Today my students endured 1 minute, 56 seconds of my silence before it became uncomfortable. But during the Silence Era, God did not speak for 400 years.
The storyline of this era is “The Pharisees entombed the Israelites in legalism for the next 400 years.”
What Is Legalism?
It’s following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Following the letter of the law can be crazy, and crazy difficult. Does God command obedience? Yes. Does God expect obedience? Yes. But what happens in the Silence Era is some people are so paranoid about disobedience that they create rules to help you keep rules that help you keep rules…
Remember, they had just come out of a 7o year exile. If you had been exiled for not keeping God’s laws, it’s easy to see why you’d become a legalist. Rules were created to ensure that God’s laws were kept, for fear of being exiled again!
But while God is silent, this gets out of control. Here are a few examples from The Talmud:
- “you can only carry enough ink to write two letters (so no ball point pens)”
- “you cannot eat a cheeseburger, or a burger and a milkshake, or use the same utensils for meat and dairy, or wash them in the same dishwashing cycle…”
- “you cannot stretch out the limbs of an infant (to wrap them in a blanket or change their diaper)”
- “When one puts on his shoes he should commence with the right shoe; when he takes them off he should commence with the left. When one bathes he should wash the right side first; when he anoints himself he should anoint the right side first, and whoever anoints the whole body should commence with the head, for the head is the king of all the members of the body”
What Does Jesus Say About Legalism?
Read Mark 7.1-8. Jesus goes after the Pharisees because they are so obedient to tradition they don’t even recognize God is in the room with them! To help you OWN your faith you need to take a look at what you believe and ask if it’s because of a tradition or because of the Gospel.
The bottom line is that religious people can, and always do, take a good thing and ruin it. Rather than living in the freedom of the Gospel, you get beat up with rules steeped in paranoia. So don’t be a legalist, because those people suck. But love Jesus. And love Him well.
Jesus is who we look forward to. Jesus is who we long for. Jesus is who we anticipate. If you’ve ever felt like you just don’t hear from God or you don’t feel God in your life, you know what anticipation is like. You’re unsettled. You’re restless. You’re looking for the answer to what’s making you uneasy. And so were the Jews.
God didn’t speak for 400 years.
400 years of total silence.
Then, in a cramped animal barn, the silence is shattered by the unmistakable cry of a newborn baby.