How do you feel when you’re promised something and end up waiting a long time for the promise to be kept? Seasons of silence can rattle our nerves—and stretch our faith.
The Jewish people knew about waiting. In 538 BC the Jews, who had been captive in Babylon for seventy years, began returning to Israel. Their long punishment over, they anticipated the coming of God’s promised Messiah. This deliverer would save Israel from her enemies, reestablish the Davidic kingdom, and usher in an everlasting reign of righteousness and peace.
But things didn’t go as the Jews hoped.
From Bad to Worse
About one hundred years after their return from Babylon, the ministry of the prophets, which had been consistent since the time of Moses, ceased. After Malachi, the nation heard no prophetic word for 400 years.
Things went from bad to worse. Rather than the Davidic kingdom being restored, the brutal Romans ruled over and oppressed the Jews. The priesthood became thoroughly corrupted. Temple worship was reduced to a money-making venture. The spiritual leaders of Israel became an elite group of rigid, merciless legalists who turned the worship of God into an endless list of rules and placed an intolerable burden on the people.
But God hadn’t forgotten His promise.
Into the desperate condition of the Jewish nation, a voice cried out. John the Baptist, a wild-looking man who ate honey and wore animal skins, began preaching in the desert. John the Baptist, an unlikely messenger, began telling the Jews about the true Light that was coming into the world. This Light, he told them, would give light to all men.
People flocked to hear him. The Jewish leaders, however, weren’t so sure about John. As far as they were concerned, nobody had permission to do anything spiritually without their consent. So they sent priests to ask him, “Who are you?” (John 1:19).
John answered from the prophet Isaiah: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord”’” (John 1:23). It is worth noting that Malachi, the last prophetic voice to the nation, had also, like Isaiah, spoken of this herald who would announce the Messiah’s arrival (see Malachi 3:1). When God’s silence was broken, this herald’s voice was the first one that the nation heard.
As he preached, John baptized people. The Greek word for “baptism” is baptizo. It literally means “to dip” or “to die.” Metaphorically, it meant to change identity, appearance, or even relationships. By inviting people to be baptized, John was calling them to repent of their sins and to renew their relationship with God—the very reason the Messiah was coming into the world.
The Lamb of God
One day as Jesus walked toward John the Baptist, John called to the people, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). John was making clear that Jesus’ coming was not just for the Jew but also for the Gentile.
Israel’s response to the breaking of God’s silence was mixed.
The Jews expected the Messiah to be primarily a conqueror. The last thing they thought they needed was someone to deal with their sin. They expected the Messiah to conquer the oppressive Roman government and set up a worldwide Jewish kingdom.
But Jesus came first and foremost to be a Savior. And many who heard John’s message believed, repented, and were baptized—and their lives were changed.
When God Intervenes
There have been other silent years in the history of God’s people. During another 400-year period, the family of Israel labored as slaves in Egypt. Later, during the silence of the Dark Ages, God awakened Martin Luther to the power of God’s Word, and a great revolution broke out all over Europe.
When God intervenes, it’s powerful. His answers may surprise us, but they are ultimately and always for our salvation.
If God has been silent toward you, keep waiting and watching. God has precise timing for His plans, and He will be faithful to keep His promise in your life. The silence will break, as it did for Israel. God will speak and blessings will flow.