Zechariah’sSong – “God Has Come”
Whereis God when tragedy strikes? On Thursday we learned of anotherdevastating tragedy in one of our nation’s schools. Anothermassacre of innocent children by a crazed murderer – this time inNewtown Connecticut. Where is God when 20 children and 6 teachersare gunned down in an elementary school?
Whereis God when 29 year old teacher Kaitlin Roig hid in a classroombathroom with 14 children aged 6-7 years old?
Herstory brought me to tears as I watched her tell her story to DianeSawyer on an ABC News clip. The third grade teacher thought thechildren would be killed if they tried to escape outside or down thehall, so she tried to keep fourteen terrified children quiet as theyhid in the classroom bathroom. Kaitlin wedged a storage unit infront of the door and didn’t come out until the police unlockedthe door. Some of the children stood on the toilet so they could allfit in the small bathroom. Thankfully, Kaitlin and her children weresafe and are scarred only by the horrors of that day and theknowledge that so many of their friends and teachers were senselesslykilled.http://abcnews.go.com/US/newtown-teacher-refused-unlock-door-police-fearing-gunmans/story?id=17976299
Ifwe say that “God was there keeping Kaitlin and her childrensafe,” then where was God when the 20 children in the otherclassrooms were killed by the shooter Adam Lanza?
Onlysomeone who has experienced this kind of violence can begin toimagine what these grieving parents must be going through. Theprayers of the entire country cry out for these grieving parents andthe community of Newton. We pray for God’s comfort throughtheir unimaginable sorrow.
ButNewton was not the only place where sorrow could be found last week.
OnFriday, Dec 15, 6 adults and 4 teens were shot in Chicago in a seriesof separate crimes.
InPhiladelphia, 319 homicide deaths so far in 2012. Almost one perday.
InSyria, close to 40,000 have been killed in civil war.
InThailand, Indonesia, and dozens of other countries, children arebeing sold as sex slaves to the highest bidder.
Wewere reminded of the depth of evil in our world when Adam Lanzaopened fire in a small town elementary school. But if we think hardenough, suffering is all around us. It is in the home of Mary Kelleywhose 52 year old son Bill died of a heart attack leaving behind awife and 2 sons. It is the home of Loraine Fergonna whose son-in-lawwas just diagnosed with blood cancer.
Thinkback with me to the time of the Jewish people under Emperor CeasarAgustus.
Therewas great disease. Life expectance was 50 for an infant male, 36 foran infant female. Most parents expected that at least on or more oftheir children would die of a childhood disease. Slavery, robberyand war were all part of the ancient world. It was a world ofsuffering and sorrow. The Jews lived under Roman authority, andwhile Rome kept the peace, rebellions were put down mercilessly.
Israellonged for her Messiah. Peace was an idea that eluded the Jewishpeople. Corruption was rampant. King Herod who sat on the throne inJerusalem was an imposter – not even Jewish. He enslaved his ownnation to build his elaborate monuments to himself.
Andinto this sad world, a message of hope was given.
Thatmessage is exalted in the praise given by an elderly priest whom Godused as a part of the Christmas story. The priests name isZechariah. Some translations name him Zacharias, but it’s thesame name. He and his wife Elizabeth lived in the hills of Judea,possibly near Hebron. They were childless and prayed for a baby. That prayer was answered late in their lives when the angel Gabrieldelivered the news that Elizabeth would give birth to a son who wouldbe the forerunner of the Messiah.
Ourpassage in Luke 1:68-79 presents Zechariah’s praise at thebirth of his son, the baby that would grow up to be John the Baptist. His praise represents the hope of all Israel, that the Messiah hadfinally come, that GOD HAS VISITED HIS PEOPLE. His praise reachesthrough the centuries to remind us that God has provided an answer tothe sorrows and evil that is in this world today. The answer isfound in the reality that GOD HAS COME to us in the person of theLord Jesus Christ.
Zechariah’s Praise – God Has Come!
