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IV. Benedictus

God has raised up a deliverer to save His people by forgiving their sins, so that they can worship Him without fear in holiness and righteousness, and John will get people ready for His coming. This is the heart of Zechariah’s song of praise.

Israel needed to be redeemed, because her sin had caused God to hand her over to her enemies. Rome’s power over Israel was not a historical accident. It was a covenant judgment against the sin of God’s people. And so faithful Israelites like Zechariah understand that their real problem was not Rome, but sin.

But instead of waiting for Israel to save herself, God was raising up a king from David’s house to rescue them, according to His covenant promise to Abraham. His covenant justice disciplined Israel, and now His covenant mercy was coming to redeem them.

God did this, though, not only to show forth His mercy, and not only to keep His oath. The purpose of discipline and mercy is the restoration of God’s relationship with His people. Luke 1:74-75 tells us that God wants us to be delivered from our enemies so that we can serve Him without fear for all our days. God sends a Deliverer to rescue us from our sin and return us back to the way of peace.

This is the all-important significance of Jesus Christ. What God wants is to be at peace with you, sharing a holy and righteous life with you. Without Jesus, that can never happen. Without Him, you are always serving in fear that your sin will foul up your relationship with God. But through Jesus’ work on the cross to overcome sin in your place, you are redeemed. Because of Jesus, the story of the world is the story of how God visits and redeems His people, making a way for us to live with Him in holiness and righteousness all our days.

Blessed be God for making us holy and blameless in Christ, for redeeming us by forgiving our sins! That’s what Zechariah sings over his son John. John would announce that salvation had finally come in the arrival of the true king who would save His people from their sins, and by doing so, from the hand of their enemies. It should be impossible to hear this and come away with the idea that you need to defeat your enemies and get God to love you by living a holy and righteous life. If you could do that, then Jesus didn’t need to come! You’re not the redeemer; you need to be redeemed!

But once you have been redeemed, you do have a role to play. Your role is that of John. In verse 76, Zechariah’s focus turns to his infant son: “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.” What joy filled Zechariah’s heart as he looked down on his little boy, who had been given such a glorious task!

Brothers and sisters, that is how God is looking at you right now. Do you realize that? You are His beloved children, and He rejoices over you with singing like Zechariah rejoiced over John! And He gives you John’s task. Remember, the season of Advent looks in two directions: we look backward at what God did in Christ’s first coming, and we look forward to Christ’s second coming.

The blessed hope of God’s people is that Jesus is coming again, after all His enemies have been defeated, when His kingly work is done. And before the King comes again, God sends His Church out as messengers to prepare His way. John saw the beginnings of this redemption; you have seen it come to pass. John saw Jesus born; you have seen Him die, rise again, and ascend to God’s right hand as King over heaven and earth. John saw deliverance coming; you have been delivered. God has made you holy and righteous in Christ, and so we are here to worship God without fear all our days, until Jesus comes again. You have seen the sunrise, and so this is the knowledge of salvation that you are called to give to those who sit in darkness: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people!

Posted on Wednesday, December 23, 2015 by CJ Bowen