A simple turn of the page and you leave behind the Old Testament and enter into the New Testament. If you are reading the Bible chronologically, like a story, you find that the first chapter of Matthew re-acquaints you with the characters you’ve already come to know and admire” Abraham, Issac, Jacob, David, and more. Yet, a new character indeed a person who will claim to be the main charter of the entire Bible is now introduces—-Jesus Christ.
You will also notice that the world in which Jesus travels bears little resemblance to the one left behind by Malachi. The Eastern Empires of the Israelites captivity-Babylon,Assyria,and Persia- no loner dominate the region. Instead a new power has risen in the West: the empire of Rome. Its boundaries extend from the Mediterranean to North America and even Europe. It’s ruler in Palestine a cruel and self serving king named Herod, sits enthroned over the Jews.
You will recall the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken into captivity by Assyria, and then the southern kingdom of Judah later went into captivity in Babylon. All of this occurred because the people had sinned and refused to remain faithful to God! The prophets had warned the people over and over, but they refused to believe. In Malachi, the Israelities had recently returned to Judah and their capital city, from captivity in Babylon and rebuild the temple, their center of worship. Under the guidance of the priests and the prophets, the community’s leaders since ancient times, they sought to repopulate the land, drive out there enemies, and learn again how to worship God in a way he desired.
In Matthew, however, the Jews are settled and secure under the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. The no longer worship in the temple alone but in dozen of synagogues scattered throughout the country’s towns and villages. Priests continue to provide leadership but the people now look to a new array of religious law(also know as the scribes). Over all these authorities sits a governing body called the high council (or Sanhedrin), which functions like something of a religious Supreme Court.
Most noticeable, perhaps, is the lack of prophets. Where as Malachi had followed a succession of prophets going back hundreds of years, not a single divine spokes-person appeared before the nation during the years between ths Old and New Testaments. Anyone who claimed to be a prophet was proven to be an imposter. For more than 400 years, the heaven seemed closed to the nation of Israel. They heard nothing from God. Nothing but silence.
Then, one ordinary night in the tiny village of Bethleham, Jesus was born. With his first cries God’s voice once again graced the land. For Jews with ears to hear and eyes to see, it became clear that through-out Jesus life that he was the Son of God, the Savor for whom they had long been waiting. God used the years of silence to prepare the perfect time and place for Jesus arrival. During the years between the Testaments-years of war and upheaval, flawed heroes, and unfilled hopes- God set the stage for the final era of salvation history, an era of Good News for the Jews and gentiles alike.