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400 years of silence, where was the hope?

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

400 years of silence from God. God’s faithful people who were living when Jesus was born had never heard directly from Him. They had scriptures of course, but they had not hearn from Him. They knew about the days that God had a physical presence with the Israelites as they fled from Egypt and were building their own nation.

They were well aware of the days of the judges, the kings and the temple.

They read the words of the prophets.

Yet, for several generations there was silence. Where was God?

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

These words from the prophet Isaiah brought hope in the midst of fear and chaos. There was probably great anticipation for this Immanuel, whose very name means God with us. 400 years later were the Jewish people waiting expectantly or had they forgotten Immanuel?

Do you remember the joy of waiting for Christmas when you were a kid? Counting down the days to the night we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The anticipation and wonder are almost as exciting as Christmas itself!

Can you imagine waiting more than 400 years to understand what Isaiah 7:14 means. Did the Jewish people discuss it? Try to determine who this guy was and when he would come? As the generations passed was it even a consideration anymore?

God’s timing is always the best timing. When we are in that season of waiting it doesn’t always seem that way, but we always see the value of His timing eventually. Years ago, I read in Guideposts about a woman who prayed for her husband to be saved every single day. She was sure that God would answer her prayer and didn’t miss a single day of praying for him. One day, not long before Thanksgiving, she opened her door to a police man that told her that her husband had been killed in a car accident. She was devastated. She had prayed for him for so long but now there was no hope. The loss of her husband coupled with the fact that her prayer wasn’t answered on time weighed on her. She cried out to God, she screamed at God and then she started to doubt. A few weeks after her husband died, she answered the door again. This time to a man she didn’t know. He told her he had just heard about her husband and how sorry he was. They had been in a bible study together and the man had missed some of the lessons for various reasons, so he just heard about her husband. He wanted her to know how much her husband had grown in his faith. They had visited privately, separate from the bible study, and the man knew she wasn’t aware of the study. Her husband wanted to surprise her by going to church on Christmas Eve. The whole world changed for the woman that day. She was able to go into the Christmas season knowing where her husband was and that they would meet again. While she still grieved the loss of her husband this side of heaven, she had the hope she needed for the upcoming season as well as the rest of her life – the hope of eternity restored. God’s timing was exactly right once again.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5

400 years of silence included many changes in the rule of the land of Israel as well as preparing for the new King to come and save His people. God chose His son to leave the perfection of his throne in heaven so he could physically be with us. Jesus left the loving arms of His father to come to a cold and weary world to live with us, to show us compassion, (John 8:1-11) to encourage us, (Luke 22:32) to weep with us, (John 11:35) and to understand our fear. (Matthew 26:36-42) Why would He do that? To show us He understands our journey, He gets us. He’s been where we are, because in the fullness of time God sent Jesus to us.

What a beautiful way for God to show us that He loves us. To send His son to live with us, so He can understand us when He dies on that cross. He not only understands us but willingly takes on our burdens. That is love. That is God. And Jesus came to us in His perfect timing.

Long after the tree is down, the lights are off and the nativity is put away, the promise of Immanuel is with us. While the celebration of Christmas is with us for a season, the promise of Immanuel stays with us for eternity.

Eternity sure has a way of putting those 400 years into perspective doesn’t it?

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