an angel shows up to have a conversation! What is worse, there is no one else around to corroborate your story, no one you can eyeball and silently ask the question, “Do you see what I see?”
Then the angel tells you something that is beyond miraculous, you are going to have a baby, yes sir, your elderly barren wife, is going to have a baby and you are to name him, “John”, meaning “God’s grace.”
At this point the irony is not lost on us the reader, God’s grace for a barren elderly couple, whose lives are about to turn upside down, with a baby. Try telling a woman in her 50’s or 60’s that she is going to be pregnant, not my version of “grace”.
God has been silent to your people for 400 years and He sends one of His best to tell you that you are having a baby. This is the message the world has been waiting for?
Then the angel says the part that grips your heart as a priest, for thousands of years, they have been hearing, reciting scriptures of the coming Messiah and this angel stands in front of you telling you that your child to come, is the fore runner of the Messiah. You hear from God Himself that the Messiah is about to arrive. He tells you first. Luke 1:14-17
Instead of jumping up and down with excitement, poor Zechariah does the most human thing possible, he questions the angel. ““How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18
It is as if the whole scene has not registered in Zechariah’s brain yet. He is alone in the temple with a miraculous angel of God, who is announcing that God is breaking the 400 years of silence with the news that the Messiah will soon be arriving and that Zechariah himself will be used as an instrument of God by having a baby. I can picture poor Zechariah shaking his head and saying “What are you talking about? This is not possible.”
Do we not like to do that? Question God on the matters of the impossible, as if God needs us to tell Him how the forces of nature work. If it was not out of the forces of nature, it would not be a Miracle!
Do you need a miracle in your life? Has God been silent? Christmas then is your time, it is the miracle to remember. Christmas is the time when God did a miracle to end 400 years of silence, first to an old man named Zechariah and then to a teenage girl named Mary (same angel by the way – Gabriel). Not quite how we would have arranged it, but that is the totally point – we didn’t and God does not work in our ways.
Are you thinking your miracle is not coming, it is past due, it is too late, never mind, God let you down. Well my friend, it is probably exactly the right time, you see God waits until it seems too late, too long, because then and only then is it a true miracle.
When you look at the manger scene this Christmas, that tiny baby that emerged from heaven and saved the world, let your heart reflect on your reaction. Will it be like Zechariah, who was too stunned to understand or as Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant, let everything you have said happen to me.” Luke 1:38
Let us put on our eyes of faith and walk confidently towards our future, knowing that “everything God has said” is true, all the hundreds of promises God has listed in the Bible are yours, every single one and the proof that you need of God’s love and care are lying right there in that manger.
Now that is a Christmas miracle to dwell on.