Summary: In this period of 400 years when the Lord chose to remain silent, everything in the temple continued as it always had. The rituals of worship, sacrifices, feasts and festivals were carried out with regularity, but the dismal part was that the Lord was not in it. Why?
Repent - The first message of Lord Jesus
Matthew 3:1-2:“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (RSV)
Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (RSV)
As we study both of these above mentioned verses, we will realize that Jesus and John the Baptist who was the forerunner of Jesus, preached a very similar message of repentance, as they both fully grasped the urgency of the message they preached.
The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi and the first book of the New Testament is Matthew. In our Bibles there is only a page separating them, but in reality the period between Malachi and Matthew was 400 years. This was a period of total silence where there was absolutely no word from God.
The revelation of God and His son Jesus commences again from the Gospel of Matthew. The question is, ‘What transpired in this lengthy period when the Lord chose not to speak or reveal Himself in any way to His people?’
In the Old Testament, God had commanded Solomon to build a temple, and the only reason was, that God wanted it to be a place where He met with the people and the people gathered together to meet with Him.
The temple was built with several specifications – importantly it had the Outer court, Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The only one permitted to enter the Most Holy Place was the High Priest and that too only at a time specified by the Lord, having followed several regulations as set by the Lord Himself. If anyone entered the Most Holy Place irreverently, they were instantly punished with death.
However, as the years passed by, the people forgot the primary purpose of why the temple of God was built.
In this period of 400 years when the Lord chose to remain silent, everything in the temple continued as it always had. The rituals of worship, sacrifices, feasts and festivals were carried out with regularity, but the dismal part was that the Lord was not in it.
The church of Laodicea in the book of Revelations states how the Lord was standing outside the church and knocking. Everything was going on as usual inside the church but the tragedy was that they had in actuality kept the Lord standing outside. He had no part in anything that was going on inside the church.
This could be sadly portrayed as the situation of the church today as well. We pride ourselves with our huge buildings, fancy lighting, vibrant music and follow all the traditions, but have lost and forgotten the very purpose for which the Lord instituted the Church in the first place. It would be a sombre thought for us to know that the Lord is often not welcomed into our churches, but has been kept outside seeking to gain entry.
Let’s read, Mark 11:17:“Then he taught them by saying, “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a gathering place for thieves.” (GW)
The above mentioned words are the words of Jesus. This is first and foremost “His” (God’s) house. Secondly, it is a place of worship for all people and not an exclusive place for one particular language group or regional group. The church on earth is a representation of how things are going to be in heaven. In heaven there will be people from every tribe, language and people groups. Thirdly, it is written that His house is a ‘House of Prayer’ for all nations, but sorrowfully it has become a ‘Den of Thieves.’
If one were to compare the ‘House of God’ with a ‘Den of Thieves’ here’s what it will look like.
Firstly, the House of God is a place of light, but a den of thieves is usually a dark and shady place.
Secondly, the ones who come to the House of God, come together for prayer, God is in their midst and He answers their prayers whereas the primary reason robbers get together, is to connive evil and then to share their booty.
Thirdly, everything is open in the House of God whereas things are kept secretive among a group of thieves.
Fourthly, the House of God is for all people but the Den of Thieves is for an exclusive lot of wicked people.
Finally, God reigns in His House whereas the devil rules among the Den of Thieves, because their purpose is only to loot, kill and destroy.
The Lord Jesus and John the Baptist came and preached the message of repentance because the key to entering the kingdom of God is repentance. Many people have a faulty understanding of the word repentance. A lot of confusion in our lives will be cleared if we understand the true meaning of repentance.