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The Benedictus of Zacharias

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
December 4, 2022 6:00 pm

The Benedictus of Zacharias

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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December 4, 2022 6:00 pm

What is the nature of the deliverance that men need- How does God accomplish this deliverance- Pastor Greg Barkman preaches from the prophecy spoken by Zacharias.


Only two of the four gospels record the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, namely Matthew and Luke. Mark and John begin the account of Christ's life and ministry in other places rather than at his birth. Matthew begins his account with a genealogy and then moves from that to the announcement to Joseph, betrothed to Mary about the virgin birth that is taking place in his wife, his betrothed wife, so that he will not be alarmed at what is taking place to her.

In fact, we'll be thankful and we'll be encouraged to help and to strengthen her during this time because she has been chosen among all the women of Israel down through the ages to bring the promised Messiah into the world. Luke begins with the account of John the Baptist, starting with the parents of John the Baptist, namely Zacharias, a godly priest who is ministering before the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem. And while there, he's burning incense upon the golden altar and people are gathered in worship outside in the courtyard as they are praying during that appointed hour of prayer. And while Zacharias is at the altar, an angel, Gabriel, appears to him and says, Zacharias, your prayers have been heard and your wife, Elizabeth, is going to bear a child. And his name shall be called John and he's going to be the forerunner of the Messiah.

It gives him some of these details. Zacharias is incredulous. Yes, his wife, he and Elizabeth, and he prayed for a child, but that was many, many, many years ago. They hadn't been praying for a child lately.

They were well past child bearing years and they were not expecting that prayer ever to be answered. And so when this announcement came, their response, Zacharias' response is, prove it. Give me some, give me some evidence.

I don't know that I can believe this report at all. And Gabriel said, I am Gabriel sent from God. I've delivered to you the message that God gave me to deliver. It's a serious matter not to believe the word of God. And because you have doubted God's word, you are not going to be able to speak. And the evidence is also not be able to hear until the promise of God has been fulfilled. And sure enough, Zacharias was totally mute and probably deaf for more than nine months until the day when John the Baptist was circumcised and God opened his lips. And on that day when his speech was returned to him, the first words that came out of his mouth were praise to God.

And we read them to you a moment ago from Luke Chapter one. This Benedictus of Zacharias, as it is called, can and should be divided into two parts because they are very distinct as you look at the text carefully. And so first of all, there's praise for the arrival of God's promise, deliver verses 67 through 75. And secondly, a description of the one who prepares the way for the Messiah in verses 76 through 80. And so first of all, praise for the arrival of God's promise, deliver as Zacharias begins his praise with the birth of the Messiah, not with his own son. I think there's a lesson in that before we move on. All of us are normally more focused upon our children and what takes place with them than nearly anything else in all the world.

But we need to be careful that we don't let our love for and concern for our own flesh and blood to eclipse spiritual issues which are greater and higher and claim first place in our life. And Zacharias praises God for the coming of the Messiah before he turns his attention to his own son John and that miraculous birth. These words of Zacharias are clearly a prophecy for the scripture tells us that. In verse 67 it says, now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. An inspired prophecy, probably his first utterance.

We're told in verse 64, immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed and he spoke praising God and it's possible that he said something at that point that is not in our text for today but it's more likely that verse 64 is simply telling us that he spoke and then beginning in verse 68 we have the first words that he spoke. A prophecy. A prophecy is a message that comes from God. The prophet is one who speaks for God. The word prophet most literally means a mouthpiece and therefore a spokesman. Zacharias was at this point constituted a prophet in the line of many prophets that had gone before him. Filled with the Holy Spirit, enabled to speak the message from God by the Spirit of God and so he prophesies, we are told, saying and then the words that follow are the words of his prophecy which are indeed the words of Almighty God. If it is an inspired prophecy, according to verse 67, it is a fulfilled prophecy in what takes place to follow and I'm going to particularly focus upon verses 68 through 70 in talking about the fulfilled prophecy but it actually applies to everything else that is said and the interesting thing about it is this first part that deals with Christ is all spoken in the past tense. These are all past tense verbs as if what Zacharias is telling us will take place has already taken place.

