The 400 Not-So-Silent Years

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent [God’s] Son, born of a woman, …so that we might receive adoption as [God’s] children.
-Galatians 4:4-6

Dear friends,

When I was growing up, I learned about the “400 Silent Years” between the time of Malachi (the last book in our Old Testament) and the birth of Jesus. I was told during those 400 years, God did not speak because no scriptures were written during that period, and after that time, God spoke through Jesus Christ.

But that isn’t exactly true.

I don’t believe God is ever silent in our world, and our siblings in Christ from the Catholic and Orthodox traditions have Bibles that do contain writings from the “400 silent years.”

There’s the book of Judith, an ahistorical tale of a woman who saves an entire city from a besieging Assyrian army with the help of her maid, her prayer, her beauty, her wits, a handbag, and the opposing general’s own sword.

The story of Hanukkah also happens during those “400 Silent Years.” After a battle where the Jewish Maccabees repelled an occupying Seleucid Greek army, they lit the candles in the temple that were commanded to be lit at all times, but there was only enough oil for one night. They had to wait seven days to purify themselves so they could prepare pure olive oil to burn. According to the Talmud, the lights miraculously remained lit for 8 days when there was only oil enough for one night.

I won’t write here about Tobit, Baruch, Sirach, the 151st Psalm, Esdras, and the additions to Esther and Daniel, but in one of my Bibles that includes those writings from between the Old and New Testaments, they span 377 pages. For the “400 Silent Years,” God sure had a lot to say. And that’s just what got recorded in Orthodox and Catholic scripture, to say nothing of the ways God spoke to God’s people in ways that were not written down!

Isn’t that how it is sometimes? Someone looking in from outside, missing important information, might think God is silent, that God is not doing anything in a particular time and place, but things may be happening in less obvious and more unexpected ways.

May we be those who notice where God is at work when God seems silent.

Advent and Christmas blessings,

Pastor David Schell