Sometimes things seem to take so long! And I think that in this age of technology where things happen so much more quickly than ever before, we are no more patient than we were in other generations. Before the invention of the telephone, people used to send messages by courier—on foot, on horseback, perhaps by boat. Depending on the distance, it might take hours, days or months to get a message to someone. Now we don’t even like to use a phone that is attached to a wall, or even that restricts us to staying in a building, if we can help it. And we complain if we have to wait more than a minute or two for anything.
The time span between the Old Testament and the New Testament is 400 years without recorded prophecies from God. That’s a long time to wait for a message! Just before the beginning of those 400 years, in Malachi 4:1-2, we are told that the day is coming when all evildoers will be burned as chaff, but that those who respect the name of the Lord will be vindicated and will be free and happy. Then God tells us that He will send the prophet Elijah to encourage both adults and children to return to Him before the day of judgement comes. (Malachi 4:5-6)
So imagine hearing that news at the time of Malachi and then not getting any updates for 400 years. Generations of people have come and gone, and there was still no news on when this vindication would be implemented. I wonder how many people gave up waiting for the Messiah, and for Elijah to come. I wonder how many stopped believing in God. I’m sure there were many, but there were also some who continued to teach their children God’s ways. (Deuteronomy 6)
In Luke 1:16-17, the spirit and the power of Elijah did return in the person of John the Baptizer. John’s purpose was still the same as prophesied in Malachi 4:5-6. To prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah to come by turning the people back to God. We are still waiting for the day of judgement to come. While we wait, what are we teaching our children? Are we still teaching them the commandments, statutes and ordinances of God? (Deuteronomy 6:1-3) Do they see us living in a way that demonstrates what we say we believe? Or are we becoming lax? Are we getting forgetful as we wait? If we do not teach this generation of children the ways of God, who will teach the next?