It was one of those seasons in life when God gets quiet. I wanted reassurance that I was on the right path. When that didn’t come, I sought more information, guidance on what the next steps might be and what the future could look like.
I craved clarity. Exactness. God’s audible word.
I heard . . . nothing. Sigh.
Most of us understand that God is still working for us and around us even if He’s not talking to us at the moment. But in that moment, His silence can be tough to endure.
What do we do to make it through with our faith intact or stronger than it was before? We remember. We look back to what God was doing when He got quiet before.
God Gets Quiet
Intertestamental is a big word that refers to the 400-years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. It’s a time period when many say God was quiet.
But that depends on your definition of quiet.
While it’s true that He didn’t have anyone writing anything down for us to read and reflect upon, God was busy behind the scenes preparing the earth for Jesus’s arrival.
Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. ~Socrates
Many of you have heard of the Greek philosopher Socrates. He’s well quoted, although most of what we know is through his contemporaries and disciples. Socrates lived at the beginning of the Intertestamental Period, born about 470 BC.
Socrates’ most famous disciple was Plato. Born about 428 BC, Plato established the Academy in Athens, the first higher learning institution in the western world.
Plato’s star pupil was Aristotle. Born in 384 BC, Aristotle started at Plato’s Academy around the age of seventeen and remained for twenty years. Shortly after Plato’s death, Phillip II of Macedon asked Aristotle if he would take a tutoring job. He agreed, and in 343 BC, Aristotle began teaching Alexander — the man who would come to be known as Alexander the Great.
Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives — choice, not chance, determines your destiny. ~Aristotle
What does all this have to do with God? Hang in there with me. This is where it all begins to come together and merge into the stories that you know from the Gospels.
Aristotle had a consuming passion for unity. He wanted to combine all the fields of knowledge into a coherent system.
Alexander grabbed hold of this passion, pushing to unify the ancient world culturally. He sought to Greekify the areas he conquered, wanting them to speak the same language, have the same philosophy and the same cultural mores. This is known as Hellenization.
Alexander died in 321, and a series of civil wars determined who would inherit his kingdom. Two groups won out: the Ptolemys (influenced by Aristotle) and the Seleucids. Egypt and Palestine were controlled by the Ptolemaics while the Seleucids controlled Syria.
The next hundred years or so were not peaceful. Many battles broke out, culminating in 198 BC when Antiochus III the Great succeeded in conquering Palestine, bringing it over to the Seleucids empire.
Antiochus was even more passionate for Hellenization than Alexander, and he forced it upon the Jewish people. Various groups developed, seeking to protect the purity of the Jewish religion. One of these groups is well known to New Testament readers: the Pharisees.
In 175 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes rose to power, and he implemented a radically anti-Jewish program. A person could be put to death for practicing circumcision, possessing Scriptures, or observing the Sabbath. In 167, after abolishing all forms of Jewish worship, Antiochus had a pig sacrificed on the sacred altar in the Temple.
The Jews Fight Back
Only the dead have seen the end of war. ~Plato
Antiochus Epiphanes had gone too far. Many revolted, including one Jewish man who had five sons. He sought to lead a guerilla type warfare against the government. When this father died, his third oldest son took over leadership. Known as the Maccabean Revolt, the Jews were able to win back certain considerations, including the right to worship at the Temple. This victory is celebrated annually with Hanakkuh.
In 142 BC, the Jews won more religious freedom which lasted until 63 BC when Palestine was again conquered, this time by the Romans and General Pompey the Great. In 40 BC, an Idumean chieftain gained appointment to be a local king over the Jews. Herod the Great was installed by Octavius (aka Caesar Augustus) and Marcus Antonius (aka Mark Antony).
And the stage is set for Jesus’s humble entry onto earth.
Ripples in the Water
Have you ever spent time watching ripples in water? Many years ago, I purposely threw a rock into a lake and then waited for two or three seconds before throwing in a second rock nearby. I wanted to see how the ripples reacted together.
I discovered that introducing a second ripple doesn’t tremendously affect the path of the original. Oh, both sets distort slightly where they intersect, but both also continue on their mostly circular outward progression. You can see the effect in this slow motion video on YouTube.
The point is that our actions produce ripples, and we can’t predict who those ripples will touch or how they will affect others. What you are doing today — as routine and mundane as it may seem — has the potential with God’s guidance to ripple through time and produce massive results.
Results that astound us and bring God glory.
The Master of Ripples
Just like Socrates and Plato and Aristotle rippled into the Roman Empire and Alexander the Great rippled into Jewish suppression, actions by others yesterday ripple into your today. And what you do today ripples into future generations.
God sees it all. God knows the timing of each ripple and how it will affect all the ripples it will come across.
Sometimes God gets quiet, but that never means He gets passive. And what He has purposed — His original ripple — will come to pass, no matter what the enemy does to try to thwart it (Job 42:2).