1Glories

Refining Life, on Purpose

Our Messed Up World and That Time Jesus Came to an Anxious, Waiting World

What a messed up world Jesus came to save and restore! And yet, lost in “keep Christ in Christmas” is a broader purpose and one that is as real today as it was then. God may seem “silent” at times, though he is always at work. Best of all, he is with us!

Lost in the demands to “keep Christ in Christmas” and the requests to “remember the reason for the season” is a broader purpose: hope for a messed up world.

You see, the Old Testament ends with a prophesy through Malachi. He was one of several prophets who tried getting through people’s ignorance and indifference toward God. This prophecy proclaimed a curse, yet it promised reconciliation.  

And then God went “silent” for 400 years.

As the Christmas story reveals, Jesus was born to a virgin in a manger. Society rejected him. Decades later, he launched a ministry and proved to many to be the son of God. Yet, he remained rejected.

His disciples carried forth the message and the New Testament came to be about 100 years after Christ’s death. That means God has been “silent” for approximately 1,900+ years since.  

Today, we find ourselves is a similarly messed up world. It’s one where children are forced into sexual slavery, violence is both tolerated and glamorize, and the most powerful are oppressive and entitled. Our messed up world has emphasized and lauded the very worst of humanity – the flaws of the fall.

In so doing, we have taken positions that either reject Christ or conform him to our image rather than allowing him to deliver the promised hope for our own messed up world.

Hope for a Messed Up World

“But also look ahead: I’m sending Elijah the prophet to clear the way for the Big Day of God—the decisive Judgment Day! He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. If they refuse, I’ll come and put the land under a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6 (MSG)

These last words of the minor prophet, Malachi, also conclude the Old Testament. It doesn’t exactly tie up the whole thing like the last ten minutes of a sitcom. What it does, though, is give us a warning and a hope.

Then, if we look to the words of another minor prophet – Micah – we see that during the midst of this messed up world, there is promise of a coming king.

And that king would come through the little town of Bethlehem.

Micah, of course, is speaking of Jesus, even as weeps and sobs for the nation.

What a messed up world Jesus came to save and restore! And yet, lost in “keep Christ in Christmas” is a broader purpose and one that is as real today as it was then. God may seem “silent” at times, though he is always at work. Best of all, he is with us!

What a messed up world Jesus came to save and restore! And yet, lost in “keep Christ in Christmas” is a broader purpose and one that is as real today as it was then. God may seem “silent” at times, though he is always at work. Best of all, he is with us!

Intertestamental Period – God’s 400 Years of Prophetic Silence

Decades after the miracle birth in Bethlehem, the grown baby Jesus reveals John the Baptist as fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (Matthew 11:13-14). John called people into repentance and obedience. He was preparing his generation for Jesus Christ, who came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10) and spur a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Before this, though, God spoke through no prophets for 400 years – the time between the book of Malachi and the ministry of John the Baptist. This is referred to as the Intertestamental Period, because it marks the time span between the Old and New Testaments.

However, that does not mean God was not at work or that nothing happened. In fact, if you dismiss those years, it might seem like some bad movie editing. You see, the Old Testament ends with the people under Persian control. Yet, when we pick things back up in the New Testament, Rome is in command.

 

O Come All Ye Faithful

What Happened During the Intertestamental Period and Why Does it Matter?

The Intertestamental Period prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah and spread of the Gospel.

First of all, the Persian Empire fell to the Macedonians, and the Greek Empire gave way to the Romans. So, the political, religious, and social landscapes of Israel obviously changed a lot. In fact, much of it was predicted by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 2, 7, 8, and 11).

One of the most impactful changes was Alexander the Great requiring Greek culture within every land he conquered. This lead to the translation of the Old Testament (the whole Bible at that time) from Hebrew into Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint and is the version that is most quoted in the New Testament.

Though Alexander allowed religious freedom for the Jews, he strongly promoted Greek lifestyle. It was worldly, humanistic, and quite ungodly. Following his death, Judea was ruled by many successors and the eventual rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, who prohibited religion freedom and overthrew the Jew’s priesthood. Their resistance to him brought the Maccabean Revolt marked by war, violence, and more.

Then, Pompey of Rome conquered Israel around 63 BC, giving control of Judea to the Caesars. Herod became king, although the Roman, Greek, and Hebrew cultures were now together in Judea. During this time, the Pharisees added to the Law of Moses and considered their laws more important than God’s (Mark 7:1–23).

These events and more helped the Intertestamental Period set the stage for Christ.  Jews and pagans grew dissatisfied with religion. Hope was low and faith was shallow. They longed for the Messiah to save them.

Meanwhile, God was moving in other ways, too. The Romans had built roads. Alexander’s conquests instilled a common language, and there was general freedom to travel. These things all brought a more fluid spreading of the gospel that was to come.

Promise of a King and Hope for Today’s Messed Up World

The New Testament shows how hope came for the Jews and (really) the entire world. Over Christmas, there will be much singing, gathering and indulging. There will many other things as well. Protests, communion, ridicule, gifts giving, blessings, arguments, and more. As we experience it all, let us remember that:

  • The prophet Isaiah – 600 years before Jesus would be born – said the messiah would be born to a virgin… and he was.
  • The prophet Micah said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem… and he was.
  • The prophet Hosea said Jesus would be called out of Egypt… and he was.
  • Multiple prophets noted that Jesus would be from Nazareth… and he was

Our current times and God’s approximately 2,000 years of prophetic silence, has got to make us wonder. Read the minor prophets and consider the happenings during the Intertestamental Period. Similarities and repeating of history are striking!

The urging of God’s people (much like the minor prophets) go mostly ignored. Greed rules the day. The powerful have oppressed the weak. Corruption is commonplace. People have become bored or dissatisfied with religion and God. We prioritize our laws and morality over God’s. Preaching centers only on the preferable parts of the Bible – and putting the words of authors and motivangelists over God’s. We’re ignoring perils of sin. Love is reframed as “tolerance” and “political correctness.” Fear of offending people keeps us from sharing God’s word with others. We are molding God in our image and not the way it is.

We’re losing sight of holy truth!

Make no mistake about it. Fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy was anticipated and recognized by those who sought him. This is our eternal and our living hope. On this Christmas Day, we have an opportunity to acknowledge Christ in our lives and pursue a refining life, on purpose.

In Matthew 1:22, the Apostle quotes from Isaiah 7:14 (NLT), “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

God with us.

I like that. Just as Malachi suggested that we “also look ahead” while rallying to the conclusion of his book and the Old Testament, we too should look ahead. Before the prophetic silence of God prior to the arrival of Christ, there was the promise of a King to bring hope and reconciliation.

And, just as the prophet said to be mindful of the “Big Day of God – the decisive Judgment Day,” we too should be mindful of it. We remained cursed. Yet we remained blessed, for as the final words of the New Testament assure, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Revelation 22:21 (ESV).

About Chad Gramling

Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.