We’ve come to a pause in our reading of The Grace of God by Andy Stanley, a pause that covers about 400 years.
It’s a period covering roughly 400 B.C. to the birth of Christ. Many Protestants call it the “400 years of silence” – the period when no writing was produced that would be added to the canon. Catholics take a different view, and include what are often referred to as the “Apocryphal” texts – Esdras, Maccabbees, and a few others. All three Christian traditions (Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) generally agree on the New Testament canon.
But it wasn’t exactly a quiet period in the history of Middle East. Momentous things were happening that would have a significant impact upon the first century A.D.
The Persian Empire declined, and was conquered by Alexander the Great. Alexander’s empire was divided into three parts upon his death, but Greek culture and influence became pervasive.
Antiochus Epiphanes got a little too enamored of himself, and defiled the temple in Jerusalem, for he re received a rebellion and loss of territory.
For a time Palestine and Israel operated quasi-independently, until Rome occupied the territory when the ruling factions couldn’t stop their bickering.
For 400 years, there was no prophet, or canonical writing, and no direct communication by God to his people, at least in the way they had experienced it before. It was a kind of silence, but a silence which masked how the stage was being set.
Like an unannounced intermission,” Andy Stanley writes, “the curtain of world events closed on the story of God’s grace, and the stage went dark.”
By the time of the birth of Jesus, there was a common government for the Mediterranean world (Roman), a common culture (Greek), an empire-wide road system that allowed ease of travel – and, among the Jews, a growing expectation for the arrival of a Messiah, one who would lead them to victory over the Roman oppressors and restore Israel to its promised earthly power.
But that’s not what happened.
While this story is a large one, it struck me as I read it that there’s a personal application. We can go for long periods of hope and expectation, and nothing happens. We can pray and pray for something to happen, and nothing happens. We can convince ourselves that our suffering can’t last forever, that something must change, and yet nothing seems to happen.
And yet, something is happening. Something is always happening. We may not see it or sense it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
A stage is being set. It’s always being set.
Led by Jason Stayszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading Andy Stanley’s The Grace of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Selah,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Illustration: A map of Alexander the Great’s empire at its height.