As the historical record of the Old Testament comes to a close, the curtain falls on the early centuries of mankind’s existence. From Adam and Eve to Ezra and Nehemiah, God has revealed himself in the affairs of both individuals and nations. From the earliest days of the patriarchs, a divine master plan has been unfolding to teach mankind the nature of God, and to prepare the world for a Savior who will transform man’s sinful condition and bring true life. God’s instrumentality in this plan has been the relatively obscure Hebrew nation of Israel. Some 650 years before it came into being, God promised the faithful patriarch Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation and have a land of their own—and that through them all the people of the earth would be blessed.
When the 12 tribes of Israel were delivered out of Egyptian bondage and brought to Mount Sinai, the first promise was fulfilled. God covenanted with the new nation of Israel that he would be their God and they in turn covenanted that they would be his people. Among other symbols of the covenant was the law given through Moses. In its divine origin and theocratic nature it was like no other law ever given. Through that law, God elevated moral consciousness and established a whole new religion, with a tabernacle, priests, sacrifices, offerings, Sabbaths, and holy festivals. It was a great beginning. But in the very week of its inception, the nation exhibited a spirit of rebellion which would continue generation after generation. This rebellion brought 40 years of wandering in the wilderness as punishment. But God in his mercy forgave his people and led them to the promised land of Canaan. After the local inhabitants were substantially subdued over the period of the judges, the nation finally had its own land, and God’s second promise to Abraham was fulfilled.
From that point on, it remained only for the nation of Israel to become a blessing to the whole world. In the 120-year-long monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon it seemed that the nation’s rise to prominence and power was the beginning of the third fulfillment. But upon Solomon’s death the rebellion of the people once again brought disaster—this time civil war and a divided kingdom. For 325 years the people became more and more rebellious, turning away from their God, the Creator of the universe, to pagan gods and idols of man’s own making. Because sin always brings death, the people’s sins were a death knell to the nation itself. God used Israel’s territorial enemies as his agents of judgment, and both segments of the kingdom were taken captive and carried away into exile. Throughout the period of spiritual and political decline, God had sent one messenger after another, crying out against the people’s sins and warning of impending punishment. And yet, without exception, every message had ended with a note of hope and a promise of restoration. Exile would end within 70 years, and the temple would be rebuilt. Even beyond that were prophecies of a Messiah who would come and establish an everlasting kingdom of peace and joy.
Faithful as always, God fulfilled his promise when he brought his people back into their land, exactly as he had foretold—70 years after the first deportation. And when the temple was rebuilt, some 20 years later, God’s word was once again proved true. But when foreign dominance and local oppression continued over the next century, disillusionment and cynicism set in—and with it, renewed spiritual rebellion.
Despite the message of Malachi that the day of the Lord was coming, and despite the temporary spiritual revival under Ezra and Nehemiah, the Old Testament record does not end on a note of great optimism or confidence. The people of Israel continue even now in their willful violation of God’s laws; the nation is still at the mercy of the Persian Empire; and, as far as the Jews can tell, there is no sign that any super-king is about to establish the ideal kingdom which they have come to expect. Never mind that every other promise that God has made in over 40 centuries has been faithfully fulfilled. Where is this great Messiah of which the prophets have spoken? Has God finally gone too far in an effort to hold his people’s attention? Is this a promise that is too difficult for even the God of heaven to fulfill?
Although comfortable retrospect might chide the Jews for their lack of faith, it is easy to understand their true discouragement. Others in later centuries—Jew and non-Jew alike—whose primary focus is on a physical rather than a spiritual kingdom, or the coming of the end when they mistakenly expect it, will suffer the same disillusionment. And saddest of all, when the Messiah finally does come, he will be so unlike the Jews’ preconceived image of him that most of them will not even recognize him.
How long will it be before the Messiah comes? How long must the Jews—indeed the whole world—wait for this glorious day of promise? If Daniel has given a clue in his vision of the seventy “sevens,” the Messiah’s coming will not be before some 400 years from now. Indeed this is approximately the same period during which the historical record of Scripture will lie silent.
But why would there be such a historical interlude? Certainly one can only speculate, but perhaps it is simply to dramatize the most important event in the history of mankind. Perhaps there is something to be said for disassociating the Messiah from any exclusive ties to this small Hebrew nation so that his kingdom may be seen as truly universal. Perhaps the political situation in a later time will be more conducive to the Messiah’s mission. Or perhaps the delay is to insure against any possibility that fulfillment of relatively recent prophecies is merely contrived by wishful believers. Whatever God’s reasons, it is clear that the nation of Israel will have to wait further for the promised Messiah and for the day when, through their race, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
By: Lydia ٩(●˙▿˙●)۶…⋆ฺ
No Bible Verse 🙂 莫有经文:)