This past weekend I started a new teaching series at GCC, called, “Silent Night.” Below are my notes from Part 1- Do You Hear What I Hear? Please enjoy for personal use. For all other uses email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? A song, as song, high above the trees, with a voice as big as the sea. With a voice as big as the sea. This may be just a cute, cuddly Christmas Carol, but it illustrates something very powerful, and that is, the way, and to whom God chose to communicate after 400 years of silence!!
Big Idea: God speaks to us in multiple ways, but do we recognize his voice and do we incorporate what he says into our daily lives or just ignore him…
Do you realize that between God’s last communication to Israel, recorded in Malachi 4:5-6, when through the prophet God said, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” And the next time God spoke, recorded in Luke 1:13-16 to an old priest named, Zechariah, when, through an angel, God said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at this birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord… He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly. ” Was 400 years!!
That’s right, for 400 years, no word, no message, no prophets, no angels, no communication from God (I’ll speak more about this next week in Pt. 2)! This is the period between the OT and the NT. The last thing God says is: “I will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers!” Then, 400 years later, boom, an angel shows up to an old man and says, John, your son, that your old wife is going to have, “He will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God… He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children!” WOW! 400 years, and then it’s like God just picks right up where he left off. He finishes his sentence in Mal. 4:5-6, with what he says to Zachariah!!
Now, Zechariah and his wife are old!! But, here’s a guy that has been faithful- despite no new communication from God, and only having these written down words of the Torah and the prophets, Luke writes that “he was righteous in God’s eyes,” that he “was careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations!” He’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing and God is honoring that in his life! (I’ll cover more on this in Pt. 3)!!
God literally completes his sentence- only 400 years later!! Why 400 years of silence? That’s crazy!! Do you know what I think this shows us?? That God is consistent, that God doesn’t change his mind, that it doesn’t matter if it’s 4 seconds, 4 minutes, 4 hours, 4 days, 4 weeks, 4 months, 4 years, or 400 years… God will not waver, He is totally and completely dedicated, integrous, committed to his plans and purpose!!
That’s why, what He has already told you, what you’ve already read in this Bible, what you already know, God isn’t going to change it 4 minutes or 4 hours or 4 years or 400 or 4000 years from now!!!
So, the question is: DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? Do you hear God speaking to you from His Word, from his Spirit, and what are doing with it? Up until Malachi 4:6, God had been speaking to His people for almost 4,000 years through angels, prophets, kings, burning bushes, Christophanies, even made a donkey talk!! And then nothing… it’s like God said, “I’ve tried everything I know to get your attention, to tell you what to do, to help you all along the way, and you’ve killed my prophets, broken all my laws, and turned a deaf ear to me, so ‘click’, I’m hanging up the phone!” Think about that?? And then for 400 years… Silent Nights!! 146,000 of them!!
We don’t incorporate God into our daily lives…
Think about this time of the year… the time we celebrate the birth of Christ; it should be all about him, but instead it’s all about us. We don’t include God in our daily lives like we should. Sure, we go to church and maybe we’re involved in some religious things, but for the most part, those things aren’t necessarily about serving Him or having his as an essential part of our lives. That was exactly the case with Israel- throughout their history in the OT, God is constantly trying to have an up close, and personal relationship with them, but they didn’t want too much to do with God when it came to their everyday lives. Mostly, they called out to God only when they were desperate and things were going really badly for them.
In Malachi 1, the last book of the OT, God tells Israel that they “haven’t honored or respected him” and they they’ve “offered defiled sacrifices.” Basically he’s telling them that they were only going through the motions of religious service, but it was meaningless, because their heart wasn’t in it. He also tells them that “he loved them” but they really didn’t “love him back!” So, I guess God has enough and basically doesn’t talk to them anymore for 400 years! It’s like God is saying, “I don’t know what else to do, what else to say, what else to prove; you obviously don’t want me in your lives…”
God certainly isn’t insecure or pouting or having a 400 year pity party for himself. He’s basically telling them, from our text, “at some point your heart has to be turned back to me!” Yet, here’s a guy, and old priest, sincerely serving the Lord- his heart was in it!! Have your ever been told, or said to someone else, “You’re heart just isn’t in it!” I heard that a lot from my mom growing up when she told me to clean my room and I’d make it look like I did but stuff was hidden under the bed, and… she knew that’s what I did. “Your heart just wasn’t in it, Terry!” Of course not!! My heart was in playing outside with my friends!!
Think about how you possibly don’t incorporate God into your daily life, do what he says. Like Israel, is your service simply religious activity? Do we really honor and respect him, and do we understand what that means? God wants us to involve him in our daily lives because we love him, to honor and respect his faithfulness to us by being faithful to him, obeying what he says and doing it with utmost devotion and diligence. Do we seek his counsel, pray, read his word and apply it in our lives everyday? My heart has to be in it! God was telling Israel, “You’re heart isn’t in it- it’s only religious activity and I don’t accept it!” Is your heart in it today, in your relationship with God?
