What makes you sing? Some people sing when they're happy, others when they're sad.
Some people never sing at all. Today on Truth for Life Weekend, Alistair Begg considers what inspired John the Baptist's father Zachariah to sing. We're in part two of last week's message from the series Songs for a Savior.
Let's join Alistair Begg as once again we're in the book of Luke chapter 1 verses 67 through 75. When I grew up trying to understand the Old Testament in light of the New and vice versa, the people who tried to help me did so by way of tying individual verses in the Old Testament to individual verses in the New Testament. Now, there was nothing wrong with that, and it was helpful to me to a point. But what I discovered was that—a bit like the challenges of algebra and geometry for me—once I got removed from my cheat sheet, I didn't know where I was.
So once you got me away from 2pi r to whatever else you wanted to take me to, I was completely at sea. Because even to this day, I can never remember which is the circumference and which is the area. And in the same way, I listen to people explaining the New Testament in light of the Old Testament, and they say, Well, if you look at this verse and you look at that verse, and the person says, Well, that doesn't even make much sense to me, and the person who's pointing it out says to themselves inside their heads, they go, Frankly, it doesn't make much sense to me either, and now we've got a real problem on our hands. Because you see, the issue is the comprehensive nature of things. It is having a large enough, a big enough grasp of what God is doing throughout all of history, as it involves both secular history and redemptive history.
And at many points, the two things are fused. Now, I want to give you just an outline, which will then be the basis for your further study, if you even care to think these things out, so that when you take your children and your grandchildren upon your lap, you're not simply stuck with the trivialities of a sentimental Christmas, nor are you going to be so profoundly distressing to them that they say, Grandpa, I haven't a clue what you're on about, but that you are able just simply to say, Listen, honey, do you realize all the things that God did in order to make it possible for Jesus to come? Do you realize how much God controlled in the whole universe? Do you realize how wonderfully in charge he is of things? Did you know that this God knows you and made you and made you for a relationship with himself?
And do you know that in Jesus you can know him and meet him? Zechariah sings out of the fullness not only of the spiritual filling which he enjoys but out of the fullness of his grasp of the comprehensive purposes of God. Now, I wrote down three words. The first word is redeemed, and I put that next to verses 69–71. You say, Well, what is that about? Well, it's about the fact that he is referencing, in a way that is pointing forward, the wonder of God's work in the past. So in other words, he has in mind the exodus from Egypt. Now you say, Well, how in the world are we supposed to understand that? Well, remember what we said, that in the epistles Jesus is explained. So we would look to the epistles to understand, in part, the work of the exodus in the Old Testament.
And that's exactly what we discover. So here we have Peter writing to the scattered believers of his day, and he says to them, You know that it was not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Just as the people of God were redeemed from the enslavement of Egypt, so it is the experience of those who have come to trust in Jesus that they too have understood redemption in a way that is even far more fulfilling—that it is a redemption from the futility and meaninglessness of life without God. Life is futile and meaningless without God.
Not just without any God, but without the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so the picture that is here for us in Zechariah's song, which points on the one hand back into the Old Testament and forward into the epistles, is there in order for us to grasp it. And when he speaks of David and the house of his servant David, once again he's doing the same. He's reaching back into the Old Testament, where the promise of God is given to David in 2 Samuel 7.
If you get a concordance, you can do this as easily as I can. And the promise of God is given to David in 2 Samuel 7 that you will have someone who comes through your lineage who will be a king who will out-king all the kings. You will have someone who will establish a kingdom that will never end. You will have someone who comes from your lineage who will reign on the throne of the divinic dynasty, as it were, and this will be the establishment of that which will never come to an end.
And so the people look forward for that. And even when the disciples began to try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, they were getting it wrong as well, weren't they, at the end of Luke? We thought that he was the one who was going to redeem the people of Israel. We thought he was going to establish the kingdom.
