It’s been a great lesson for me – this manner of studying through Advent. Biting off small pieces and chewing slowly. Deliberately. To understand the story as God wanted it told. So much of me wants to skip ahead. To move along with the story and get to “the good part”. But as I read this morning, I realized: this is the good part. There was no surprise about Jesus. Not in the manner of His conception. Nor in the purpose for His coming. Or even in His death. It was all foretold by the prophets. And now, as we wrap up the first chapter of Luke, Zacharias continues on in his own prophecy. Turning now to speak truth over his brand new son. Scooping him up and holding him close and speaking divinely-inspired-words over his life that the boy wouldn’t possibly remember.
“And you, child,” he said as he picked him up, his tone softening. “You will be called the prophet of the Highest. A will grow up to be a man gifted with the privilege of foretelling the coming of the King of kings. And the God of gods. And the LORD of lords. You will do what I am doing now. And what men and women have done from the beginning of time. And you will go before the face of the LORD. Preparing His ways. Proclaiming and declaring what was about to happen. And Who is about to come. Before anyone ever knows His face.”
It was the tradition of royalty in those Biblical times to send out servants before a king left on a journey. They would go before him to level the roads and remove the rocks or fallen trees. To make the roads passable. John, this eight-day-old-miracle-baby, would fulfill that role for the Babe-Who-was-yet-to-be-born. Telling anyone who would listen: Clear the path! and Get things in order! John had the privilege of preparing His ways that we might
prepare Him room
And John would do that by gifting the knowledge of salvation. Because wise men always bring gifts. And by gifting knowledge, he was illuminating the lightbulb of understanding that the Messiah was coming. To deliver His people from the disturbances and interferences and annoyances of that fiercely-hungry-lion-devil. The one on the hunt for someone – anyone – to devour. He will deliver His people. Bringing salvation by the remission of sins.
Six hundred years earlier, one man was thrown into a den of lions because he disobeyed the king’s law and worshiped God. It was a pit that was dug down deep – almost to the depth of a well. There was no way to climb out. And it was just him and some fiercely hungry lions. All night long. But God closed the mouths of the lions. And Daniel was lifted up out of that dug-down-deep-den unharmed. And the men that had accused David? They were thrown into that dug-deep-down-den. Only this time, the lions mouths were not shut. And they didn’t even make it down to the floor of the den before they were ravished. And Daniel? He was given favor with the king. And he prospered.
“That,” Zacharias said “is what God will do for His people.” He will pull us up from the pit. And out of the mire. Releasing us from bondage and imprisonment. And even pardoning our sin as if it had never even committed. Removing the penalty that comes as a result of it. In His tender and affectionate and overwhelming manifold mercy, He will show
kindness in clemency
And then, the pitch-black night sky will soften. And the sun will begin to rise on that darkness of that dug-down-deep-den. A holy and welcome light after a long and terrifying moonless night. With the kind of heavenly sunrise that will take your breath away.
In calamity there is hope, for the end of a dark night is the dawn.
Zacharias promises that He will visit His people again: salvation come to us. Giving light in the darkness. Shining in that dug-down-deep-den in which men and women like you are me are circled round about and enveloped with darkness. And have no room to walk about. So they walk in circles. Unable to get out of the habits and patterns of sin. He is bringing the light. And illuminating treasures of darkness. And salvation from sin. So that we can follow Him down that path of peace that John would prepare for Him in a calm and tranquil state that is welcome after a long and anxious night. With a soul that is assured of its salvation through Christ. And a spirit that fears nothing. And is content with its earthly lot, whatever it may be.
it is well with my soul, so long as I have the Light
Zacharias had spoken powerfully. And the prophecies of His coming were now finished. And it was nearly time, finally, for the Babe to be born.