After Elisabeth gives birth to her son, they are asked what they wish to name their child. Elisabeth and her husband Zechariah respond that he is to be named John. For the past nine months Zechariah has been mute because he doubted God’s promise of a son. As soon as he confirms his son’s name, his voice is restored and he offers this powerful praise to God.
“Blessed be the Lord the 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.” Luke 1
This is one of my favorite prayers recorded in the whole of the Bible. I love this proclamation of the Lord’s provision so much. The whole declaration is covered in Old Testament symbology and I delight in the phrases and the layers of meaning in his words. Does the Old Testament baffle you or make you wonder why it is recorded for us? We tend to view it as a random collection of stories, some disturbing, some confusing, but with little connection to our lives. I hope this passage today will help you as it did me with understanding the purpose and relevancy of the Old Testament. Zechariah sums up the answer most succinctly. The Old Testament tells one story – of God promising Abraham to make him a nation, to give him a place, and to raise up a Savior from his offspring that would bless all the nations. The history of Israel is this promise coming to fulfillment; a nation struggling to believe, a God stubbornly standing with His people. The concept of “a place” is central to the Old Testament. For the Israelites, to have a place of their own, safe from enemies, free to enjoy the provision of the land and the mercy of God was the ultimate promise – it was synonymous with the very presence of God.
Zechariah recognizes the hopes of Israel are coming to fruition in the One that his son will be a forerunner for. He also understands that the salvation and home that have been promised have a spiritual dimension as well as a physical one. He proclaims that the Messiah is coming for the express purpose of salvation, forgiveness of sin, and displaying God’s mercy. God must first provide for spiritual needs before fulfilling the physical promises.
As in the Old Testament narrative, our own lives echo the search for a home. Each of us desires a special place prepared for us where we can rest, free from the enemies of doubt, fear, and worry; a place of safety, of plenty, of rejoicing. In short, what we desire is the presence of God. Advent celebrates the beautiful truth that although we cannot make our home with God because of sin, He chooses to make His home with us and gives us His righteousness. Although we don’t yet have a perfect physical home, our hearts can experience the presence of God now; in this very ordinary moment we can give thanks that He draws near to us, filling our lives with light and our hearts with peace. And ordinary moments become miraclulous when shared with Him.
Blessings to you,