“… Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The Old Testament ends with the prophet Malachi’s announcement of the promise of a coming prophet; yet we cannot help but notice the prophet’s final word, curse, ringing and echoing from generation to generation following Malachi, until the coming of the Messiah. For 400 years the Holy Spirit was silent; for 400 years we have no indication of any inspired word spoken by any prophet of God. The inter-testamental period or second-temple age was marked by divine silence, not unlike the nine months that Zacharias’ tongue was kept silent by God because of his unbelief (Lk 1:20). God broke His silence via the mouth of prophets when He at last loosed the tongue of Zacharias; after the birth of John, Zacharias prophesied (Lk 1:67), and so he did in the strictest sense of the word, as he foretold things to come concerning the kingdom of the Messiah, to which all the prophets bear witness.
As he prophesies about the ultimate mission that would be fulfilled by his son John, Zacharias preaches the very same gospel message that his son would go on to faithfully preach – that it is by repentance and remission of sin that one comes to the knowledge of salvation (Lk 1:77). That the kingdom of God is at hand and forgiveness and cleansing from our sins is available; that it is sin which stands in the way of salvation, and by which we are liable to ruin and condemnation. John the Baptist’s message called people to understand that, though miserable by reason of sin, their case was not hopeless, for pardon might be obtained through the tender mercy of our God (literally in the words of Zacharias – the bowels of God’s mercy, as the word is rendered in Greek). Also just as the true prophet would often do, Zacharias directs us toward the better times to come. The gospel of our salvation not only encourages us to hope that our sin shall be forgiven, but sets up a clear and true light, by which we may order our steps. But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings (Mal 4:2). Christmas is about light coming into the world (John 3:19). The great prophecy of Christmas from Isaiah chapter 9 begins: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined … For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. (Isaiah 9:2-7). Isaiah prophesied the incarnation of Christ in much the same way that Zacharias did in Luke 1:78 – the Dayspring from on high has visited us (v. 78).
The Gospel is made manifest by light, but that light more than just opens our eyes – it directs our paths; it guides us into the way of making peace with God – a peace we cannot know on our own (Rom 3:17). So, awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Eph 5:14).
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