I was surprised to turn the page of my Bible the other day and discover that I’d jumped straight from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Since I’m reading the Chronological Bible, I didn’t have the usual clues like divider pages or those handy-dandy little thumb tabs to alert me.
According to canonical order, Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, but scholars think Joel was actually the last of the prophets to give a message before the arrival of the Messiah. If that’s the case, then these are the final words God spoke to his people before the new covenant was ushered in. They are words full of hope and promise, grace and truth:
Judah will be filled with people forever,
and Jerusalem will endure through all generations.
I will pardon my people’s crimes,
which I have not yet pardoned;
and I, the Lord, will make my home
in Jerusalem with my people.
With a simple turn of the page, I was amazed to see that promise directly fulfilled in the person of Christ:
The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
God’s last words in the old covenant consisted of the promise to make his home with his people. And sure enough, in the book of John, Jesus is revealed as God in human form, moving into our neighborhood.
But things weren’t so clear cut for the people living in those years between Joel’s final prophesy and the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ arrival. They couldn’t just turn to the next chapter to see the fulfillment—they had to wait. And wait. And wait.
They waited for some 400 years, in fact. Think about it—for us that would be like getting a promise in the 1600s, in the days of Galileo or Shakespeare, and not seeing the results until now. With each passing generation, it must have gotten harder for the Israelites to hold on to this promise of Immanuel, harder to feel the truth of it, harder to believe it would actually happen one day.
It had to be hard to live in those blank pages between the two testaments.
And although today we have both the BC and the AD parts of the story, we often find ourselves in a similar spot, wondering and waiting on our own blank pages between the promise and the fulfillment. We have God’s words in broad strokes—that he will save and redeem and make all things new again—but there are so many things we don’t know while we wait. What, exactly, will it look like when the promise is fulfilled? Why do we have to wait? And perhaps most of all, for how long?
I don’t want to grow weary as I wait. I don’t want to forget the promise. I don’t want my belief to fade into little more than a distant memory. I want to wait well.
Come, Lord Jesus. Make your home among us. And in the meantime, let us wait with patience and hope whenever we find ourselves on the blank pages in between.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.