While teaching a history lesson to my kids recently, I was trying to explain something that happened in the 1600’s and they were having a hard time grasping how long ago 400 years was.
Was it before the Revolutionary War, one asked? What kind of clothes did they wear back then? My son wanted to know if people had developed gun powder yet.
Four hundred years is a long time!
Between the close of the Old Testament and an angel announcing the approaching birth of John the Baptist, we have what is commonly known as, “The Silent Years,” four hundred years when God seemed to become perfectly still.
For a nation that was used to hearing from God through His prophets relatively regularly, it must have been an eerie silence.
A lot happened historically during those 400 years. The Jewish people went from being allowed to go back to Jerusalem by the favor of a Persian king, to being ruled by the Greeks, being introduced to Greek philosophy and culture and actually beginning to speak Greek as their formal language, to being ruled by the iron fist of the Romans.
On the surface, God seemed to have forgotten His people during those four centuries, but in reality, He was moving things in place all the time for the world to be ready, not only for the arrival of the Messiah, but for the gospel to quickly spread throughout the world.
Among other things, the Romans brought a system of roads that connected the world in a way never before even considered. These roads paved the way (literally) for new Christians to spread their faith like wildfire to Africa, Asia and Europe as seen in the book of Acts. The violent reaction of the Romans to believers in Christ forced people who would have likely never left their hometowns onto those roads.
The roads also allowed people from all over the world to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and hear the good news in their own languages. Many of these people became believers and took their new faith home with them spreading the faith further.
When Jesus came to earth, He didn’t just come to save the people of Israel. He offered salvation to everyone. Had He come at a time when Israel was comfortable and safe in their own little corner of the world, the Jewish people would have been saved but there would have been no push to go outside their borders.
God’s plan was perfect. “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son…” (Gal. 4:4) Even in the silence, God was working.