Thereare two Parts to Zechariah’s Song of Praise. The first Sectionis contained in Luke 1:69-75. We know that this passage divides intotwo parts because each of the parts are one sentence in Greek. Thefirst sentence addresses what GOD HAS DONE to secure salvation. Themain point of this is found in v. 69 – “hehas raised up a horn of salvation for us.”
Thesecond section is found in Luke 1:76-79. This section emphasizesZechariah’s prophecy concerning his son John. “Andyou my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you willgo on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.” (Luke1:76), This part of the praise is directed toward What God WILL DOin the future through John and most importantly, through Jesus. John’s role would be to prepare Israel to hear the message thatthe Messiah would proclaim.
Bothof these sections focus on the word “God has visited us.” The word is the Greek word episkeptomaiand it means “to look at, or to visit.” Note the twouses of this word in the two main sections of Zechariah’spraise:
1:68“Hehas come andhas redeemedhispeople”
1:78“therising sun willcome to usfrom heaven”
Bothsentences use the same Greek word. This connects the two sentencestogether and presents Zechariah’s main point of his praise -GOD HAS COME to VISIT HIS PEOPLE.
Thisword is ssed inLuke 7:16followingthe miraculous healing of the grief stricken mother whose only sonhad died. Jesus raised her son and the people replied with thefollowing response: “Theywere all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet hasappeared among us,” they said. “Godhas come tohelp his people.””
Theanswer to this world’s SORROW is that GOD HAS COME
Parentsin Newton canbe comforted because GOD HAS COME and welcomes children.
Cancerpatients canbe comforted because GOD HAS COME to give purpose when you’vebeen told that your life will soon come to an end.
Victimsof crime canbe comforted because GOD HAS COME and promises that one day Justicewill rule.
The Reason for Zechariah’s Praise
Zechariah’spraise flowed out of his knowledge of God and his experience of beingvisited by the angel Gabriel.
Heknew that God was at work in his life. Zechariah was a godly manwith a heavy heart. He and Elizabeth had NO CHILDREN. Luke 1:7. Atthe RIGHT TIME, God intervened in Zechariah’s life.
Thetiming of this intervention is given in Luke 1:8. “Zechariah’sdivision was on duty”His “division” was the priestly line of Abijah from whichZechariah traced his lineage and priestly vintage.
Oncein a lifetime, his “family” would be chosen from thispriestly line to serve in the Holy Place for ONE WEEK. The membersof the family would be divided up for the days of that week. Eachday, one of the FAMILY MEMBERS would be chosen by lot for the mosthonored of all tasks – lighting and tending the Golden Lampstand.
Thislampstand represented God’s presence with Israel. It was areminder of the Light of the World. We know what this lampstandlooked like! The very lampstand that Zechariah tended that day wastaken to Rome when Titus destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. When Titusreturned to Rome, he built a GREAT ARCH to commemorate his victories. Inscribed in the arch are the trophies of his victories in Judea,including a replica of the LAMPSTAND. The arch and the engravedlampstand still can be viewed in Rome today, 2,000 years later!
Onthis day, Zechariah was the one chosen! Edersheim writes, “Hiscourse—that of Abia—was on dutyfor the week, andthe ‘house of his fathers’ for thatspecial day. Morethan that, the lothad fallen on Zacharias forthe most honourable service in the daily ministry—that ofburning the incense on the golden altar within the Holy Place. Forthe first time in his life, and for the last, would this service [begiven to] him.”AlfredEdersheim, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services as They Were at theTime of Jesus Christ. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003),157-58.
Gabrielappeared with an important message. The story is told in Luke1:11-20. Gabriel reveals that God answered Zechariah’s prayerfor a son (1:13).
Hisson would bring many people of Israel back to the Lord (1:14).
Hisson would make the people ready for the coming Messiah (1:15)
Zechariahhad plenty of time to think about what God was doing. Gabrieldeclares that because Zechariah did not believe the message, he wouldbe unable to speak until after the baby was born (Luke 1:21-25.) This prophesy was fulfilled and Zechariah immediately became mute. God gave Zechariah a nine month “time out” to contemplatethe impact of what he was about to do.
