Summary: From the end of Malachi chapter 4 to the time when God spoke to a priest named Zechariah to tell him his wife was going to have a son was a period of 400 years when God was strangely silent. This message tells of God breaking the silence at Christmas time
When God Broke His Silence
Luke 1, 2
Do you know what the last verse of the Old Testament says?
Malachi 4: 5-6 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
After this word from God, there was 400 years of silence. 400 Years with no message from God. No prophet arose to give God’s word. No Angels visited with a word from God. Silence. Until God broke His silence.
1. Receiving a Word from God
When God next spoke it was to announce the fulfillment of the 400-year-old prophecy in Malachi 4:5-6. An Angel came down at last and made this prophecy to a Priest named Zechariah: “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. … And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:13, 17
In my Bible, there are just 2 pages between the Old and New Testament. But in reality, those pages represent hundreds of years of silence. Generation after generation had waited to hear a word from God. To them, it seemed like forever … because in their lifetimes, they heard no word from the Lord. That was reality in the “lower story.” But from God’s “upper story” viewpoint it makes complete sense.
God spoke through Malachi and said, “I will send the prophet Elijah to you …” And then God’s next message was to announce the fulfillment of that promise. In the Lower Story it was a very long wait. In the Upper Story, God’s timing was perfect. But we have to notice that God’s timing and our timing are not the same!
Have you ever felt like God has gone silent? You pray but see no answer. You wait for things to improve but they get worse. You wonder, “What is God doing?” There are times when God is silent. But God is never absent. God is always with us. God is always working. And God will always keep His promises.
At Christmas we celebrate the day when God fulfilled His greatest promise. After hundreds of years of waiting for a Word from the Lord … “The WORD became flesh and entered our world.”
Today we’re going to look at the first three pronouncements God made when He broke His silence. One prophecy was given to the priest Zechariah. One to the young virgin, Mary. And one to shepherds in a field outside Bethlehem.
On all three of these occasions, these folks were just going about their normal routines.
1) Zechariah was making an offering of incense in the Temple when the Angel told him his son would be the prophet foretold by Malachi.
2) Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph … and was probably making wedding plans when an Angel announced she would be the mother of God’s own Son.
3) The Shepherds were … watching their sheep … when the sky was filled with Angels announcing the birth of the King of all Kings.
There’s a lesson here for us. While we’re waiting for God to break His silence, we don’t have to hold our breath … or climb up some mountain and sit there singing “Cum Ba Yah.”
If you’re waiting for God to break His silence, you don’t need to neglect your responsibilities. If you have a career, keep doing a good job. If you are in school, keep attending class and studying. If you have a family, keep taking care of home and family. If you’re a Grandparent … good for you! Me too!
The secret is to keep your mind and heart tuned to God even WHILE you take care of your daily responsibilities. Be ready to hear from God, because God may break His silence at ANY time!
2. Responding to a Word from God
Listen to how Luke describes the initial reaction of each person when they heard a Message from God.
They responded with fear
1) When the angel appeared to Zechariah, he “was startled and was gripped with fear.” Luke 1:12
2) Mary “was greatly troubled at his words and wondered.” Luke 1:29
3) The Shepherds “were terrified.” Luke 2:9
The initial response was “shock and awe” --- and understandably so! Most of us have never encountered anything approaching the glory and power that an Aangel of God would have. Notice the FIRST response of the Angel in each case.