The Story of Scripture, Part 11 – Broken Silence

When seventy years of Babylonian exile had passed, some of the Jews were miraculously allowed to return to their land in order to rebuild the temple and the city. However, it soon became apparent that even their best efforts under men like Ezra and Nehemiah could never bring about the restoration that God had promised through the prophets. In order for these prophecies to be truly fulfilled, they had to wait for the promised One whose arrival would be made clear by the sending of a forerunner; one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah himself. In this regard, the prophet Malachi said this;

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

This prophecy is found in the last book of the Old Testament. And once the canon of this testament was brought to a close, God did not speak for another 400 years. Moreover, this period of history would prove to be a time of great difficulty for Israel, being handed down from one super power to the next. By the time of the Gospels, Israel had not only been under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians; but also the Persians, the Greeks; and then finally, the Romans.

As is completely understandable, by this stage there was great anticipation among the Jews concerning the arrival of the promised Messiah. There was one thought on their minds: “When would the Messiah reveal himself; and how would God’s kingdom finally come?”

While various Jewish sub-groups (e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes) sought to answer these questions differently, they all basically agreed on one very important idea: their story was still waiting for an ending.

It is in this context then, that the gospel account is opened;

John 1:6-8;

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

400 years of silence was shattered by John the Baptist – one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Indeed, he said of himself;

John 1:23;

…I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.

The Story of Scripture, Part 10 – A New Covenant for Sinners

Having conquered its enemies under King David, the nation of Israel flourished. It reached the peak of its glory during the reign of King David’s son, Solomon. Unfortunately, Solomon yielded to a life of sin and sent the nation into a fast downward spiral. Israel’s condition became more and more severe as they slid down the track of idolatry and all-round rebellion. Even after God had sent them message upon message (through the prophets), warning them to repent of their ways, the downward cycle of sin continued.

This eventually led to their severe chastisement. God brought the Babylonians upon them to destroy their temple and have them taken off into captivity. Exile was a devastating experience for the Israelites. They had broken their covenant with God, and were undergoing the severe consequences of their transgression: no temple, no city, no land. All was taken away, and never was their sin so clearly before them. Yet, very purposefully, it was during this time that God’s covenant grace was most clearly revealed as God sent his prophets to console the people with news of the coming Saviour and the New Covenant;

Jer 23:5-6;

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.” 

Jer 31:31-34;

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isa 53:5-6;

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

Zec 9:9;

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.