Lessons of these 400 Silent Years

 

Walk Between the Testaments

 

 

 

THE RomANs set THE STAGE

 

The Romans had now come and were hammering loudly at the door of Empire. Three Punic wars had reduced Rome's ancient enemy Carthage to rubble, making Rome mistress of Africa and Spain. Four Macedonian wars had added Greece to the growing empire; the Mithridatic wars had brought in the Seleucid kingdom, and, with the annexation of Egypt and Palestine, the whole Mediterranean became a Roman lake.

Gaul and Britain were conquered, and Europe became one great community bound together by Roman law, Roman roads, and Roman troops. The republican form of government in Rome gave way to the imperial government as the day of the Caesars dawned. And, most important of all, in a tiny corner of the spreading empire of Rome, in a little Judean town called Bethlehem, Jesus was born.

 

JESUS and THE JEWS

 

The greatest single tragedy in the story of the Jew is his national rejection of Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and Lord. The throne rights of Jesus ran back to David both through His mother, Mary, who miraculously conceived Him, and through His foster father, Joseph, who adopted Him (Luke 3; Matthew 1). He was Israel's true Messiah, the only Messiah she will ever have. His claims to be both Messiah and Son of God were substantiated by the sinlessness of His life, by the countless miracles He performed, by the pungency and purity of His teachings, and by His clear fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies.

The religious Jewish establishment, however, wanted no part of Him. The rabbis were jealous of the teaching of Jesus, which was so memorable and authoritative and which was so enthusiastically hailed by the common people. The Pharisees were infuriated by the way He attacked their precious oral law, their entrenched and cumbersome traditions, and their evident hypocrisy (for example, Matthew 12:1-14). The Sadducees saw their vested interests in the Temple threatened by Jesus, and they took umbrage at His teaching concerning the spirit world and the life to come (Matthew 22:23-32).

The priests feared that His messianic teachings would bring down on the nation the wrath of Rome. The scribes and the Levites were scalded by His exposure of their insincerity. The common people flocked after Him, thrilled by His miracles, astonished at His preaching, delighted with the forthright way He exposed error, hypocrisy, and pride. A crowd, however, is never anything else but a crowd-fickle, unstable, and easily swayed. Jesus never committed Himself to crowds.

 

The Jewish establishment became increasingly hostile to Jesus. The various factions stopped their fighting long enough to make common cause against Him.

 

The Apocrypha

 

There are about 13 recognized books in what is known as the Apocrypha. During the years of growth the Greek culture enjoyed in Palestine, many books were written by the Jews. These books were never considered as Scriptures by Christ or the Apostles. The early church saw lessons that were profitable in some of these books. However, there is such a mixed character about these books, they have always been treated with care by the church. The great Bible teacher Harry Ironside explains the difference. “But all of these were written ere the voice of prophecy was suspended; all the books now in our Bibles, and none other, were in the Bible loved, quoted and honored by the apostles, and endorsed as divinely-given by the Lord Jesus. He expressly refers to "Daniel the prophet," and "the sign of the prophet Jonah," in language that admits of no doubt as to the high plane on which He placed their writings. But in the Maccabean age and later there were other books of instructive character, making no claim of inspiration, which the Jews have always valued, and which the early Christians sometimes read in their meetings for the sake of the lessons they contained, though with no thought of putting them on a level with the Hebrew Scriptures or the Greek New Testament.” The first book of the Apocrypha is known as:

 

1.      I Esdras, which is the Greek for Ezra. It consists of a copy of Ezra with quite a bit of questionable materials added. This book seems to have been composed as a “P.S.” for Jews in oppression. It shows how God cares for His people.

2.      II Esdras is completely different. No doubt it comes from another author. Abounding with inaccuracies and flaming with Apocalyptic themes this book shows the flavor of Daniel and Zechariah. The author was obviously enraptured with Tribulational and Millennial promises and weaves a story around them. Much of this book contradicts the Scriptures.

3.      Tobit is purportedly an Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali, carried away by the Assyrians. As a religious romance, full of absurdities, incantations and magic this book is totally unreliable. It does teach lessons of morality and true piety. It is in this book that we find an angel called Raphael. The only two angels actually named in Scripture are Michael and Gabriel. Much like fairy tales and stories for children in our day this book was used by Jews teaching character to their children in a attention getting way.