We can ignore God when he speaks…
Another thing God tells Israel in Malachi, and at many other times in the OT, is that they basically ignored him. I don’t know if there’s any greater disrespect than to ignore someone. We’re telling that person, “I don’t value you anything your say. I don’t value who you are. You have no importance to me!” In Malachi 1 again God tells them that they “dishonored him with their actions” and “turned their noses up at his word, his commandments.” In Mal. 2 God tells them that “they didn’t listen or take his words to heart.” He chapter 3 he tells them that they’re “robbing him by ignoring giving him their tithes” and in chapter 4 God says, “You need to remember my law, my commandments…” For 4000 years- “Your heart isn’t in it!!”
Basically, God shuts up the heavens, for 400 years… it’s like he’s ignoring them! For 400 years there was no “connection,” no “communication” with God. It was like God was a million miles away; uninterested in the human condition. God didn’t seem to be near at all! Sure, people still went to church (the Temple); they worshipped, prayed, offered their services and sacrifices, business as usual, but there was no experience of God’s presence! No one could say, “I sense God is near us!” Or, “I prayed and I know God heard me!” Or, “I was reading the Bible and God spoke to me!” Churches were just religious places with rules, regulations, and rituals with no substance or meaning.
People certainly lost faith and hope. Surely they must have felt that God didn’t care; he wasn’t interested. They most likely asked, “Does God really understand what’s going on in my life and why doesn’t he do something? Where is he? Why isn’t he saying something, anything??”
But is God really ignoring you? Even though there were 400 years of silence, did that mean God was disconnected, uncaring, nowhere near?? Was God ignoring them because they had ignored him? Was he turning his heart from them because they had turned their hearts from him? Is that really the nature of God? For 4,000 years, primarily through prophets, God was constantly speaking to his people, and then, with the final words of Malachi, he has nothing more to say! Why does God stop talking to you… or does he? Is God still present even though you feel like he’s a million miles away? Does he hear your prayers even when, seemingly, there’s no response? Does God ignore you??
Absolutely not!! Again, this was a “heart” thing- God was calling it like he saw it, like it was: “your heart is not turned to me!” Mal. 4:5-6. At the same time, they know what God had said through Jeremiah: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13 God really doesn’t ignore us- but let’s be honest, we can, and do, ignore him- it’s a “heart” thing! Our heart is turned to other things, other interests, and our relationship with God becomes more about religious ritual, like Israel was doing, and not something that is all about our hearts being completely devoted to God!
Think about it… how do you feel when you’re ignored? Think about Christmas and despite it being the season of the celebration of Christ’s birth, we can ignore him! We all know how we feel when we’re ignored… Especially right now, all the hustle and bustle, the busyness… let’s be honest, it’s really hard to hear what God is saying when all that is going on!!
Think about how we don’t incorporate God into our daily lives… if it’s not a “heart” thing; then it’s just a very cold, go-through-the-motions, exercise! God kept silent for 400 years because that’s how long it took to get to the place where people, God’s children, Israel, would “turn their hearts to their Father, to God!”
Jesus himself would later say, “You’ve got to serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart…” Mt. 22:37. Paul would write about the “God I serve with my whole heart…” Rom. 1:9. God wants us to love him, serve him, know him, honor and respect him, with all my heart! This means that I am totally committed, sold out, all in, completely dedicated and devoted to my relationship with the Lord! It’s the reciprocation of my life back to him considering all he’s done for me!
“Do you hear what I hear” just in Malachi alone?
- Mal. 1:2 “I have always loved you…” Give God the love he deserves!
- Mal. 2:2 “Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name.” Give God the honor he deserves!
- Mal. 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Give God the first 10% he deserves!
- Mal. 4:5-6 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Give God your heart that’s what he deserves!
Please know my heart today! I’m not trying to take the merriment out of “Merry Christmas!” I’m simply saying that Christmas itself begs us to invite God back into our lives and no longer ignore Him! The bottom line- God didn’t ignore you or me!! And because Jesus came into our world… the world was never the same again! God coming to be with us, changed everything! As Max Lucado wrote, “One thing is certain, we can’t ignore him. Dismiss him? We can’t. Resist him? Equally difficult.”
Think about it this way. In the darkest of times, when there had been 400 years of separation from God; when the world was absent life and meaning and passion, any real joy or peace on earth and goodwill towards men. When there was just ritual and shallow religious activity, God came to be with us! He didn’t abandon us- He came to save us!
And here’s the ultimate reality and hope- no matter where you are or what you’re going through, God is near, you can find Him if you’ll look for Him! He never abandons you, never ignores you, and he’s here right now, speaking to you… do you hear what I hear? His heart reaching out to yours??