This is not all that unusual. This is certainly not the only place in the Bible where you find the same phenomenon, if we could call it that, where the word of God that has been promised is spoken of as if it's already been fulfilled even though it has not yet been fulfilled but the point is if God said it, it is absolutely certain it cannot fail to come to pass. And so Zacharias speaks this prophecy as if all of these things have already taken place.

Past tense verbs because it is certain. And his words are addressed to the people but they are words of praise to Almighty God. Sometimes when you find praise in the Bible, it is praise addressed to God. Sometimes, as in this case, it is addressed to people but it is still praising Almighty God.

And what does he say? Blessed is the Lord God of Israel for he has visited past tense and redeemed past tense his people. He 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 who have been since the world began. He has visited and redeemed his people or it could be translated. He has visited to redeem his people. He has visited us in order to redeem us.

He's done that. Now Jesus hasn't been born yet. He's been conceived. He is in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

She's carrying that child which will be born some months from now. But he has visited and redeemed his people. He has brought to us or raised up for us a horn of salvation.

That also is language that is found rather frequently, particularly throughout the Old Testament prophecies. And it refers to the horns that certain animals have with which they fight. That's what makes them ferocious. That's what makes them dangerous.

Some of you will remember, it's been about 30 years ago now, when we moved to the house where we are now and it needed a lot of cleaning up. It was Steve Lynch that said, what you need is a goat. And he brought us one. Cute little kid. Cute little billy goat.

Cutest thing you ever saw. But the problem with billy goats is they don't stay young forever. And Moshe, as we called him, we had just recently come back from Israel and our bus driver on the tour guide, the tour that we took was named Moshe, which is Moses. So we named him Moshe and Moshe grew up and what made him particularly frightening was the horns. And they got bigger and bigger and bigger. And those were dangerous. My wife was rightfully afraid of them. She was afraid of them for our children. We did not know until later, but both of our parents were praying that the Lord would eliminate that goat from our family because of the danger of those horns.

And he did. We woke up one morning and the goat was dead. Be careful.

Be careful what you pray for. One day he bounded up on the back steps and stuck his horn right through the screen door. And there was a big hole there to tell us that he had horns. And many a time when he was acting up, which was a lot, I would grab him by those horns, not only to get a hold of him, but as much as anything to keep him from goring me with those horns.

I would grab him by those horns and twist his neck and wrestle him to the ground and try to persuade him that he wasn't boss, but I was. But it was those horns that were frightening and that gave him his strength and his power. And that's what Zechariah is referring to here. God has raised up a horn of salvation. That means he's raised up a powerful deliverer, an irresistible deliverer. He's raised up someone who is going to bring salvation no matter who or what opposes.

It is a powerful salvation that will accomplish God's eternal purposes. And this deliverer, which of course is the Christ child yet unborn, will come from the house of David. He will be the fulfillment of promises that were made to David that God would raise up from David, one of his descendants, Jesus Christ, we call David's greater son.

And indeed, that's what he was. He was the greater, the greatest son of David, the one who would sit upon David's throne and will sit upon David's throne forever and forever and forever. And all of this, Zechariah tells us in his prophecy, was told to God's people from the very beginning as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been since the world began. And it is true, if you will go all the way back to the book of Genesis, clear back to chapter 3 and verse 15, you will find a clear prophecy of a coming Messiah. The seed of the woman is going to overcome the seed of the serpent, the prophecy of the coming Messiah. The prophecy, even some have seen in that, the prophecy of the virgin birth, because normally we don't speak in terms of the seed of a woman, but rather a man.

But the prophecy in Genesis chapter 3 says the seed of the woman is going to deal a fatal blow to Satan and to his opposition. And so fulfilled prophecy. It is, we could thirdly say, salvation prophecy. It's inspired prophecy, fulfilled prophecy and salvation prophecy. Verse 71, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which 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 the days of our life. A salvation prophecy.

The word salvation, the word deliverance are often used interchangeably in the Bible. And Zacharias, by the Spirit of God, prophesies deliverance from the enemies of Israel. And in that phrase, to perform that we should be saved rather, verse 71, from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, you might think that Zacharias is thinking about the oppression of Rome and other enemies that have subjugated the nation of Israel. And he, like nearly every Jew in that first century, is looking for the Messiah to come and to deliver the nation of Israel from subjugation and to make it the dominant nation in all the world. It's impossible, of course, to know what was in the mind of Zacharias when he wrote these words, because he's speaking by the Spirit of God. All we know is what he said.

