Silence and Sound, Day 4

The following is an excerpt from a free advent devotional guide put together by myself and several close friends.  To download this guide, see here.

Week 1
Day 4: The Intertestamental Period
by meridith matson

Within one blank page in our Bibles, much happens in the story of the nation of Israel and within the scope of world history as well. This page between the Old and New Testaments represents a 400 year period of time known as the the Intertestamental Period. This era is known as a time of silence, where God does not speak through a prophet. This time of silence, however, was not an uneventful period in history, or an idle time in which God was not actively present in the world. There were many changes in the region of Israel that also directly impacted the people of Israel during this time.  

The rise of Alexander the Great, and his conquests within this region of the world, significantly impacted culture.  His ideals, as taught to him by the philosopher and his teacher, Aristotle, gave him a vision for unity.  During this drive for unity the Greek language, culture, and ideals were violently forced upon the world in a process known as Hellenization. After the death of Alexander the Great, the areas he conquered were divided into four sections ruled by four generals.  

Another significant period was the Maccabean Era (165-63 BC).  During this time, an elderly priest named Mattathias rebelled against Syrian officials who were trying to force the Jewish people to participate in heathen activities. As a result, a large group of faithful Jews followed him and later led the “Maccabean Revolt.”  These Jews were responsible for eventually cleansing the Temple and restoring devout Jewish worship.  In their persistence, they created the culture and norms present when Jesus shows upon the pages of the New Testament.

Upon further study, we see that though it was a time of silence God was anything but removed from His people.  In the fullness of time, when everything was culturally, politically, and religiously the way God intended them to be, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born of a young Jewish girl.  And through this baby, change arrived: not just for those of Jewish descent, but for the entire world.

Contemplation:
Can you think of some “blank pages” in your life, times when you felt God was silent or that you had removed yourself from God’s presence? What unexpected revelations came out of that time?

 

For more on the Intertestamental Period see: http://www.thetransformedsoul.com/additional-studies/spiritual-life-studies/the-intertestamental-period-and-its-significance-upon-christianity
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The season of Advent, a season of waiting

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The season of Advent has long been known as the season of waiting.  Advent both looks to the past, and the birth of Christ, and to the future, when Christ will once again come back to earth, but come as King.

Even before Advent began this year, I sensed a restlessness; a stirring within my own heart of both anxiousness and stillness.  This season of waiting came as a timely reminder in my own life.  Interestingly, I’m apart of a group for a project which we are presenting tomorrow, and the passage we decided to focus on was 2 Peter 3:8-15a:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!  13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace,spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…

There are a number of things about this passage that are notable, especially during the Advent season of looking back and looking forward.  As we consider our own lives, where God has moved mightily, and still, areas where it seems God has been silent.  A timeless truth to be extracted from this passage is that God keeps his promises.  This passage is more concerned with timing, particularly in verse 8 and 9, but the first truth to note is that God will deliver, he will come through.  He does not exist within the bounds of time, as we do, he dwells above time itself.  Take a moment to ponder that truth: it will blow your mind!

Secondly, “slow”, does not mean he does not hear, and “slow” does not mean no either.  This particular passage is speaking about Christ’s return, but I would venture out to say this is a truth that can be applied to any situation.  (Or perhaps the greater theological question is: how much intervention does God have in our day to day lives, and how much of our own lives/circumstances do WE have control over… BUT, I will save that for another discussion perhaps.)

When it comes to waiting, I’m a terrible waiter.  Waiting at the grocery store, traffic, for the dressing room… it seems like since moving to a big city my wait time and drive time for EVERYTHING has gotten about 10 times longer.  I hate waiting.  Our culture also hates waiting.  Stillness?  Quiet?  “Wasting time” by not doing anything?  These seem like foreign concepts.  I constantly am listening to music, checking the weather  (77 F and sunny tomorrow), checking the news.. all on this small little portable device I call a “cell phone”… except who even uses the term “cell phone” anymore.. it’s more like phone.  Iphone.  Something other than “cell phone” or “cellular device”….anyway.

Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite authors, he has a way of penning my thoughts on paper so often.  He writes of Advent and waiting:

Just imagine what Mary was actually saying in the words, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let what you have said be done to me” Luke 1:38.  She was saying “I don’t know what tis all means, but I trust that good things will happen”.  She trusted so deeply that her waiting was open to all possibilities.  And she did not want to control them.  She believed that she when she listened carefully, she could trust what was going to happen.

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life.  It is trusting that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings.  It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life.  It is living with the conviction that God moulds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.  The spiritual life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imaginination or prediction.  That, indeed, is a very radical stance in a world preoccupied with control.

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I couldn’t say it any better than the last paragraph.  In order to wait, we must give up control, trusting God to work.  He is not slow to keep his promises.  But we know through His word that His Spirit is with us always, guiding and leading us.  And that, in and of itself is a promise fulfilled and alive in us.

So in this season as we celebrate Emmanuel, “God with Us”, Jesus, remember he is still with us, by His Spirit.  And still, Christ will comeagain for us.  “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”… 1 Thess. 4:17.