4.      Judith is a woman who surrenders to the Babylonians. Her beauty attracts the general. He invites her to his tent. As he sleeps she kills him and delivers the Jews. With the exception of 1 Maccabees, the book of Judith is the finest narrative-work of the Apocrypha.

5.      "The rest of Esther," was an attempt by someone to add chapters that mention the name of God. Although Esther does not mention the name of the Lord, it is so clearly a book tracing His Sovereign hand. The added chapters are deplorably lacking the elevated character of the Holy Scriptures.

6.      The Wisdom of Solomon is an anonymous work attributed to David’s son. Although not inspired nor as well written as the next book, it is of some value.

7.      "The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Siracb, or Ecclesiasticus." It is “generally conceded that this choice collection of proverbs and wise sayings is, as it professes to be, the production of Jesus (the Greek form of Joshua) the son of Sirach, who lived in the land " almost after all the prophets," and who has here embodied the sound instruction he received as a youth from his grandfather Jesus, who wrote in Hebrew, and died, " leaving this book almost perfected." The grandson translated, edited, and arranged it, making no claim to inspiration; he sent it forth hoping thereby to edify his nation, confessing his liability to error, but craving an unbiased reading of the work he had prepared in Greek from the Hebrew records left by the elder Jesus. The date given is in the years of Ptolemy Euergetes; and the praise of Simon the Just, in chapter 50, shows that the writer lived during his pontificate.”

8.      Baruch. This book purports to be the words of Jeremiah’s scribe. The inferior quality of writing and the dubious 6 chapters to the captives from Jeremiah make this a book of little worth. There are three tales which were added to the book of Daniel, and are given in order in the next section of the Apocrypha. The first is entitled:

9.      “The Song of the Three Holy Children," gives a good insight into the piety of the Jews in the time between the testaments. The words of this book are supposed to be inserted after Daniel 3:23. They were supposedly the song the 3 sang as they went unhurt through the flames.

10.  The History of Susanna “was published as a preface to the canonical prophecy of Daniel. Shylock's exclamation, "A Daniel come to judgment! " upon listening to Portia's wisdom, finds its explanation here. It tells the story of the attempt of two lecherous elders, first to rob a young Jewish wife of her virtue, and upon being repulsed successfully, to blackmail the object of their vile but defeated purpose. Daniel, a mere youth, appears upon the scene, and by examining each of the villains separately, causes them to contradict one another in such a way as to establish both the innocence of Susanna and their own wickedness.”

11.  The third tale was added at the end of Daniel, and is called, " The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon." Is a fictional, fairy tale-like story of Daniel defeating a dragon with pitch, fat and hair. It is a reflection of Babylonian magic, superstition and incantations. Totally opposite the purposeful miracles of God this is a legend tale of no value.

12.  The Prayer of Manasses purports to be the prayers of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, seeking God's favor through repentance. Although fictional it does reveal Jewish devotional thought for the period.

13.  First Maccabees is the historical annals recounting the wars of the Jews from the death of Alexander the Great to the pontificate of Simon the brother of Judas Maccabeus. Most current knowledge of the Jewish wars of independence traces from this book. The unknown author carries along the story with such drama and action that the whole book is quite moving. Quite evident is the author’s desire to exalt the God who forgives, defends and restores His people as they return to Him in faith. As one who loved Israel's God , the writer makes no claim to being inspired of God to record this book.

14.  Second Maccabees is far less valuable. There is a great deal of legendary material woven into the historical record. The Roman church especially esteems this book for its reference in 12:43-45 of a sin-offering for the dead. If this event happened it is not Scriptural for anyone to follow such an improper act for anothers salvation.

15.  3rd Maccabees is an incomplete book filled with more of the unacceptable legendary matters.

16.  4th Maccabees, doesn’t even make it into the Apocrypha by the Council of Trent. It is basically no more than a lengthy, religious novel.

 

There are other works of little value (many are lost from the present) such as the Book of Enoch; the Secrets of Enoch; the Book of Jubilees; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs; Psalms of Solomon; Sibylline Oracles; Assumption of Moses; the Apocalypse of Elijah; the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, and some others, of which early Christian Fathers make mention, but which are no longer extant, so far as is now known. Some of these were begun during the days of the Hasmoneans, and only completed in the Christian era; thus partaking of a mixed Jewish and Christian coloring. The Sibylline Oracles and the Book of Enoch are of this character.