We don't know what he was thinking. But we can certainly see in these words the prevailing Jewish expectation of national deliverance and think that that likely is what, in fact, was in the mind of Zacharias. But as the prophecy continues on, as the verses unfold, we find that he's actually speaking more in terms of spiritual salvation, spiritual deliverance, because that is truly the greatest need. Is there a national deliverance? Surely there is.

That has been promised. Is there something that is more important than that? Absolutely there is, and that is spiritual deliverance. The prevailing Jewish expectation of national deliverance was too low, too earthly, too carnal. They needed to be thinking in terms of deliverance from sin, not deliverance from foreign armies, deliverance from sin, deliverance from estrangement from Almighty God, deliverance from the judgment that was destined, that is destined to fall upon all who are not cleansed from their sins. And so as a Jew, Zacharias longed for national deliverance, as nearly all of them did. But as a prophet, as a prophet, in what he speaks, he actually shows the greatest need, which is not deliverance from earthly enemies, but deliverance from spiritual enemies. And if you'll think about that spiritual salvation and go back to the words of Zacharias, you will realize that even though they could be understood, at least the first few lines, could be understood in terms of national deliverance, they can also be understood in terms of spiritual deliverance. And as the prophecy goes on, we come to words that can only be understood in terms of spiritual deliverance. Look at it again. Verse 71, that we should be saved from our enemies.

What enemies are those? Is that Syria, Rome, Babylon, and so forth? Well, certainly it could be. Or is that Satan and his representatives, his servants, both demonic and human, that oppose the people of God, deliverance from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us? Well, that would be everyone who hates God, wouldn't it?

They also hate the people who are identified with God. And so there's deliverance promised from that. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, and that's going to get us into spiritual dimensions. The oath which 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 the days of our life.

That sounds like spiritual salvation, a cleansing from sin, a redemption from the bondage of sin into the kingdom of light and righteousness. And so the salvation prophecy begins with this promise of deliverance from enemies. But it goes on to remind us, and they amend us, that God is always faithful to his promises, a promised mercy, a covenanted mercy, and then he makes specific reference to the Abrahamic covenant. Of course, we don't have time to study that covenant today, but if you go back to Genesis chapter 17, where you find that, what should I say, monumental covenant that God made with Abraham, you will find that there are many references to nations, plural, and then also reference to the descendants, the physical descendants of Abraham.

You see, there's a two-pronged emphasis going on here from the very beginning. Genesis 17, 2, and I will make my covenant between me and you and will multiply you exceedingly. As for me, verse 4, my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. Now, already God is talking in terms of something worldwide. Even as most Jews read this, they're thinking about Abraham and me, Abraham and us, Abraham and we who are physical descendants of Abraham.

But there was something more going on, something more important going on because it said first. Abraham is going to be the father of many nations. Verse 5, no longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations, and I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And then finally, when we get to verse 7, we read, and I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant who be God to you and to your descendants after you. But the point is, in the words of Zacharias, that this deliverance that God has brought and that he is prophesying is a deliverance that not only has been promised by the prophets of old, but has been sealed by the covenants of God down through the ages, beginning, I suppose, we could say beginning with the Abrahamic covenant. The covenant in the Bible, particularly when God is the one who makes the covenant, is not exactly the same as a covenant that is made between human beings. Between human beings, a covenant is more like a contract, I suppose. With God, sometimes there isn't even a human element except just to accept and believe the covenant. God says, this is what I'm going to do. Sometimes he also says, and this is what you must do.

So there's both elements. You have to study the covenants and to see what is found there. But many times, the covenant is simply, I Almighty God promise to do this, period. An unconditional covenant. It's called a covenant. God makes it with people. But it is God promising with an oath sometimes that he will accomplish certain things regardless of who does what.

Regardless of what the human response may be. And so deliverance from enemies and faithfulness to his promises. And as this prophecy regarding the Messiah winds up in verses 74 and 75, the salvation frees us to serve God.

