Associate Pastor Collin Gregory
Malachi 4: 5-6
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; …”
When you turn the page from Malachi, you see Matthew 1:18 (Matthew 1: 1-18 is the genealogy of Jesus)
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
I’m a visual learner… so seeing to me helps me understand. So, before I can even get into today’s sermon, I need to start with an example…
So I’m going to ask Pastors Alex and Kaylie to come up on stage and help me with a little game…
(have them stare at each other. The first one to repeat the most words I say in the next 40 seconds wins)
Between this page in Malachi and this page in Matthew, there is a 400-year gap in time. WHERE. GOD. SAID. NOTHING.
What Alex and Kaylie displayed to us, is How it feels to wait on something you want to hear… and never hear it happen.
400 years is a long time. To put that in perspective,
The Pilgrims landed the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock 400 years ago (Pilgrims.jpeg)
So what happened during those 400 years?
FOR KATHI: As a TIMELINE is displayed, please keep it up on screen until the next timeline comes up. I’ll be referencing the timeline throughout the sermon so having it up will be beneficial. You can take down the last timeline when I get to the scripture reading of John 1: 29-31. I won’t be needing it on screen after that. Thanks for all you do!
Let’s put the timeline on the board: TIMELINE 1
We’ll be refencing this timeline throughout the first part of this sermon. Like I said, I’m a visual learner, so having something I can look at helps me understand all that is going on…
In this 400 year period, we are dealing with 3 kingdoms: TIMELINE 2
And The Romans
(Totally off-topic, but a fun historical fact about Greece)
before the Old Testament ends (430 BC)
before Nehemiah rebuilt the wall in Jerusalem (444 BC),
and before Esther becomes queen of Persia (478 BC),
the battle of Thermopylae took place (480 BC). TIMELINE 3
If you’re not a history buff, that means the movie 300 has already happened.
So, as we look at this time in history, we need to look at this story by putting ourselves in the shoes of those Persons living in Jerusalem, as Malachi’s ministry ends in the Old Testament.
Living in the city of your ancestor’s generation, which was exiled by the Babylonian empire, commerce is returning as Nehemiah’s defensive wall is rebuilt, and the worship of God in the temple has returned.
You have economic and religious freedom under Persian rule, and life is getting back to normal for you and your people, but around the year 343 BC, you begin to hear that a new empire is emerging.
In 336 BC, a man by the name of Alexander the Great, TIMELINE 5mentored by Aristotle himself, became king and wasted no time conquering new land and going to war with the Persians. They are no match for Alexander in his swift army, Asia Minor Falls, Judea Falls, and your city of Jerusalem falls. Finally, the last remnants of the Persian empire collapse, and the Jewish nation is ruled by the Greek Empire. TIMELINE 6
Alexander’s rule over Jerusalem wasn’t the end of the world, but it did mean that his culture was the new way of doing things. Sure, you still practice the Jewish religion, but you had to do it in a Greek way. Speak the Greek language and integrate Greek ideas into public life; you even translate the Torah into Greek.
At the ripe young age of 33, Alexander the Great suddenly died in 323 BC.
With no heirs, His empire is carved up by his four top generals. These new Greek kingdoms dispute and fight over borders creating a civil war within Greece that will last hundreds of years. TIMELINE 7
As you can imagine, things do not go well for the fractured Greek empire…
These four Generals and their descendants, especially the (SA-LOU-CID) Seleucid Empire and the (TALL-O-MEE) Ptolemaic Kingdom, fight and fight and fight with each other leaving Judea, and your home of Jerusalem, devastated as it’s caught in the middle of the struggle.
One ruler of the SA-LOU-CID empire is especially bad.
After failing at a second attack on Egypt and being fended off by the meddling Roman Navy, he returned to Jerusalem and caused immense suffering in 167 BC.
He desecrates the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar, and he outlaws the Torah. All Jewish practices are forbidden and are punishable by execution.
However, as is the case, this type of tyranny is met with resistance:
166 BC, the Maccabean Revolt, led by a Jewish priest named Judas “The Hammer” Maccabeus TIMELINE 8 (seriously, his name was that cool), took a small, gorilla revolt from a sporadic resistance to a full fledge revolution, granting the Jewish people a peace deal one year later and restoring religious liberty and giving Judea a quasi-independence:
The holiday Hanukkah celebrates this victory. TIMELINE 9
Eventually, Judea gained some control back over Jerusalem, and at this point in time is left largely to govern itself. TIMELINE 10
It was during this time of self-government that a new group of devout Jewish Priests began emerging. These men were scholars and community leaders who had significant influence over political and religious standards, especially because the laws in Jerusalem were still rooted in the Judaic religion. These men were students of both the law AND the Torah, and their expertise in both made them powerful authorities over the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. These Priests often distanced themselves from others because they saw themselves as better than most; whereas others were unclean and unworthy, their strict practices made them feel superior. They avoided being around “sinners” and other people who didn’t follow the laws “correctly,” at least according to their expectations. This distinct group of men was called the Pharisees. TIMELINE 11
Yes, the same Pharisees that we know from the New Testament began emerging around 160 BC.
