“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.”
I am writing this post-Thanksgiving (in the United States) and after having spent two days just relaxing with my family. I have also been feeling keenly some of the symptoms of my health diagnoses but am grateful that they have not interfered too much with family time. I feel both favored and redeemed.
“He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” (Verses 69-71)
But this speech from Zechariah given at the naming of his son John does not apply to just one person but on the entire Jewish nation. And if the Jewish people have felt favored, they have also felt pressed upon and oppressed from many sides. They have gone from being a mighty nation to a nation owned and ruled over by others.
“Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Verses 72-76)
The time is soon coming – it is an ongoing hope for the Jewish – that they will be rescued from their afflictions and oppression, and will be free, and obligated, to worship as they have been called to. Zechariah is prophesying that an important sign of that time is now here, amongst them.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Verses 77-79)
As I said, this prophecy was given at the time of John the Baptist’s naming. And John does grow up to do all those things. I do not know if the people who there would remember this when John is out in the desert dressed in just skins, and crying out “Prepare the way!” Will we?
We are in the time of Advent, looking forward and preparing ourselves for the birth of Christ. John’s birth heralded Jesus birth, as John’s ministry heralded Jesus’ ministry. How far will we take our preparations? Only until Christ’s birth? Or beyond, to the changes that must be made in our lives if we are going to follow Jesus Christ faithfully? Will we follow God and Jesus “without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days”?
May the Lord be with you, beloved reader, in your preparations. Selah!