The last book of the Old Testament closes with these words: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, to whom at Horeb I gave rules and regulations for all Israel to obey. Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord arrives. He will encourage fathers and their children to return to me, so that I will not come and strike the earth with judgment.”
When Malachi wrote these words, he didn’t know they would be the last words the Lord would speak for hundreds of years. The people didn’t know the Lord would be silent.
The Israelites were accustomed to having their lives interrupted by appointed mouthpieces of God. But I seriously doubt they were thrilled when the mouthpieces started to talk. Yes, there were glimpses of a hope to come in the message of the prophets, but there was also a lot of judgment. Perhaps uninterrupted monotony and trials felt easier than hearing and heeding the call to righteousness.
When God went silent, I wonder if they enjoyed it for a bit. After all, silence meant no pronouncements of judgment, no call to change their hearts or their lives. But the absence of God’s word must have made their hearts grow restless. God’s chosen people, the ones he relentlessly pursued and called back to himself, the ones who heard from God frequently enough to possibly be a little sick of him, must have grown in disdain for the silence. They longed for a word—any word—from the Lord.
Generations came and went.
Four hundred years after the last prophetic word, five hundred years after the last miracle, and eight hundred years after the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, came an interruption. It was more whisper than shout, but no less a word from the Lord. Zechariah knew that this day would be special, his turn in the Holy of Holies—the very presence of God—but it was much more than he imagined. Interrupted by an angel, Zechariah learned that his elderly wife Elizabeth would miraculously conceive a son who would make way for the Lord.
Zechariah questioned the angel’s pronouncement and his disbelief ushered in silence. He lost his own voice until after his son was born. I wonder if Elizabeth longed for a word—any word—from her husband.
Thirty-three years later another interruption would usher in silence. Jesus had been ministering to the people for three years. The resounding voice of the Lord to his people. The greatest prophet, but so much more than that. The very Word of God.
The people weren’t always thrilled when Jesus started talking, especially the religious elite. Perhaps uninterrupted monotony and trials would be easier than hearing and heeding this call to righteousness. The call to follow him. He couldn’t be who he claimed to be. He had to go.
And so he died—well, and so they had him killed.
The earth quaked. Creation groaned. The disciples wept.
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb.
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone.
—Hillsong, “O Praise the Name”
When the Son of God went silent, I wonder if his accusers enjoyed it for a bit. After all, silence meant no pronouncements of judgment, no call to change your heart or your life.
But God’s chosen people, the disciples and those who believed he was the Messiah, longed for a word—any word—from the Lord. They didn’t have to wait for generations to pass, but they did have to endure days. Three of them.
Sometimes it feels like something has ushered in God’s silence in my life. And I wonder, do I enjoy it for a bit? Perhaps I believe uninterrupted monotony and trials would be easier than hearing and heeding his call to righteousness. The call to follow him.
But no, God’s chosen people long for a word—any word—from the Lord.
 John MacArthur, “God Breaks His Silence: The Revelation to Zacharias,” Grace to You, November 29, 1998.
Cover image by Dawid Sobolewski.
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