That's its purpose. To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear and holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives. This is why God saves people. To serve him, to honor him, to glorify him, to worship him. Sin in the Garden of Eden is what ruined Adam and Eve from their worship of God, their service of God.

Their glad, obedient, willing, always obedient, never disobedient service of Almighty God. That's why God created the human race. That's why he made Adam and Eve. That's why he made us in his image so that we can relate to him in a way that none others of his creatures can.

And so that we can be his willing and faithful and enthusiastic servants and worshippers all the days of our life. Sin has destroyed that relationship and that ability. It's a mercy of God that he didn't just leave us in our sin and judgment as he did the holy angels who disobeyed and were cast out of his presence with no salvation. Their fate was sealed with their sin and there is no opportunity for forgiveness, no extension of mercy unto them. So why did God extend mercy? Why did God provide salvation? Why did God choose to redeem rebellious fallen sinners? And one answer to that question is nobody knows why, except it's just all bound up in the purposes of God and in the desire of God to demonstrate his love and his grace. And aren't we thankful that he has?

Because where would we be without it? What if we sinned and God said, that's it, judgment, eternal wrath, eternal separation forever and forever and forever all men? God would be just to do that. Who could call him unjust? Who could say that that's not fair? That's not right. That is exactly fair.

That's exactly right. Our responsibility is to obey him. God has every right to judge us. When we disobey him, when we sin against him, what makes our sin so serious is not necessarily the way we evaluate the particular act that we have done. Oh, that's a little sin.

That's not such a big deal. It's a sin against the creator. It's a sin against Almighty God. It's a sin against the one who rules the universe. It's a sin against the greatest being in all the universe. It's a sin against the eternal God.

It's a sin against Almighty God. It is the enormity of the one against whom we have sinned that makes every sin a serious sin and which makes eternal judgment a just and deserved judgment for our sins. Thank God for his mercy. Thank God for his mercy. And God does save us because it pleases him. But God saves us to restore us back to where Adam and Eve were before the fall, back to an ability and a desire to worship and serve him. That's why God saves us, to grant that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives. And so we are freed in order to serve God. We are enabled to serve God because he breaks the power of sin, of canceled sin, as the songwriter put it. He breaks the chains. He breaks those bonds of sin that hold us fast and make us unable to serve him. But he breaks those and enables us to serve him. And therefore he makes us free, free to do what is right, free to serve him, free to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. That's freedom.

It's a false freedom, a delusive freedom that says, freedom is the freedom to do whatever I want to without consequences, freedom to sin as I want to no matter who says what, freedom to make my own laws and rules for my own life. That's a delusion because it's not possible to sin without consequences. As long as there is a God in heaven, you can't change the relationship. You can't change the rules. You can't change the principles by which this world is governed. You can't change the nature of a thrice holy God. You can't change the impeccability of his justice that demands that sin must be paid for.

You can't change any of those things. It's a foolish idea that freedom is the freedom to do whatever my sinful heart desires without anybody stopping me. No, that really is slavery because all that does is bind the shackles of sin tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter around you until you are far from free. You are bound up in the very things that you pursued and delighted in. And now they've got you. You can't live without that alcohol. You can't live without those drugs. You can't live without filling your life with immorality.

It's got you bound. You can't get free of it. But God can free you. He breaks the power of canceled sin. It's canceled by Christ, but applied to his elect children one by one. He breaks the power of canceled sin.

He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me. And so the results of salvation are holiness and righteousness, both bestowed and imparted, both justification and sanctification. Holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. God bestows righteousness and justification. When we trust in Christ, he says, justified. That's our record in heaven.

Amazing. If we could tiptoe up to heaven and have God open the books and find our name and look at the place where the record of our sins is found. If we are trusting Christ, we would find that there's not one sin on that record. It is completely free of any sin, anything to condemn us. We have been justified.

Amazing. But that righteousness is not only imputed. That's the technical term for having been placed to our account in heaven, but it is also imparted. Now, it's not imputed and imparted in exactly the same way.

It's imputed in finality. We are completely justified just like that forever and ever. Amen. The imparted righteousness is given to us by breaking the shackles of sin and giving us a heart for God and a desire to please him and a distaste for sin in our lives, at least to a point. But as long as we're still dragging old Adam around with us, as we will until we get to heaven, there is this wrestling going on, isn't there, between the old and the new. But that imparted righteousness enables us to live in a manner that's pleasing to God, though not perfectly, and gives us a desire to do so. And so here we are in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives.

