Today’s Chocolate: Theo Coconut 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: in a manner of speaking, none
There’s one last thing I want to talk about concerning the minor prophets, and that’s that they came to an end. The prophets both major and minor preached their messages roughly from the 9th to the 5th century BC, but with Malachi’s prophecy somewhere around 420 BC (scholars for various reasons find it difficult to pin a date on Malachi), they stopped. If you relied solely on the Bible for your history lessons, you wouldn’t know anything from the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi up until the birth of John the Baptist in Luke. As the Old Testament as we know it today drew to a close, Jews were living in Jerusalem again, and the temple had been rebuilt, but the spirit of prophecy simply stopped manifesting.
That’s not to say that God wasn’t at work, or that the Jewish people stopped talking and writing about God. What it means to be Jewish took a central place in the conversation, and Alexander the Great’s conquest of the ancient Western world posed further questions. Greece, and then Rome, loomed large over the Jewish people. Some believed that God had called his people to radical separation from the pagan world, an attitude seen in Judah Maccabee’s revolt against the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire and his aggressive opposition to Jewish Hellenization. In fact, we’re right in the middle of Hanukkah, and Jews all over the world are celebrating the Maccabean victory and re-dedication of the Temple. Rabbinic tradition maintains that God performed a miracle at Hanukkah, in which a pittance of oil fueled the lights of the Menorah lampstand for eight days. But here’s my point: whatever God was up to in this time, he wasn’t sending prophets. He wasn’t revealing new, crucial, scriptural truths. The word fell silent.
I think a lot about epistemology, particularly an epistemology of revelation. I think about how much hinges on God’s communicative efficacy: his ability, as an omnipotent being, to get his point across without fail and communicate his intended point to human recipients. Why, then, does he allow people to deceive each other, and why does he allow people to be wrong? Why does he allow error? And as I think about this period of silence between the prophets and the coming of Christ, I wonder what it would be like to be a Jew adrift among Greeks, trying to live out a monotheistic faith in a polytheistic world, seeking God’s will, but without the advantage of the Holy Spirit or the knowledge of everything the coming Messiah would bring. In a world waiting for the promises of the prophets to come to fruition, how long would I be willing to wait?
Sometimes God is silent. He leaves us with the memory of times he’s spoken to us in the past and the hope of promises for the future, but sometimes he’s silent in the present. And I don’t always understand why. I could try to explain his 400 years of arrested revelation, posit reasons for the reticence: I’ve got ideas, and hindsight is 20/20. But entire generations lived and died in the silence, nothing to turn to but the Torah, the wisdom of the Ketuvim, and the prophets’ promises. What was it like to pray and wonder if God was even listening? Again, I have ideas. I’ve prayed prayers like that.
But there’s something else on the next page. And after we take another brief Gratitude Interlude tomorrow, we’re gonna take that page and turn it.