We thought he would now finally put his palace in the middle of Jerusalem, kick the Romans out, and make sure that nationalistically, politically, and in every other way, we had nothing to worry about. But he hadn't been listening to Jesus. Remember, Jesus had said to him, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would fight. You see, but they didn't want that kind of king, any more than you and I want that kind of king.
I listen to people talk here in America. They want a king. Well, not a king-king, because we don't do kings, but they want somebody who will come and take care of everything—take care of the politics, take care of the justice, take care of all of the things that are unraveling before us.
Let's have some great figure to do this. Well, what about your unraveling life and mine? What about your rebellious heart and mine? Don't you feel the need for a king to come and suppress your rebellion? For a king who will come and rule and deal with your futility and meaninglessness? So, no, that's not what I had in mind.
I don't want that kind of personal interference, but I am very happy for some kind of intervention. I'm interested in redemption, but not in a personal way. Verses 72 and 73, I wrote the word against them, the word remembered—remembered, it's like mindful from last week, I understand—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham. We don't have time to unpack this, but this is again the recurring theme—God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, and all of the covenant promises of God, which run through the Old Testament, finally find their fulfillment in Jesus. And until we understand that, until we come to terms with that, then the events which surround both the birth of John the Baptist and the coming of Jesus are inexplicable. Aren't they? I mean, they just—what are you going to make of this?
It's like coming into a house, finding a coffee table with a whole bunch of pieces of jigsaw on it, no box with a picture on the front, no indication of what's going on, none of the corners in place, just bits everywhere. You say, well, it must make sense somehow, but it sure doesn't make sense to me. And the coming of John, the arrival of Jesus, are inexplicable apart from God's eternal purpose. The eternal purpose of God that is revealed in the history of Israel and that finds its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus. You see, the work of God's mercy, as it is referenced here, to show mercy to our fathers. His display of mercy throughout all of history, and ultimately in Jesus, wasn't an afterthought because of sin, but the mercy of God was his eternal purpose. I listen to people again talk, and they have this kind of view of, this is how it goes. God had a plan, he started this plan off, it went dreadfully wrong, and so he started another plan.
No. The ultimate fulfillment of God's mercy in Jesus is not something that is supplied in time to correct a default in the system, but it is something that is planned from all of eternity. You say, you can't understand the promises of God, the covenant promises of God, unless you understand what he has done in Jesus. Because all of these promises point forward to Jesus. Here is his mercy in a person.
Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Here is the answer to your futility. Here is the answer to your meaninglessness. What is the answer to your rebellion, you see? We can't sidestep—we daren't sidestep Christmas with a sort of nativity scene in how you do, and a couple of gifts and on with your way.
No, that would be to make so little of it. Don't you realize that it is God's kindness, his mercy that would bring you to repentance? It's his kindness that would bring you to repentance. How would God's kindness bring you to repentance? The way my dad used to make me cry. How did he make me cry? By his kindness. When I knew what I deserved, and when he didn't give me what I deserved, then I realized I didn't get what I deserved.
That hurt me far more than a hiding. The story of the gospel is that on account of God's covenant mercy, in Christ we do not get what we deserve. Because what we deserve has been borne by Christ, who did not deserve what we deserve, so that we might enjoy all the benefits and blessings that become ours in Jesus, which are expressions of his mercy and grace. Why is it that Jewish people don't get this, if there is so much of this Jewish part in the Bible? Why is it?
Well, I'll tell you why it is, and I'm going to my last point, and then we'll be through. And this is from 2 Corinthians chapter 3, verse 12. Therefore, since we have such a hope—we are very bold, it's talking about the hope of the new covenant—we're not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. And their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is red. The same veil remains when the old covenant is red.
In other words, there is a scrim over their eyes—it is actually a scrim, a shadow over our hearts—when the old covenant is red. It is not removed. It hasn't been removed. Because only in Christ is it taken away. Only in Christ is it taken away. Only in the Messiah do the Old Testament promises finally make sense. When anyone ever turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. That brings me to my final word, which is the word revolutionized.