That is an amazing salvation. And so the first part of Zacharias' Benedictus is praise for the arrival of God's promised deliverer. But secondly, and now we move to part two, beginning in verse 76, is that it is a description of the one who prepares the way. Verse 76, And you, child, now he's addressing John. In the first part, he addressed all people who have access to these words, who hear these words, who read these words.

But now he addresses this specifically to his own child. And you, John, will be called the prophet of the highest, for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the day spring from on high has visited us, to give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. He describes his own son, John, who has been given miraculously by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. And he says five things about John that I will show you.

I'll list them and then we'll go back and look at them quickly. What about John? Number one, he's a prophet. Number two, he is a forerunner. Number three, he is a preacher. Number four, he is an instrument.

And number five, he is a prepared vessel. First of all, he is a prophet. Back to verse 76, a new child will be called the prophet of the Most High. Like Zacharias became a prophet when he spoke that prophecy, John is going to be a prophet basically all of his adult life, a mouthpiece, a spokesman for God, a prophet of the highest.

John is going to deliver the word of God to the people. In fact, depending exactly on how you understand these words of Jesus, he was the greatest prophet who ever lived or at least equal to whoever else might have been greatest. But there wasn't ever a prophet greater than John. Jesus said in Luke 7, 28, For I say to you, among those born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. Now, as we look at all the prophets in the Bible, we might want to make our own list and our own ranking. I think Moses was the greatest prophet. I think Elijah was the greatest prophet and so forth.

Those would probably be the two most likely candidates. But push all that aside and accept divine revelation. Jesus said, John. John, as we know, never performed a miracle. He never healed anyone of their diseases. He never raised anybody from the dead.

He never created food as Elijah did for the widow and so forth. He never did any of those things, but there was not a greater prophet than he. Evidently, those signs and wonders, those miracles, those sign gifts, which have a place and are to be honored in their place and understood in their place. But evidently, that's not the heart of what it means to be powerful for God.

We aren't supposed to be looking primarily at these miracles and signs. We are to be looking and listening to the word of the living God. A prophet, a spokesman, none greater than John. He is a prophet.

Number two, he is a forerunner. That word isn't used in verse 76, but that's a good word to describe what is said. For you, said Zacharias to his son just now born, for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.

Zacharias was a godly man and the student of God's word, and he recognized that his son, John, was the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken through Isaiah when he said in chapter 40, verse three, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill shall be brought low and so forth. I hope you love the words of the Messiah that is sung so often at Christmas time.

I listened to a good portion of it on the radio yesterday as I was driving around. Beautiful, beautiful. My heart was so filled with praise it brought tears. Nobody was there with me to see that, but as I was driving, it brought tears to my eyes as I was hearing these wonderful truths lifted in such beautiful music, these prophecies about the Messiah.

But here is one that the forerunner has been appointed, a forerunner has been appointed by God who's going to come and prepare the way for the Messiah. And it's a common concept in that day. In that day, it was not unusual. In fact, it was very common for kings when they were going out to visit maybe a remote area of their kingdom to send a crew ahead of time to get the road in shape. It's not suitable, it's not honoring for a king to ride down in dips and valleys and ruts and potholes and all of that, you know. So a crew would be sent out to smooth out the road to make it suitable for the majestic one who was going to be riding over this road. Lucky people in these remote villages that hadn't had anyone attend to their road for years, lucky for them, the king was coming for a visit because now their road was going to be prepared.

All of that is simply an analogy, a figurative language. When John the Baptist came to prepare the way, to fill in the valleys, we might say the potholes, to level the mountains, we might say to reduce the ridges, he wasn't doing that physically and literally for a physical and literal road. He was doing that in the nation of Israel in the hearts and lives of the people so that they would be ready for the message of the Messiah, ready and prepared to receive him, a forerunner. As kings had advanced servants to prepare their roads, so Christ had a forerunner to prepare for his mission, and that forerunner is John. He's a prophet, he's a forerunner.