Thereis an interesting fact concerning Zechariah’s inability tospeak when he emerged from inside the Holy Place that day. As thepriest chosen to light the Golden Lampstand, Zechariah was also topronounce the benediction on the people. The benediction was fromNumbers6:24–26 “TheLordbless you and keep you; the Lordmake his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lordturn his face toward you and give you peace.”
WhenZechariah came out of the Temple, the people were waiting for him topronounce the benediction, but hecouldn’t speak! Luke 1:21–22 “Meanwhile,the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed solong in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them.They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept makingsigns to them but remained unable to speak.”
Thismade Zechariah’s visit from Gabriel even more significant.
Duringthis “once in a lifetime” experience, God spoke toZechariah at the RIGHT PLACE and at the RIGHT TIME.
So,Zechariah knows that God was working in his life. That is why he isable to testify that GOD HAS COME.
Ifwe know that God is at work in our lives, we can also testify ofGOD’S POWER. We can tell people that we know that GOD IS NEARbecause we have experienced his nearness.
Secondly,Zechariah knew that GOD HAS COME because he knew the Bible andrelated his experiences through the lens of Scripture.
HisPraise is filled with quotations and illusions from the OT. Hequotes at least 16 references from the OT.
Mostdirect quotations are in the second section dealing propheticallywith the ministry of JOHN as the FORERUNNER of the MESSIAH. Here arejust a few of those quotations:
Luke1:76 “Youwill go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him” FROM…Isaiah40:3 “Avoice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for theLord;make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” And also from Malachi3:1 ““See,I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Thensuddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; themessenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” saysthe LordAlmighty.”
Luke1:78–79 “becauseof the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come tous from heaven ” “to shine on those living in darkness andin the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Thisquotation of Zechariah comes from two passages. Isaiah9:2 “Thepeople walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those livingin the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”and Isaiah58:8 “Thenyour light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing willquickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and theglory of the Lordwill be your rear guard.”
Zechariahwas filled with praise because he knew God’s Word and couldrelate his current experiences to the prophecies contained in the OldTestament. Without his knowledge of God’s Word, his experiencewith Gabriel might have been misinterpreted. More likely we can saythat God was able to perform this wonderful miracle in Zechariah’slife because he DID KNOW God’s word. God knew that Zechariahwould be able to understand the spiritual meaning of this miracle andgive God glory.
His2000 year old song of praise reminds us that God Has Come!
JESUSentered this world to bring LIGHT into the darkness
JESUSbrings light to all who trust in Him
Thosewho follow Jesus have new life
Thosewho follow Jesus have hope
Thosewho follow Jesus are filled with kindness as a result of the Fruit ofthe Spirit
Familieswho follow Jesus have PEACE
Communitieswho follow Jesus are better places to live
Whathas gone wrong with America?
Whyso much violence?
It’sbecause we think that we can have PEACE without MORALS!
It’sbecause we think that we don’t need God!
Weare a nation without a moral compass.
Thesame ABC report sited above gave some of Kaitlin’s words to herchildren huddled in the bathroom afraid that any moment would betheir last. “”Ithought we were all going to die,” she said through tears. “Itold the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students…I said anyone who believed in the power of the prayer, we need topray and those who don’t believe in prayer” think happythoughts.
Howsad that Kaitlin Roig felt restraint in telling her children to pray. Her restraint may have been her own lack of personal faith, or itmay have been in light of the hyper sensitivity that is forced downour throats every day by a handful of godless athiests who insist onrobbing our nation of our heritage, our faith and our values. “
Withall praise to Kaitlin and the other teachers who showed greatcourage, there is a lesson here for us to learn. At times of greattragedy, we need more than happy thoughts! We need a savior!
Thegood news is that God has come! Jesus came into the world to save usfrom our sins.
Johnthe Baptist announced his birth.
Hecame, lived and died for us.
Buthis life is given for all who will trust him and await his return.
Oneday he will rule and reign on earth, and those who trust him willrule with him.
Asan added blessing, He will also give you peace and comfort throughthe trials of this life.