“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)
It was on an elementary school playground during recess that I first heard the little rhyme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” It didn’t take long to learn the fallacy of that statement. Words can, and do inflict much damage and pain.
There is something else, however, that may have even a more profound impact than words, and that is ‘silence’. One poetess, Phyllis Mc Ginley rewrote that little rhyme to say: “Sticks and stones are hard on bones aimed with angry art. Words can sting like anything, but silence breaks the heart.”
When a loved-one gives us the silent treatment and refuses to speak to us, we can be assured we’ve probably said or done something wrong. That silence can bother us so badly that it awakens a desire to restore our relationship with that person and make things right.
During the four-hundred year interim between the Old and New Testaments, God remained silent. No signs or wonders from heaven, and no communication through prophets—nothing.
The last words of the Old Testament are Malachi chapter 4, which delivers a stern and frightening warning in verse one. Then verses two and three are a gloriously wonderful promise. And then in verse four God gives a direct command. Finally, verses five & six closes the Old Testament with the prophecy of Elijah coming again through John the Baptist. Upon whom the spirit of Elijah rested. Many, myself included believe Elijah will also return to earth bodily as one of the two witnesses for God, during the Great Tribulation.
Four-hundred years is a long time to give mankind the silent treatment. Hunger for a word from God was finally at its apex. That’s when the Lord chose to break the silence. And oh how gloriously He did so! For it was in preparation to fulfill the last two verses of Malachi. And to announce both the forerunner of our Messiah, and the wonderful coming of that Messiah, the long awaited Savior, Jesus the Christ.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah, to announce that he would have a son. He would be John the Baptizer who was to come in the spirit and the power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the people back to God and to herald the coming Christ. Six months after Zachariah’s wife became pregnant with John, the messenger angel, Gabriel visited Mary to deliver the splendid news that she was to be the mother of the God-man, Emmanuel (God with us), Jesus. Her fiancé Joseph was also informed of this coming virgin birth in a dream. What an awesome way to break the silence.
God’s timing was and always is perfect. World events were aligned in just the right way for prophecy to be fulfilled. So that, these happenings would have the greatest impact upon mankind. And what a tremendous impact Christ Jesus has made in our world. His powerful work offers eternal and abundant life, victory over the enemy, and a matchless love that lasts forever.
Today, we may get a little uptight when we can’t seem to hear anything from the Lord. But regardless of that, we can continue to trust that God is faithful. He always delivers on His promises. We can be confident that the Lord is in control and He has our individual situations and circumstances well in hand. God is not bound within time as we understand it. Peter wrote: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
This season as we prepare to celebrate that awesome event when the Christ child was sent into our world, I hope you will take the time to do something a little different. Before you read the usual Christmas story in the first two chapters of Luke, please read the last chapter of Malachi. Think about the long silence from God, and imagine yourself living your lifetime during that inter-testamental era.
You and I no longer have to hunger for a word from God. We have His complete word in written form, and we also have His Spirit joined with ours to lead, guide and comfort us. We are truly blessed to be living in this age of grace. Emmanuel (God with us) has come. He may have gone back to the Father bodily, but He has not left us as orphans. Remember Jesus parting words to you.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1b NIV)
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. (Psalm 86:5 NLT)
Have a very Merry Christmas!