Due to constant war, the Greek empire fell piece by piece to the new kid on the block, Rome.
In 63 BC, Jerusalem fell to the Romans under the ruthless leadership of Pompey the Great as the Romans took Egypt;
A descendent of Esau (you remember Jacob and Esau from the book of Genesis, right?) That descendent aligned himself with Julius Caesar and earned enough favor with Rome to make his son the King of Judea; his name was Herod the Great
Yup, the same King Harod from the Christmas story was made to be ruler over Judah in 37 BC.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Gaius Octavius consolidated power throughout the Roman Empire to become the first official Roman emperor.
In 27 BC, Octavian changed his name and his title to Caesar Augustus
That’s right, it’s the Cesar Augustus we see in the Christmas story!
We have gone from the last words of the Prophet Malachi to right around the time of Jesus’ birth, sometime between 6 – 4BC.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we find a priest named Zechariah. As he prays in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appears ANGEL GABRIEL and gives him a message:
Luke 1:13 (NIV)
13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
This is the first time God has spoken in over 400 years…
We know that not much longer after this event, Gabriel visits Mary, and she conceives a child through the Holy Spirit to fulfill the scripture found in Isaiah 7:14.
Isaiah 7:14 (NASB):
“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel”
Let me ask one question…
What does 400 years of silence mean to us??
Sure, we had a lot of great historical information, but what should be our takeaway of God’s silence for 400-plus years?
I think it should be this: Even when we don’t see God working in the limelight, we can trust that God is working in the background.
God wasn’t AWOL during this time. God was actively setting things up for the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:4 (NIV)
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
THE. SET. TIME.
That’s something you’re going to have to understand…
The set time of God is different from your set time.
God uses these 400 years of silence to make the circumstances ideal for Christ.
Remember how Malachi ends? Saying that Elijah comes to usher in the Messiah?
Check this out…
The baby of the man Zachariah, whom the angel Gabriel first speaks to, breaking 400 years of silence? John. Well, he grows up to become a mighty preacher… We know him as John the Baptist. And about 30 years after his birth, John is in the Jordan River baptizing people… and this happens…
John 1: 29-31
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
John recognizes who Jesus is… and states that it was his job to recognize the Messiah and reveal Him to Israel.
“But, Pastor Collin, I thought that was going to be Elijah…”
Now watch how cool this is…
Jesus is speaking with His disciples, and He tells them…
Matthew 11: 11 & 14,15 (NIV)
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
John the Baptist was a man with the Elijah spirit who recognized the power and authority of Jesus Christ and declared Him to the Jewish people.
Malachi 400 years earlier stated that this would happen… and God spent the next 400 years in silence setting up this moment in the Jordan River.
From the reign of Persia
To Alexander the Great and the conquering Greeks
To conflict, civil war, and turmoil in the land of Judea
To the Maccabean Revolt
To the formation of the Pharisees
To Pompey the Great and the conquering Romans
To the installment of King Herod
To Cesar Agustas becoming the first Roman Emperor
To Zachariah in the Temple
To the Angel Gabriel
To John the Baptist… in the river Jordan…
…all, to set the perfect time for Jesus Christ to enter the world and set the captives free.
NOTES FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION (Kathi, I may or may not touch on these, but I’m running out of time to get this to you, so we’re gonna wing it from here. Lol)
Learning to See the Unseen
Oftentimes, God is working behind the scenes to build our spiritual eyes. We tend to focus on what we can sense, touch, taste, or see. Whenever my faith begins to falter, I go back to the Bible and remember the stories where God was at work behind the scenes to be reminded of His truth.
5 Reasons God Is Working Behind the Scenes in Our Lives
1. He is revealing His will. He desires to have fellowship with us; that’s why we were created. He wants us to look to Him for today and the future even if we don’t understand what He is doing but He will show us the way.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, 9
2. He is revealing His purpose. Sometimes we pray and fast, and think we’ve made the right decision, only to have everything fall apart around us. The job didn’t pan out, the diagnosis came back worse than expected, or the answer is no. But we can trust He is working behind the scenes as He works out His purpose—one day at a time.
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7
3. He is teaching us how to walk in faith. Have you ever seen a mom scold her baby for falling after taking a few steps? Of course not! She kisses his boo-boos, steadies her child, and encourages him to walk again. This is how our Abba Father works on our behalf to build our faith. Especially when He leads us to unknown places. Especially when we are grappling in the dark. And especially when we grapple with how to walk in faith that he will work all things together for our good.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
4. He is building your confidence. It’s hard to depend on God when we are used to relying on ourselves. But the Bible teaches how to build confidence in God, not ourselves. The Scriptures give us a picture of what it will look like when we genuinely develop confidence in God. His Word reveals that no matter what tomorrow holds, He is still holding us steady in His plans for His purpose.
“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3,4
5. He is instilling hope. Hope is the heartbeat of God’s promises. He helps us rise in the middle of our circumstances. No matter the situation, God wants you to hope anyway.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
1 Kings 19: 11-13 (NIV)
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”