A couple of weeks ago, the Faulkettes finished up the Old Testament.
It’s been a challenging task for them, attempting to read through the Bible in a year, and here lately, the major prophets and the minor prophets have brought some definite sound and emotion to the history that we read earlier in the year. I tried to explain to the girls that the prophets didn’t write AFTER all the history had taken place – they were writing in the midst of it. As Israel was, very frankly, messing up again and again, the prophets weren’t silent. Even as the people of God were taken captive then sent back in freedom, the prophets kept acting as God’s messengers, speaking words of warning, rebuke, and redemption. There was no lack of communication going on in any of it, and even as we read, it all seemed to culminate in so much noise and tension and build up and urgency…
… and then it stopped.
This, I told the girls, is where it ends. The people of God made it back to Israel, safe from captivity, purposing to do things right from then on. And the prophets stopped speaking. And God was silent. For four hundred years, there was nothing.
But it wasn’t because God was done with them. It wasn’t because they’d tried the limits of His patience. It wasn’t because they were beyond hope. No, God was silent because what He was going to do next was something entirely unexpected.
We went from the hard words of the prophets, where God speaks judgment in harsh tones (but where, it must be said, He speaks some of the sweetest promises in all of Scripture, if we’re willing to listen and hear the whole of the Bible in between the difficult parts) to the New Testament, where things are… well, they seem different.
“This sounds kinder,” Emma told me just as soon as we got to the words of Jesus.
And she’s right. Jesus does sound kind. But He’s the same in the New Testament as He was in the Old Testament. In the harshest words of God was kindness, even still. Even in the silence in that in between place, there was kindness, tenderness, and hope. And it was there because God was preparing it all and setting the scene for the big surprise. He wasn’t going to speak through prophets any longer. He was going to come to Israel Himself, to say the words of rebuke and love with His own lips, and to redeem what had been lost from the beginning. God’s silence preceded His redemption, and His redemption came in a way that was intensely personal and extravagantly loving.
We would do well to remember, in the times that God seems harsh, hard, and maybe even silent, that He isn’t like us. He doesn’t work like we do. And in His hard words there’s kindness still, as He prepares redemption for us, all because of who He is and not because of who we are. As we stand in the in between seasons of life, where we feel like we’ve been through so much, we need to remember who He is and trust what He’s doing…