Sunday, December 13, 2009

Breaking the Silence

Our Sunday school class just began a quarter-long study of the book of Exodus. It's not exactly the section of Scripture that typically comes to mind when I think about the Advent season, but this morning I was struck by a parallel between Moses and Jesus' birth that I had not previously considered.

When God approached Moses via the burning bush, it was during a time of suffering for Israel. They had become enslaved in Egypt, and were treated cruelly by the slave drivers. Even worse, Pharaoh, fearing an uprising from the growing Hebrew population, decreed that all male Hebrew babies be thrown into the Nile. Although Moses survived and was actually adopted into Pharaoh's family, he later had to flee Egypt for the wilderness of Midian after killing an Egyptian.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt the Israelites continued to face greater and greater oppression. We discussed in class this morning the range of emotions that the Israelites may have been feeling at that time--abandonment, neglect, fear. I imagine that many of them felt that God was silent, perhaps not giving any thought to their suffering.

On the contrary, God was not silent for long. He had not only heard the Israelites' groaning for deliverance, but He came to rescue them through an unlikely shepherd. As He told Moses in Exodus 3:9-10: "The cries of the people of Israel have reached me, and I have seen how the Egyptians have oppressed them with heavy taks. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharoah. You will lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt."

Now, skip ahead to the time of Jesus' birth. Several hundred years lapse between the book of Malachi, ending the Old Testament, and the book of Matthew, the beginning of the New Testament. These have been years of silence from God. Years of oppression for His people. Years of suffering and crying out for deliverance.

Yet again, God chooses an unlikely hero to send as a rescuer--this time, His own Son in the form of a baby. As I thought about the similarities of these stories this morning, the song "Silent Night" sprang to mind. I've always thought of the silence in the song as coming in the wake of Jesus' birth, a peaceful, quiet night. Now, though, I'm thinking that Jesus did not bring silence with Him, but rather broke the silence with His first cries. After many years of silence, God's people were desperate for a word from Him. They longed for some sign of deliverance, some sign that God had not, despite all outward appearances, forgotten His people.

A child's first cry is often music to their parents' ears, and I'm sure that was the case for Joseph and Mary at Jesus' birth. But I wonder if they had a greater sense of the silence that was broken then, and that would forever change the world.

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