Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes…”
The kings, the prophets, the sinners, the heroes, an exile, a rebuilding of the temple, and then-
Silence. Four hundred long years of it.
God wasn’t parting red seas. There was no Moses or King David, not even a Jeremiah or Deborah. The prophets had fallen silent. Where was God? The grandiose displays of his affection: gone, at least from the written account. All that remained was silence from heaven.
Four hundred long years.
My study Bible talks about the Jews right after they had built the new temple. Miraculous works from God weren’t evident, and it was a time when “God’s people had to live more by faith than by sight.”1
And so, some of them did. Perhaps they looked wearily at their neighbors and remembered the promises from the Old Testament. “He will come to us!” Hosea says. “I will look upon the goodness of the Lord!” the Psalmist declares.
And still- silence. The quiet of heaven. Day in, and day out. Maybe God’s people thought back to a time long ago when God was silent for four hundred years- when the people of Israel were in slavery in Egypt. Exodus records that the people “groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.” (Exodus 2:23) But at the very end of that passage, there is the light in the dark: “God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”
What was God doing when his people were in slavery in Egypt? I don’t know, but he wasn’t indifferent, and he had a plan.
So anyway, here we are after the Law and the prophets and at the end of the 400 years, if you look at Israel and peek your head in the temple; you’ll see the remnant of the faithful. The ones that did remember God and his law and his promise to send both a prophet and a Messiah. The ones that trusted that in the silence, God sees and God knows and he will act in his own time and according to his glorious purposes. These are the quiet faithful, following God and reflecting His own, perfect, silent-steadfastness. Do you ever notice that when David is having a really hard time in the Psalms, he tends to say, “oh, but the Lord has done this for me; the Lord has done this for Israel.” He draws upon memory, for God’s faithfulness in the past enables his people to trust his faithfulness in the present, even when nothing seems to be happening.
And so we see Zechariah and Elizabeth.
“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” (Luke 1:5-6)
Nothing special about them, except that in the silence, they remained faithful. And they’re not the only ones.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:25-26)
“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:36-37)
The men and women of the faithful. Those who walked with God. In the midst of the questioning and the “hey God, is the Messiah coming or what?” they held onto the promises that yes, he was coming, and they kept on going, and going.
So if you are experiencing the silence of heaven; if God feels distant no matter what you do, take heart. Listen to the promises, and know that in the silence the words ring true- He will come to us like rain, and, dear heart, please take courage, for you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He is faithful.
And because we are blessed to live in this age, we can read the gospels and see that whole of Luke 1 is the joyful breaking of the silence, the jubilant beginning of a redemptive plan set in place from the foundation of the world…
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.
He will come.