Number three, he's a preacher. What kind of an advanced team does Messiah desire? What is necessary to prepare for the way for Messiah? In our day, it's not unusual for an evangelist to have a, if he's a big shot evangelist, has big crusades, he's going to have an advanced team that goes and makes all the arrangements, prepares for the Colosseum, wherever he's going to preach and takes care of all of the advertising and all of those things done weeks and months before he arrives, everything prepared for his coming. But they aren't preaching, that's not the way they prepare for his coming. But Messiah doesn't need any of that kind of PR or that kind of preparation.

What does he need? He needs somebody who's going to come and preach, and by that preaching, prepare hearts to receive the Messiah. And John, besides being a prophet and a forerunner, is a preacher.

And what does he preach about? Well, listen to the words of Luke in chapter 3. While Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into the region around Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. As it is written in the book of the prophet, words of Isaiah the prophet saying, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Then said the multitude that came out to be baptized by him, or then he said to the multitude that came out to be baptized by him.

Now, this is not the kind of preaching that wins friends and influences people, OK? Here's what he said to them when they came out to hear him preach. You brood of vipers, you nest of snakes, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance and do not begin to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

I can't help but make a short excursion here. I thought to be a son of Abraham, you had to be in the bloodline of Abraham. Jesus said, I can raise up stones who are sons of Abraham. Well, they're not in the bloodline of Abraham, are they? But he says, I could raise up stones who will be children of Abraham.

There's got to be something more to being a child of Abraham than simply being in the bloodline of Abraham, right? But we move on. And even now, he said, the axe is laid at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

He goes on in that vein. Verse 16, John answered, saying to all, I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire is judgment.

His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. He's a preacher. What kind of preacher? He's a preacher who preaches about sin. What kind of a preacher? He's a preacher who demands repentance. What kind of a preacher? He's a preacher who preaches about forgiveness, the need for it and the promise of it. He's a what kind of preacher? He's a preacher who preaches about judgment. In other words, he is what many people derisively tell us today.

They don't want anything to do with. He is a hellfire and brimstone preacher. Sometimes when people use that phrase, they have in mind more his mannerism than his message, you know, the kind that pounds the pulpit and stomps and hollers loud and runs around. To some people, that's a hellfire and brimstone preacher. But the kind of preaching that gets the job done, that prepares for salvation, is the kind of preaching that has a lot to say about sin, has a lot to say about repentance, has a lot to say about judgment.

All of that must be understood before there can be an understanding of the wonderful promise of forgiveness. As I was reviewing this message this morning, I couldn't help but think about, in our day, how many churches put signs out front, sometimes even with the rainbow and so forth. Everybody's welcome.

Everybody's welcome. That sounds biblical to some ears. That sounds Christian to some ears. That sounds like Jesus Christ to some ears. But the problem is, yes, come unto me, said Jesus, all you who are weary laden, all who are bowed down because of your sin, all who are broken because of your sin, all who feel the weight and the damnation and the judgment of your sin, all who are ready to repent of your sin and desire to be cleansed from it and to be freed from it. Jesus doesn't welcome people as they are and leave them as they are. Jesus welcomes people who acknowledge their sin and say, I'm done with it. I want nothing more to do with it, so help me, God, but I can't do it on my own.

Help in mercy. Will you forgive me? Will you free me?

Will you make me a new person? Yes, Jesus invites all to come to him, all who will acknowledge their sin, all who will repent, all who will recognize their sin and turn from it. They are all wonderfully invited to come and receive the rest, the forgiveness that Jesus Christ promises. You can't help but think that those who invite everybody to come to Jesus and feel good about God's love, regardless of whether you continue on in your sins or not, you can't help but think that the people who who proclaim that message and invite people on that basis probably have never known conviction of sin themselves.

They've never repented of their sins. In other words, it is sinners soothing sinners. It is sinners deceiving sinners. It is sinners misrepresenting salvation to other sinners so that sinners will feel good about their sin as they blindly continue on and eventually drop off into an eternal hell. The judgment of God upon those who misrepresent Christ and misrepresent salvation in that way must of necessity be very, very severe. I'm not surprised that there are people who claim to be Christians, who claim to be religious, who misrepresent salvation that way. What I find difficult to understand is how anyone who is truly saved can stay in a church like that and make excuses for the twisting of the gospel and the misrepresentation of Jesus Christ, which is being carried on there. How do you explain that?

