"'Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' says the Lord of hosts." - Malachi 3:1, NKJV
400 years of silence followed that proclamation from the mouth of the prophet Malachi. I wonder how many generations passed during that time, as Israel clung on to the word of their God who had repeatedly issued this promise, but seemed to take endlessly long to deliver. I also wonder what it would have been like if I had lived during those centuries of silence. Would I have held on in expectant faith till my last breath, or would I have given up, doubting as the years went by without any sign of fulfilment?
But God operates in history at His own time and purpose, pulling the threads of lives, places and events together; weaving a tapestry of an intricate and complex pattern, beyond the comprehension of His creation that is but "a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales" (Isaiah 40:15, NKJV). And when He decides that the time has come to implement His promise, it begins at a most unlikely source - an old priest, rendered impotent by his age and his barren, childless wife. When God delivers the news to him, Zechariah's matter-of-fact response seeps with the faithlessness that plagues even the best of us: "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." (Luke 1:18, NKJV). Contemplating God's methodology, the natural tendency is to wonder if He could have perhaps chosen more "capable" candidates. But then I am reminded that even in this there is purpose, for "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NKJV).
Reading the Advent passage of the day (Luke 1:68-71) from John Piper's devotional, "Good News of Great Joy", I was struck by what he had to say regarding Zechariah after the birth of his son: "Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense. For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done."
Bringing my devotional time to a close, I was reminded of a short but interesting text message I had received on my cellphone many years ago, regarding God's timing:
"Don't run ahead of God,
Don't lag behind.
God's clock is neither early nor late,
It always strikes on time."
"Now the long-awaited visitation of God was about to happen", wrote John Piper. "...indeed, he was about to come in a way no one expected." May we look forward expectantly to His coming this Christmas.
- The Wisdom Seeker