A Silence Breaking Speech, Part Three - The Light of the Mercy of God - Advent 2018, Week Four
For generations the people of God had been waiting and watching for the Messiah. They longed to be set free from Roman rule and for God to fulfill His promise of making them a great nation. One of those waiting and watching and praying for God’s salvation was a priest named Zechariah.
In his old age Zechariah was visited by an angel and told that God was sending the deliverance and salvation that the people of God had been waiting and watching for. In addition, Zechariah was told that his son would be the one responsible for announcing this coming salvation.
In Luke 1:67-79 we have the praise and prophecy that Zechariah spoke in response to this incredible news. In the first two sections of his speech we saw how this coming salvation is the fulfillment of the promises of God to His people. In this final section Zechariah describes the role his son will play in proclaiming the coming mercy of God, but more than that he describes the magnitude of God’s mercy in the arrival of the Messiah.
The Proclamation of John the Baptist - Mercy is Coming (1:76-78a)
- The Title: Prophet of the Most High – As Zechariah looked at his newborn son he announced to him and to all who were listening who he would be – the prophet of God. While many prophets had come before him, John was a prophet that had been foretold; he was the prophet who would prepare the way of the coming Messiah.
- The Job: Prepare the Way of the Lord - In Old Testament times it was the custom of some kings, if they would be traveling through the wilderness or through a rough terrain, to send men ahead of them to clear the way, to make it ready for the arrival of the king. In a similar way John was to go before the Messiah to make the way ready.This was a fulfillment of OT prophecies (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:1-5).
- The Means of Preparation: Giving Knowledge of Salvation – How would John go about preparing the way of the Lord? His calling was to proclaim the message of salvation; that Messiah was coming offering the forgiveness of sins. The nature of this salvation was different than what the nation of Israel expected. They expected a king and an earthly kingdom, but Jesus came first to bring spiritual salvation (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:24–28).
- A Message of Coming Mercy (vs. 78a) – As Zechariah transitions from describing the ministry of John to announcing the coming of Jesus he ties the two sections together with a reference to the tender mercy of God. The ministry of John is a proclamation of this tender mercy and the advent of Messiah is the arrival of that mercy.
The Arrival of Jesus the Messiah – Mercy has Come (1:78-79)
- The Dawning of Salvation – Zechariah lives as part of a nation that feels lost and abandoned. For generations they have been waiting and longing for the salvation of God and it’s been like waiting in the dark, in the shadow of death. With this in mind he describes the coming of Christ as the sun rising over the horizon, light breaking into darkness.
The Result of the Rising Sun (Coming Salvation)
- He gives light to those in darkness –Throughout the Scriptures fallen humanity is described as being in darkness; we are lost and without hope. When Christ comes He brings light to a world of darkness, he brings hope and salvation and life. This is imagery that is used throughout the Old Testament to speak of coming salvation (Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 9:2–7; 60:1-3).Jesus also uses this imagery to describe Himself (John 8:12) and Peter uses it to call others to salvation (2 Peter 1:19).
- He guides the people of God into the way of peace – The Scriptures teach that every person is born in need of peace. We need peace because every one of us is born into hostility; we are born as enemies of our creator. In our flesh we fight against Him and we deserve His wrath; on our own we can never achieve peace. But Jesus came to make peace possible and available (Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Romans 5:1–2).
The Fulfillment of Zechariah’s Prophecy (1:80) – After Zechariah’s song we aren’t told much more about John the Baptist until the time of his public ministry. But what the Scriptures make clear is that John lived out exactly what had been foretold (John 1:6-18).
Our Response– As we consider all that we have heard in Zechariah’s song we should go into this Christmas season with (1) a renewed awe of the faithfulness of God to His promises, (2) a greater sense of gratitude for God’s incredible mercy toward sinful men (3) and with a deeper longing to invite others to experience the joy of the salvation that is possible through Christ.