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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20: Christmas From Zechariah to Malachi to Zechariah

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.- Zechariah 9:9-11, ESV

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.-  Malachi 3:1, ESV

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. - Malachi 4:2, ESV

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

    for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
 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
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
- Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:67-79, ESV

Christmas From Zechariah to Malachi to Zechariah:
God Provides Redemption and a Forerunner to Prepare the Way

Have you ever really wanted something badly for a long time? Have you ever waited so long that you began to give up hope on hope? When such anticipation finally turns to realization, hope realized is transformed to joy unspeakable!

Today, we make a transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament as we continue to prepare our hearts to worship Jesus this Christmas. As we turn from Volume One to Volume Two of God's story, it is a time of waiting. God's people have been waiting for hundreds of years and were starting to give up hope. 

In Luke 1, we meet an old priest who was giving up hope himself. He had been unable to have children with his wife for many years. When they had finally given up hope of conceiving, God sent the angel Gabriel to meet this priest in the Temple and to tell him that he would indeed have a son who would be very special in the plan of God and His coming Messiah: 

"And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."  - Luke 1:16-17, ESV

Zechariah didn't believe it. How could it be? In time, he would come to see the truth.  

This old priest was named Zechariah, and it is no coincidence that he bore the name of an Old Testament prophet who spoke powerfully of the coming Messiah and His salvation of His people.

Later in Luke 1, Zechariah himself speaks, and we hear from a transformed man. He sings a beautiful song of praise to God. He praises God for keeping His covenant promises to Abraham and to David. He praises God for fulfilling the words He spoke through the prophets. Zechariah's song is rich with echoes drawn from those prophets, from Isaiah and Jeremiah, from Zechariah and Malachi. Zechariah sings with joy, for the promises God made were coming true at last! 
  • The Old Testament prophet Zechariah had spoken of one who would set the prisoners free from the waterless pit, by the blood of His covenant. Priest Zechariah, being filled with the Spirit of God and speaking as a prophet himself, sang of how the Messiah would lead people out of darkness and out of the shadow of death.
  • The prophet Zechariah spoke of the enemies of God being destroyed. Priest Zechariah sang of how "we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us."
  • From Malachi's lips, the promise had come that the sun of righteousness would rise with healing in His wings. Zechariah sang that the sunrise from on high would now finally visit God's people.
All that God had promised was now coming true: Jesus would come and shed His blood, the blood of the covenant, and that would set the people of God free from condemnation. Jesus Himself would shatter the power of death and hell, and God's people would be led out of darkness and death into light and life and peace. Zechariah saw all of this, and more. Jesus Himself would rise as the sun of righteousness, as the sunrise from on high, shining the light of life on His people. 

If we have seen one thing clearly together over the past several days, it is that Christmas is the glorious good news of the greatest promises ever made being kept in a way that God's people long anticipated but could never have predicted. God spoke words so wonderful that most people never grasped their full significance until Jesus stepped into the world and the promises became flesh and blood. 

Zechariah the old priest had the joy of knowing that his son, John, would play a vital role in the long-awaited fulfillment of God's promises. John would be the forerunner, in the spirit of Elijah, preparing the hearts of the people for their king. Just as Malachi had said, God was sending His messenger to prepare the way, and that messenger was John, Zechariah's long-awaited son.

Zechariah knew the joy of long-held hopes finally turning to irrepressible joy. Have you received this joy for yourself, or are you still waiting for God to do what He's already done? 

Lord, You have kept Your promises. You have sent the Light of the World to lay down His life for the life of Your people. You have sent the Deliverer who has earned a redemption more powerful than any of us can grasp. Fill our hearts with true and saving faith in You, that we may rest in the promises kept and that our hope may turn to joy this Christmas. In Jesus' precious name, Amen. 

Chris Tomlin sings of the "Unspeakable Joy" that God's promise fulfilled in Jesus brings to the world:

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