The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel will divide around 734 B.C. In 587 B.C. both kingdoms will be taken by Babylon. In 333 B.C. the Greeks will take Israel. In 168 B.C. the Romans will take Israel. How long before they become their own kingdom again? Not until 1948 A.D.
The words of the prophecy (Isaiah 40) rung in their ears for over 700 years. …her sin has been paid for, she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. By the birth of Christ, the Hebrew people felt that they had paid double for their forefathers. A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
It is interesting that this word of prophecy about John the baptizer and Jesus comes in the 40th chapter of Isaiah. It is a chapter dedicated to patience. The chapter ends with these words, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Waiting is a difficult pastime. And it occupies so much of life. We can’t wait to grow up. We can’t wait to get married. My wife was not above opening a gift before Christmas. A young husband was caught up short on a Sunday morning prior to getting ready for church when his wife handed him the children’s clothes and said, “Here, you get the kids ready today and I’ll go out and honk the horn.”
Waiting is not easy, but it holds an important aspect of our Christian life. We all need to learn the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. The Chinese plant the seed; they water and fertilize it, but the first year nothing happens. The second year they water and fertilize it, and still nothing happens. The third and fourth year they water and fertilize it, and sometime during the course of the fifth year, in a period of approximately six weeks the Chinese bamboo tree grows roughly ninety feet. The question is, “Did it grow ninety feet in six weeks or did it grow ninety feet in five years?” The obvious answer is that it grew ninety feet in five years, because had they not applied the water and fertilizer each year there would have been no Chinese bamboo tree.