Summary: God steps into history to break 400 years of silence by announcng unexpected news to two unsuspecting individuals. What does it look like when God is silent, and how do we know when he is speaking to us?
Series: When God Breaks His Silence
Title: Unexpectedly expecting
There is a game my parents used to play when we were on road long road trips in the car. The rules of the game went something like this. “The first one to talk loses.” We called it the silence game. Have you ever played the game? I would bet that just about every parent has made up a game similar to this. When traveling in a vehicle and arguing continues, or complaining erupts, or the eternal question, “how much further” is asked for the 100th time, we want silence. So we play the silence game. Sometimes, silence is golden.
Sometimes, though, silence is not golden. If you have ever felt the awkward pause in the conversation; if you have ever had an angry spouse or parent give you the silent treatment then you know what I’m talking about. (Whisper) Sometimes silence can be deafening.
As we look at Christmas, we begin a new series of Sermons entitled, “When God Breaks the Silence.” The most deafening silence I can imagine is when God is silent.
Is God ever silent? Today, before we look at our text, look at the table of contents in your bible. What Old Testament book comes after Malachi? (Pause)
There is no O.T book after Malachi. The O.T. ends there and the N.T. starts with Matthew. I know that’s not an earth shattering revelation. But folks, don’t miss this. In the space between Malachi and Matthew, is a period of 400 years. And in this period, God is silent. If you write in your bible, I want to encourage you to write 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew. Imagine it! That’s 20 generations of families who had never heard directly from God. 4 entire centuries pass. God’s voice had vanished.
Now if the O.T. is correct (and I believe that it is), the Jews were used to hearing from God. Whether it was through prophets, or judges, or even kings, God spoke to them. He would provide them encouragement, direction, correction, and promises.
But when the Jews are in the midst of one of the most troubling parts of their history, swallowed up by foreign powers and under the thumb of other nations, God is silent. They do not hear a word from Him. And they must have wondered if God has forgotten them. They wonder what they have to do to get God’s attention again. They wonder if they will ever be their own people again; wonder if God will remember the promises He made.
Have you been there? Maybe you are in that space between Malachi and Matthew in your own life. Have you ever wished to hear God speak; have you ever wondered if God hears you; have you ever asked, “God give me direction”; “God give me some assurance”; “God give me a sign.” Has it ever felt to you like God’s silence indicates his promises are forgotten?
Turn with me to the book of Luke 1:5-38 and listen to what happens when God finally speaks?
Luke 1:5-6 (NIV)
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
They were both elderly and were not capable of having children. This would have been a disgrace to Elizabeth and Zechariah because children in their time were a visual symbol of God’s provision and God’s blessing. This childless couple would have looked upon as cursed by God.
If you have ever tried unsuccessfully to have children, you might understand their plight. Having children is something that is supposed to happen. Most married couples want a family. That’s Elizabeth and Zechariah. And when they can’t have children, I imagine that their questions would have been real. Why is God ignoring us; you look around and see others who have children and you wonder why can’t I have children. Listen to what happens.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.