Advent, Advent Devotional, Christmas, Promised Hope

The Original Silent Treatment

The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi

Seventy long years. The people of Judah lived in Babylon for seventy years, just as Jeremiah had told them they would. They lived among people who knew nothing of the LORD God nor His ways. Those years took their spiritual toll.

When Persia eventually captured Babylon, God moved in the heart of the King of Persia, a king who knew Him not. King Cyrus told the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the House of the God of Israel.

He not only funded the rebuilding of the temple but, with his own hands, brought out the sacred articles that had been taken from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, and sent them back to Jerusalem. To be placed in the new temple.

So, with the king’s permission, some of the promised people returned home. But not everyone. Many chose to stay in Persia, for it was all they knew. For others, the task of returning to a decimated city was overwhelming. And perhaps others had become much like the people of Babylon, and returning to Jerusalem meant nothing to them.

In Jerusalem, Ezra led the way in rebuilding the temple. Nehemiah returned to rebuild the wall for protection. Later, he took extraordinary measures to restore a moral and liturgical conscience to the people.

They returned to the LORD God and worshiped Him, keeping the laws of the Covenant.

But it didn’t take long for brokenness to find its way into the hearts and minds of these people God loved. Just one hundred years later, the priests were corrupt. Everyone succumbed to spiritual amnesia. Forgetting. Always forgetting the God who loved them. The God who had delivered them. Delivered them. Delivered them!

And then God delivered again. A message through the prophet Malachi.

Before God reprimanded them, He assured them of His love for them. Still, they questioned Him.

I have loved you. But you say, “How have You loved us?”

MALACHI 1:2

Malachi then recounted to them precisely what they had done wrong. How they had fallen away and what they should do in response to God’s rebuke: take responsibility for their sins and return to God, serving Him according to the promises of their fathers long ago.

Malachi spoke of a faithful few who would remain, the faithful remnant of the promised people. He gave an odd message about Elijah’s return, preceding the Messenger of the Covenant. And then Malachi hushed. God went silent.

Hope went silent.

REFLECTION

Can you imagine? God going silent? Not a word? Not a warning? Nothing?

Let’s back up a little. Let’s remember. God had been speaking to His people through His prophets for hundreds of years. He made promises to them; some of judgment, some of restoration. Back and forth, that pendulum swung between their faithfulness and their faithlessness.

Remember Eden? With everything just as it should be, Eve focused on what she couldn’t have. Though her circumstances were optimal, she doubted God. And her doubt danced into disobedience.

Over three thousand years later, these people — with the benefit of a rich history laden with stories of God’s love, provision, and protection — were still disobeying. Still doubting. Still doubting God’s love for them.

How have you loved us?

But again, the hope promised in the garden where broken began was promised once more. To a small remnant of keepers of the covenant. And to this promise, they would have to cling. And pass on. Each generation clinging to and passing on the hope of the promised seed of Abraham. A descendant of King David.

PRAYER

Father, I know how it feels for hope to be silent. For You to be silent. But Lord, when I feel like You are silent I only need to open Your word. And while there may not be specific answers every single time, staring back at me, Lord, You have spoken. And through Your word, I am reminded of Your love for me.

You have proven Yourself faithful to me over and over again. Too often I am tempted to measure Your goodness by my circumstances, but I know that nothing determines Your goodness. You simply are good.

When it feels like I’m waiting in the dark, or in the silence, remind me of Your faithfulness to keep Your promises. May I be faithful while I wait in the silence. Amen.

WORSHIP

As the remnant of hopers waited for the promise, we, too, wait for Christmas. But it is almost here, friends. Does anyone need to hit the pause button? To catch your breath? To check off those lists?

During your pause, listen to the song O Come O Come Immanuel. Let it settle into any crevices of doubt. Sing it with expectancy. Recite it with hope. For though God was silent for a season, He would speak again!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

John Mason Neale, translator, 1861

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s