After John is born, Zechariah gets his voice back. The first thing he does is confirm that his new son will be called John. Then he begins to prophecy about the coming of a Saviour. Our reading today is that prophecy.
Luke 1: 67 – 79 (NLT)
67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Zechariah lived in a country that was ruled by the Roman Empire. No one could challenge the authority of the Roman rulers. The Jewish people were allowed to continue their religious practices as long as they didn’t threaten Rome. When Zechariah said those words, I wonder if he clung to the message “Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.” Or “We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.” It wouldn’t surprise me if that was an important part of the message that he would think about for years. I’m also sure he thought about the prophecy concerning his son. This would be an affirmation of the message the angel gave him before John’s birth. If Zechariah was anything like the disciples who followed Jesus for three years of His public ministry, he was looking forward to a day when Rome was defeated by this new king and Israel would be free to worship God without interference from a foreign government.
But from our perspective 2000 years later, we see a different message. The words that catch our attention are ones like: “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior” or “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Are those messages contradictory? No. The Saviour did come and someday Israel will experience His rule and the freedom He brings. It just wasn’t going to happen in Zechariah or John’s lifetime, and it hasn’t happened yet. They didn’t understand what we know now that Jesus will come two times. Once then as a saviour who would give us the gift of salvation and reconciliation with God, and then again when God’s rule is established and Satan is defeated.
But as Zechariah prophesied about Jesus coming, his prophecy was based on Old Testament prophecies as well. For example, Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Or Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Zechariah was not wrong about hoping a king would come and free Israel. He just didn’t realize how broad the scope of God’s plan was – that God loved the whole world, not just Israel.
As Christians 2000 years later on, when we read prophecies like the one in Isaiah 53: 3 – 7, we understand what that prophecy was about because it has already happened. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
There are some prophecies that have not happened yet. But because I’ve seen those prophecies fulfilled, it gives me hope and confidence that the ones about our future can be believed. Ones like this: I Thessalonians 4: 13- 18 (NLT) “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.”
Here is another one: Revelation 21: 1 – 6 (NLT) “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.”
Prophecies are amazing and true. They fill us with wonder and hope – especially now in a worldwide pandemic, and a world that is in conflict is so many places. God knows the future!
Our song for today is King of Kings by Hillsong Worship