I'll leave that to you. He's a preacher. He's an instrument, verses 78 and 79 tell us, of God's mercy, of God's truth, of light. There's that beautiful term. Through the tender mercy of God with which the day spring from on high has visited us. The day spring. That word day spring could be translated rising star or rising sun. The day spring, when day springs out of night. The day spring, the Messiah here is called the day spring. It's very similar to Malachi's portrayal of the coming Messiah when he says, but to you who fear my name, the son of righteousness, not s-o-n, s-u-n, the son of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings.

Day spring, son of righteousness. In other words, light to dispel the darkness, to dispel error, to dispel the deceit that has been going on. Light, which is necessary to bring God's salvation. And John is an instrument of God's mercy, of God's truth, of God's salvation.

He is an instrument that God uses to communicate these things to others. And he is finally, according to verse 86, a prepared vessel. So the child grew and became strong in spirit and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel. He was prepared vessel, prepared by the normal development of life. The child grew and became strong physically and spiritually, but also prepared by spiritual development in solitude.

And I think there's a point to be made here. It's not that everyone has to go out in the desert in order to be prepared to serve God, but how many of God's choice servants did spend time in the desert like Elijah, like Paul when he was, we don't know where he went when he left Damascus and went out into the desert for a while to meet with Christ and to be taught by him, and then after three years came back and became active in God's service. And though it may not always be a physical isolation, solitude, nobody's going to be prepared to serve God who will not push aside the things of life that are climbing for our attention and spend time regularly in solitude with God.

You can't be prepared without that. I read just this last week of a private school in New England, I think in Massachusetts, that banned cell phones in school. And everyone hollered like stuck pigs, but they did it. Their parents were paying big bucks for them to be there. And after a fairly short time, just a couple, three weeks, everybody was praising it.

We should have done this a long time ago. And even when they could use their phones at home, they were using them less. Their phone time went way down because they found that without that distraction, they could actually concentrate on things that were more important.

Their studies improved, their grades improved, their comprehension improved, their quality of life improved. They got away from the clutter of life. And that's just in the secular realm. Imagine how important that is in spiritual things, away from the distractions of life and spend some quiet time with God in his word, in prayer. How can you possibly be prepared to serve God apart from that?

In conclusion, three quick lessons. Number one, the dangers of national deliverance over spiritual deliverance. That was the expectation of the Jews of John's day, of Zacharias' day. They were looking for a national deliverance. But what God had in mind was a spiritual deliverance. And by observation, I think there are an awful lot of Christians in America today that are more concerned about national deliverance than spiritual deliverance.

They're looking for political deliverance. Folks, spiritual blessings do not depend upon national blessings. Spiritual blessings don't depend upon freedom and peace and prosperity.

We'd love to have those things. We benefit in many ways by those things, but they can also become a great stumbling block to us. But in places where Christians don't have those, we find oftentimes much stronger, much more spiritually minded Christians. Spiritual blessings don't depend upon national blessings.

Let's stop acting as if the withdrawal of these things from our nations is going to be the end of everything. It may just be the beginning of the spiritual revival that we need. Number two, the preaching that God uses to bring salvation.

We've already talked about this. It's a preaching that denounces sin. It's a preaching that emphasizes the need for forgiveness. We've got to be forgiven before Almighty God. It's a preaching that warns of judgment.

It's a preaching that exalts a necessity of repentance. Number three, the instruments that God most often uses. God can use anybody, as some of you remember Dr. James Zasvel, who used to preach for us, and he had a message entitled something like, God draws a straight line with a crooked stick.

He sure does. God doesn't need us in any particular way, but who are the instruments that God most often uses? Committed, prepared, surrendered human beings, flawed and sinful as we are, who are willing to pay the price to be prepared to serve God.

Those are the ones that God most often uses. Shall we pray? Father, how we thank you for your salvation which has come. How we thank you for your salvation which is promised and is certain and will be fulfilled. How we thank you for the grace and mercy that came to us who are undeserving of it. How we praise you for the Savior who was given. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-05 19:28:30 / 2022-12-05 19:46:15 / 18

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