Advent: The Intertestamental Period
As we enter into the Advent season, we are once again entering into the story of the days leading up to the birth of Christ.
What is Advent? Advent is the church’s remembrance and rehearsal of a world waiting for a Savior. Advent is a season of waiting, expectancy, longing.
In Advent, we step into the waiting of Israel, who waited for hundreds/thousands of years for the promised Savior King. We step into this, not just so we can try to feel what they felt, but also, to remind ourselves that we too, like Israel, are a people waiting for the promised Savior King. (No longer waiting for his first coming, but now for his second.)
In an effort to try and expand on somethings I will be exploring in our four week series through Advent, we will be posting some blogs on topics that I can’t cover to the extent needed during the sermons on Sunday.
Today I want us to take a longer look at the intertestamental period: what is it, what happened, and why does it matter for understanding the Advent season and the Christmas story?
What is the intertestamental period?
Exactly what it sounds like, it is the time between the Old and New Testament. There was roughly 400 years of silence between the prophet Malachi and the opening of story of the New Testament.
To explain this period, we have to know a bit about the history of Israel itself:
King David’s Kingdom existed from 1025-945 BC
In 945 BC the kingdom was divided and conquered, resulting in both exile and oppression from 945-568 BC
In 568 BC through the “Edict of Cyrus” Israel was allowed to go home and begin rebuilding
The restoration and rebuilding of Israel ran from 568-400 BC
From 400 BC to the birth of Christ you have 400 years of God’s people living without hearing from God. During this time there was a succession of brutal oppressions that Israel experienced starting with Persian rule and oppression and ending with Roman occupation.
The intertestamental period was a bloody, messy, and terrible season of Israel’s life. And the horror of it all was that they were met with the silence of God.
Why does this matter for understanding of advent and the Christmas story?
Do you know that feeling when you dive down into the water and end up going further down than you expected? You know that feeling as you head back up to the surface, the feeling right before you break through the surface of the water, where it feels like your lungs might explode and you think, “I am going to drown?”
This is how Israel felt for 400 years. Trapped, drowning, unable to breathe, just beneath the surface of the water...for 400 years.
It’s almost impossible to understand the season of Advent and the Christmas story apart from Israel’s centuries long wait for a coming King who would bring peace, justice, and hope.
We often stumble into the early chapters of Matthew and Luke struck by the beauty or cuteness of the Christmas story, but the people who Christ surprises in the incarnation were people who had been living under crushing oppression for 400 years.
The intertestamental period is a reminder that the Son of God did not enter into Bethlehem like we check into a resort, He stepped into a broken world among a broken people. The world was at war, mired with darkness and blood, and the Son of God stepped in to rescue His people and restore the world.
The Advent season attempts to pull the church into experiencing just a glimpse of what Israel lived under for centuries. To pull us into the longing that is often only experienced by those who feel the tyranny of oppression, who have been embedded in a culture of upheaval and violence, or who have experienced radical displacement.
Some additional resources you may find helpful:
“The Intertestamental Period.” - RC Sproul
*These resources should not be construed as representing any official positions or teachings from Mosaic Church. They are offered merely as sources representing biblically faithful positions that you may find helpful.