Our Christmas series GOD SPEAKS began Sunday, December 3rd. The message below was shared by powerpoint and in silence to a quiet church. It was a remarkable Sunday together as we heard from the One Who Speaks.
"Today's sermon will be silent.
No spoken words.
Not everyone is comfortable with silence.
So the next few minutes might seem a bit awkward for you, especially if you're used to hearing the preacher go on...
Now if you think a few minutes of silence is awkward, imagine what it would be like not to hear from God for over 400 years.
Turn in your Bibles to Malachi 4:1-6. Take a moment to read it. We'll wait for you.
The words may be difficult to read. They are meant to be. "The Day of the Lord will come with justice."
But did you see the promise? It's in verse 5. Look closely.
The Lord said, "I will send you the prophet Elijah before the day of the Lord comes."
God promised He would send a messenger to prepare God's own for the coming of the Lord.
And you know what happened next? Nothing.
Now we know God eventually sent John the Baptist to 'prepare the way of the Lord', so He did keep his promise. But there was a 400 year gap between Malachi and Matthew.
For 400 years, God didn't say anything to His people.
God stopped speaking through His prophets. God didn't speak through His angels.
No burning bushes. No whispering winds. No talking donkeys. Nothing.
And those 400 years contained some difficult times for God's people. A lot happened in those four centuries.
At the time of Malachi, Israel was under the reign of the PERSIAN EMPIRE.
Things were going pretty well for them at first. Babylon had fallen, and they were able to return home to Jerusalem again.
But just a couple hundred years later, they were under the rule of a cruel man named Antiochus, emperor of the Greek Empire -- and he hated the Jewish people.
He forbid sacrifices in the Temple, outlawed circumcision and the Sabbath, and burned the books of the Law.
He desecrated the Temple by sacrificing pigs on the altar.
God's people were being persecuted, butchered, and driven from their homes.
And yet there was SILENCE from God.
100 years later, Israel was ruled by the ROMAN EMPIRE.
And we know what the Romans were like.
In 400 years, they went from free people to oppressed people. And yet God seemed silent.
Or was He?
An interesting thing happened in those 400 years...
At the time of Malachi, God's people had very little interest in the MESSIAH. They were complacent.
But 400 years later, houses of learning (synagogues) had sprung up all over Israel.
Their appetites for God's Promised One had greatly increased.
The people were crying out to God to come to them. "Lord, save us!"
And He did.
Do you know what God said when He finally spoke again?
God with us.
The first time God spoke in 400 years was to announce the coming of God's Promised One.
Now, it sounds cruel that while Israel floundered for 400 years, God didn't speak. But here's the thing...
During those years, they were holding on tight to God's promises.
The WORD of God echoed in their hearts for generations.
The WORD of God carried them through tremendous suffering.
The WORD of God filled them with hope when their world was on fire.
The WORD of God spread among the people, shaking them from their complacency.
The WORD of God turned the eyes of the nation toward heaven in anticipation.
Yes. God was speaking even when they thought He was silent.
And many people were ready to receive the Promise when He came to them in a Roman occupied village called Bethlehem.
Why do you think Mary's heart was so open to the message that she was chosen?
Because God was preparing her heart -- even when He appeared to be silent.
Can He not do the same for you?
It's a good question.
Don't confuse God's silence for God's absence.
They are not the same.
Even when you are desperate to hear from Him, you must know...
...God is with you...
...and the Lord has hidden his WORD in your heart for just those times.
"The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth." (Psalm 145:18)
He is close.
The birth of Jesus is the Father saying...
I AM with you.
He is with you."