Advent Midweek I

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

God Fulfills His Promises

The Song of Zechariah: Luke 1:67-80

 

          Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

          God fulfills His promises. That is what the song of Zechariah is all about. God fulfills His promises. May we as hearers of Zechariah’s song here tonight rejoice with him in God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises so that we may serve the Lord without fear.

          Long before this song was sung, a promise was made to the prophet Abraham. It was right after Abraham had nearly sacrificed his one and only son Isaac at the Lord’s bidding. There in the land of Moriah, the ram that the Lord had provided as a substitute sacrifice in the place of Isaac was burning as an offering unto the Lord. As the smell of the smoke rose into heaven filled Abraham’s nostrils, the Lord spoke to him in the form of an angel. And this is what that angel said:

          “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:16-18).

          That offspring in which all the nations of the earth would be blessed would be the promised Messiah. He would be the One who had been promised ever since that moment right after the fall in the Garden of Eden. It was there as Adam and Eve held their heads down in shame for their sinful disobedience, that the Lord raised up their heads to a promise that would be fulfilled through the offspring of Eve. This is what God said to them:

          “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal” (Genesis 3:15).

          That offspring of Eve that would literally crush the head of the serpent Satan was the same promised offspring that would be a blessing to all nations that had been told to Abraham. His name is Jesus.

          God fulfills His promises. And now as Zechariah held the child promised to him, he was witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promise unfold before his very eyes. This child…his child, John, would be the fulfillment of another promise, a promise that would prepare the way for the ultimate promise to be fulfilled. 

          In the book of Isaiah, it was foretold that “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”” (Isaiah 40:3-5). (Pause)

          Just think of what it meant to Zechariah to hold his baby boy in his arms, something he never thought possible. For he and Elizabeth were well advanced in years. Yet, just as the Lord promised, though Zechariah had doubted it and was silenced until John’s birth, his son still came. And not only did he come, but he was the one who would point the people in the right direction toward the coming Messiah.

          John the Baptist would prepare the way of the Lord. He would be the one to give the people the knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of sins. He would show them where true light was found in the darkness of this world. And now Zechariah was staring into the eyes of this baby in absolute holy fear and awe of God’s promises being fulfilled right here in front of him.

          To think that it would not be long and the promised Messiah would be here. After all this waiting…generations…centuries…millennia. And now it was about to unfold before them.

          A short time after John was born, Jesus would be born. The two would be cousins. But for John, his role was clear. He was not the promised Messiah. He was the last and final prophet. He was to remain in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. And there by the River Jordan, people would come. Sinners, tax collectors, soldiers, religious leaders, they would all come to him and hear him proclaim what he had been born to proclaim: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And that is exactly what he would do.

          Again and again, as we page through the Scriptures, we experience what Zechariah did: God fulfills His promises. And we can rejoice with him, because the promise fulfilled in his life is fulfilled for us as well. Though we live two thousand years later, the message that John proclaimed is also a message for us as well.

          As John gave us knowledge of our sins by pointing out our need to repent, so Jesus came to be the One to take away our sins and grant us salvation. Jesus is the blessing that Abraham spoke of long ago. He is the blessing for Zechariah, and He is the blessing for us.

          Advent gives us all a time to be in awe and wonder as Zechariah was as he sang this song. This time of year gives us the opportunity to look back and see that, yes, God did remember His covenant as Zechariah sang. He remembered every detail so that we will be delivered from our enemies of sin, death, and the devil and so that we may serve him without fear.

          We have been released from the stranglehold of sin and death. We don’t need to be afraid to serve the Lord because Jesus came to bear the cross for us and the tomb is now empty. We may now serve Him in the confidence of His care and boldly share the good news of great joy that is for all people. For all that once doomed us to death has been swallowed up in the victory of Jesus. And it is all given to us because of the tender mercy of our God.

          ‘Mercy’ is that beautiful word that means that God does not give us what we do deserve. We all deserve death, and so did Zechariah. Our sins that we are called upon to repent of by John the Baptist should doom us to eternal condemnation. That should be our fate.

          But God fulfills His promises. He is merciful toward us and does not give us what we do deserve. Instead, He gave what we deserve to His Son. All of His wrath, rejection, and condemnation was placed upon His one and only Son in death. But that is no longer our fate to bear. Jesus bore it for us.

          So, you can see why Zechariah rejoiced in God His Savior as he sang of the fulfilled promise of his son John’s birth. If God was faithful to him in giving him a son, the promised prophet of old, then he had no reason to think that God would not be faithful in sending the promised Messiah.

          So it is with us as we gather here in Advent. As we look back and remember that God was faithful to His covenant to send Jesus the first time, then we have no reason to believe that He will not send Him on the Last Day. In fact, that is the meaning of Advent. It means “Coming”. Jesus has come, and Jesus will come again. Why?

          Because God fulfills His promises. Every time. He never lies. He never goes back on His Word. He is with you as you serve Him no matter where that may be. So don’t be afraid. He remembers His holy covenant, and you are His covenant people for whom His Son bled and died. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

          The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

          (Singing of the Benedictus – Song of Zechariah – LSB pgs. 238-240)