 

Ironsides concludes: “It is a significant fact that in all the long years of the four silent centuries we have had before us, not so much as a psalm or any other literary product has come down to us that is worthy to be compared with the precious treasures of the Old Testament. Some, it is true, have attempted to assign Maccabean dates to some of the books of the Prophets and to several of the more recent psalms, but their guess-work theories are of no real value, and there can be little doubt that all were written when the last line of Malachi had been penned. The canon of the Jewish Scriptures was then complete. No desultory fragments were to be added in after years. When again the prophetic voice should be heard, it would be to announce the coming of Him who was the object and theme of " all the Scriptures," and whose advent in grace would be the occasion for the production of a New Testament completing the written revelation of God to man.”[1][8]

 

Lessons from the Four Hundred Silent Years

 

The reader will have little difficulty in realizing why the Saviour was not received by the covenant people. Their long years of declension had rendered them unable to recognize their Messiah when He appeared in accord with the scriptures of the Prophets. Their eyes had become blinded; their ears heavy; their hearts hardened, and their consciences seared; and so, not knowing the Scriptures, they fulfilled them in condemning the Prince of Life. Yet they were in Immanuel's land and the Holy City; gathered to the place where Jehovah's Name had been set of old. They were punctilious about the services of the temple; fond of reasoning about the Scriptures; proud of their descent from the patriarchs; and in their self-righteous complacency, despising their Gentile neighbors. But all this availed to nothing when spiritual discernment was gone and religion a matter of ritual rather than of life. It is not necessary to press the lesson for our own times. He who sees it not himself would not heed it if another urged it upon him.

 

 

Abiding truths from these 400 years:

1.      BLESSING: Out of dark days come some bright saints: Joseph, Mary, Simeon, Anna, Elizabeth and Zachariah are wonderful examples of this.

2.      BATTLING: When we leave God behind we fail.

3.      BLINDING: When we leave God out we can’t even see what is right in front of us from the Lord.

 

 

God always has His Servants in every generation.

God's Servants ALWAYS speak for Him.

Speaking for God ALWAYS brings blessings!

 

Mary “The Magnificat” Luke 1:46-55

 

1.      v. 46 Praising God

2.      v. 47 Rejoicing in Salvation

3.      v. 48 Displaying a true servantheartedness

4.      v. 49 Magnifying the Lord

5.      v. 50 Remembering the Mercy of the Lord

6.      v. 51 Humbling before God

7.      v. 52 Yielding to the Sovereignty of God

8.      v. 53 Extolling the Graciousness of God

9.      v. 54 Exhibiting Loyalty to God

10.  v. 55 Trusting the Enduring Commitment of God to His own

 

Zacharius’ Benedictus Luke 1:68-79

 

1.      v. 68 Worshiping God's Redemption

2.      v. 69 Praising the Lord’s Salvation

3.      v. 70 Seeing God's Revelation of Himself

4.      v. 71 Rejoicing in the Deliverance of the Lord

5.      v. 72 Resting in the Mercy of the Lord

6.      v. 73 Remembering the Covenant Loyalty of God

7.      v. 74 Serving the Lord

8.      v. 75 Living a Holy Life to God

9.      v. 76 Tracing the Fulfillment of God's Promises

10.  v. 77 Extolling the Forgiveness of God

11.  v. 78 Hoping in Christ as the Sunrise

12.  v. 79 Experiencing the Peace of God

 

Simeon’s Nunc Dimitis Luke 2:25-32

 

1.      v. 25: Holy Life, Patient Life, Consecrated Life (“Holy Spirit”)

2.      v. 26 Spirit Illumined Life

3.      v. 27 Spirit led life

4.      v. 28 Worship Energized Life

5.      v. 29 Rejoiced in Bondslavery to God

6.      v. 30 Trusted in Salvation through Christ

7.      v. 31 Saw the Message of Good News to the world

8.      v. 32 Understood Christ was the Light of the world

 

Anna’s Holy Service Luke 2:36-38

 

Anna had a Spirit Led Walk, all her life was in God's Hands:

1.      Her age: The Duration of Life

2.      Her Husband: The Decisions of Life

3.      Her Widowhood: The Deprivations of Life

4.      Her Temple Ministry: The Destination of Life

5.      Her Time was God's: she served

6.      Her Feet were God's: she came that instant

7.      Her Heart was God's: she gave thanks

8.      Her Lips were God's: she spoke for God


 



 

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