How long is 400 years? Just about that long ago the Mayflower set out with its load of pilgrims to settle the New World. A long time!
As the Advent season begins, we step back into the sandals of the Israelites 400 years before Christ. The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, had finished his work, and no word came from heaven during those four long centuries. How dark! Were they still expecting the promised Messiah to come? Had they given up hope? Maybe some did, but from people’s response to Jesus when he did come(“Could this be the Messiah?”) we know that many were still watching for Him.
Another period of 400 years in biblical history was the Israelites’ time in Egypt, much of that under slavery. What a long time! By the time God sent Moses to rescue them, had they forgotten God’s promises to Abraham to make them a great nation? If they had, God certainly hadn’t, and He fulfilled that promise.
Still another 400-year period stretched from the beginning of the Israelite kingdom under Saul until the northern half of it toppled to the Assyrian army. (The southern half lasted for 125 years longer.) What were God’s people doing during this time? Following God at times, but drifting farther and farther away until the predicted punishment for their treachery against God was upon them.
At the end of each of these 400-year periods came a sudden, climactic event.
–After the Israelites’ slavery, they were suddenly freed, through the Red Sea on dry ground, and on their way to their own homeland.
–After the 400-year kingdom, during which they thought the threatened punishment would never happen, they were suddenly destroyed by Assyria and taken into forced exile.
–After the 400-year “silent period” between the Old and New Testaments, suddenly came to live among them as a man, fulfilling the hopes and promises of millenia!
Which is why we celebrate this time of year. These hopes and promises are for us today. And while we celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby and then dying a horrible death to provide forgiveness for our sin, we look forward to the day when He comes in awesome power and glory to set everything right. May we never get tired of watching for Him. Let’s be ready whenever He makes His appearance!