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Advent Awakenings (Week 2) – Listening and the Coming of the Lord

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)     

A number of years ago I took an undergraduate course in the Old Testament. I was especially intrigued by what is known as the inter-testamental period, the 400 years between the prophet Malachi and John the Baptist who heralded the coming of the Messiah when he said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Some Bible expositors often refer to this 400 year period as “the silent years” meaning that God did not speak to Israel through any prophet between Malachi and John. No doubt this is true. However, I would like to suggest to you that God was not as “silent” as we might think. Rather He was simply “speaking” in a different way. This is important for us to see if we are to recognize the “advent” of the Lord in our own lives. Perhaps what we need is a broadening of our understanding of the many ways in which the Lord speaks to us in His coming.

A narrow view of the ways in which the Lord communicates His present coming might be compared to the young Samuel who mistook the coming of the Lord for old Eli’s voice. Indeed, God had come to Samuel twice before but neither he nor Eli discerned the Lord’s coming until Samuel had approached Eli a third time (1st Samuel 3:8). So let’s consider the “many ways” in which God “spoke” to His creation during this inter-testamental period. Why? Just cursory glances at the historical events of this period shout loud and clear of the Lord’s advent, “of His hand everywhere, shaping the course of history for the coming of His Christ.” Seeing this, I believe, may sharpen our discernment of God’s present-day advent in our own histories both during this season and in the future.

Consider the destruction of the Persian Empire in 330 B.C. by Alexander the Great and the establishment of Greek culture with its ideal of Hellenism. By the time Jesus graced the scene in Palestine, He met a world that shared a common tongue. No matter where the Gospel was carried it could be heard if presented in Greek. After Alexander’s death and over a period of time his empire began to crumble and Rome emerged as a world power. All the elements of many divided kingdoms under Alexander’s successors were now united under Roman rule. “The world was one big neighborhood,” enjoying a 200 year period of peace known as the “Pax Romana”. It was at this time that Caesar Augustus commanded 10,000 laborers be secured to build a network of military roads from one end of his domain to the other. These very roads would later become “pathways” used by the messengers of God to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then, too, were the messianic expectations of the Hebrew people, many of whom were the descendants of the dispersions of 722 B.C. and 586 B.C. Centuries had passed but Jewish traditions had been projected from one generation to the next and the hopes of the prophets were kept alive. By the time the gospel heralds fanned out from Jerusalem, trumpeting the message that the Messiah had come and that the new era had been born, they found small colonies of Hebrews and Gentiles everywhere. Most had at least some knowledge of the promises of old. Hence, the missionaries did not speak into a vacuum.

Lastly, were the era’s overall spiritual confusion and a hunger for decency and justice. People were searching. The Roman Empire was literally cluttered with gods and goddesses, not to mention its many philosophical schools. Rome, too, had its patrons of conscience, well-intentioned souls who called for action to turn the tide of injustice that scarred the citizenry. Nevertheless, the solutions they offered for the sickness of the society were too little to heal the deep wounds of a people sick unto death.

The conquests of Alexander, the spread of the Greek language, Roman unity, the Pax Romana, the Roman roads, the Hebrew traditions and a deep hunger for decency that lived on in human hearts, each in its own way, proclaimed the coming of the Lord’s Christ.

“So the Redeemer came. Somewhere in the mind and heart of God from the very foundation of the earth the Christ had been waiting, hidden in the counsels of eternity until the great bell of the ages should strike; and when at last everything in the world and in the souls of men was ready and prepared, He came, the Word of God made flesh, not a moment early and  not a moment late, but exactly on the stroke of the hour. It was the Day of the Lord.” (James S. Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1979, p. 19.)

An Advent Prayer: Father, open our eyes that we may see and our ears that we may hear. Give us discerning hearts this Advent season and beyond that we may remain awakened to Your coming each and every moment of our lives. Amen. 

 

Barry Grecu

About the Author

Barry Grecu is president and founder of Ministry Emmaus, Inc. located in Roswell, GA. He is a certified Christian counselor, spiritual director, life coach and retreat leader. Together with his wife Sandi he has a passion "to guide you into the life you have always wanted." For further information contact Barry at wbgrecu@juno.com.