Israel was in a dark place. They were 1,000 years removed from King David. They had seen their kingdom divided, then absolutely crushed by the Assyrians. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom had been scattered and sent out as exiles. Almost 600 years had passed since they saw Jerusalem captured and Solomon's Temple destroyed by Babylon. They had seen their best and brightest carried off to Babylon to serve in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.
They had been promised a savior, but instead they had seen one conqueror after another come in and crush Jerusalem under his heel. They had been mistreated and scattered. It had been centuries since they had been sent a prophet of God, and their last prophets--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel...--hadn't had a whole lot of happy news for them.
Through it all, though, they had Isaiah's words to cling to. It was a message of a Savior, the One who would be called Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. They were promised One who would rule a kingdom that would never end.
But He hadn't come.
For so long they had been waiting for someone to come and free them from oppression, someone to reestablish the throne of David in the land God had promised them. Instead, they found themselves in the dark, under Roman rule, with God silent. They found themselves questioning God's plan, wondering if He had forgotten His promises.
They were stuck in the waiting, lost in between the stories of a blessed nation in the past and the never-ending kingdom of the future.
Sometimes, I think God works most in the waiting. It's during the dark, hard times that He draws people to Himself, that He shows us just how much we need Him, just how little we can do on our own.
"Adonai, I call to you from the depths;
hear my cry, Adonai!
Let your ears pay attention
to the sound of my pleading.
Yah, if you kept a record of sins,
who, Adonai, could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that you will be feared.
I wait longingly for Adonai;
I put my hope in his word.
Everything in me waits for Adonai
more than guards on watch wait for morning,
more than guards on watch wait for morning.
Isra’el, put your hope in Adonai!
For grace is found with Adonai,
and with him is unlimited redemption.
He will redeem Isra’el
from all their wrongdoings."
Psalm 130 (Complete Jewish Bible)