Redeemed, remembered, and revolutionized. God's goal for his people in every generation is that having rescued them, they might serve him with fear—without fear—in holiness and in justice. So you go back to the story of the Exodus, and what do you find? God says to Moses, Get my people out of Egypt, go to Pharaoh and say, Let my people go, in order that they might worship me. In other words, I'm not getting them out of Egypt so that they can just have a hullabaloo in the wilderness.
I'm not getting them out of Egypt so they can go around and say, Oh, milk and honey's really good, we enjoy this. I am redeeming them from the bondage of Egypt in order that they might devote the totality of their existence to me, in order that they might stand out in the midst of all of the generations as those who have been redeemed by an outstretched hand. If the epistles explain it, where do we go?
Romans chapter 12, Paul, who understood all of the Judaism, now having given the story of the gospel, finally gets to the point of application, and he says, Therefore I beseech you brothers and sisters, by the notes, mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, for that is your only reasonable, sensible spiritual worship. In other words, that's the whole reason that God has done what he's done. He hasn't done this in order that our problems would be fixed. There is a sense in which the story of the Bible is the story of God fixing his problem, not fixing our problems. For what is God's problem? God's problem, if we might put it that way, is how he, in his absolute perfection and holiness, can allow sinners into his heaven. How can God allow sinners into heaven if he is of purer eyes to behold iniquity?
How can he do this? Well, he's already figured it out, if we might say so reverently. And the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in eternity entered into a covenant of redemption, which the Father planned, which the Son procured, and which the Holy Spirit applies. And suddenly the lights go on for a person when they get this, and they're revolutionized.
But until then, like water on a corrugated roof, rain on a roof—that's why some of you are at the same position you're in, with one Sunday to go before the end of the year. Because there is a veil over your eyes. It's not self-evident to you, is it? If it was self-evident, you would have already believed in Jesus.
You would be out evangelizing the world. You'd be telling Jesus is the expression of God's mercy. He's the fulfillment of God's promises. He's the answer to my futility and my meaningless. He dealt with the guilt of my sin. He's forgiven me.
He's a brand-new person. Well, you're not saying that. The reason you're not saying that is because you don't believe that. And the reason you don't believe it—I'll tell you why it is—that the only way you can ever say that, the only way a man or woman can ever say that, is the same way that Zechariah said what he said, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In other words, it was an expression of the work of God within the life of Zechariah that enabled him to speak as he did. And so we today are hindered by our sin. I'm not going to go through the whole Bible again, but when you go back to the Garden of Eden, Adam rejects God's Word to him—the very Word which explains human existence and which explains the world.
Adam rejects it. And we, in the line of Adam, share in that. We shouldn't balk at the notion, because we know ourselves to be rebels. And we actually suppress the truth within us when our conscience rises and accuses us or commends things to us. We suppress the truth within us, and we reject God's Word that comes to us from outside of us. And only God's grace in the saving work of Jesus can cause us to accept the truth. Only God's grace in the saving work of Jesus can cause us to accept the truth. You see, through the gospel, we are made God's children. God accepts us as his children through the gospel, that he has provided in Christ the only answer to our predicament. And through the work of the Holy Spirit, which the gospel wins for us, a man or woman is then enabled to accept Christ as a Savior and to know God as a Father. But it is God's Spirit who conquers our rebellious wills. It is God's Spirit who lifts the self-imposed hatred and rejection of God from our hearts. Only God's Spirit.
But do you see that salvation is all of God? If it were self-evident, that people would just say, Okay, it isn't. It's not hidden.
It's disclosed. But there is a veil. And only in Christ is that veil taken away. The hymn writer says, I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in him.
And I could have written that verse as well, because I don't know either. But when I take the letters of this past year that have come via Truth for Life, and I listen as I read to the unheard voice of the writers, I am totally convinced of what I've just said to you—that God by his Spirit has come to a life and done something for that life and in that life that that individual could never in a million years do for themselves. And that is why the true believer always magnifies the grace of God. That's why the true Christian always says, Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound that saved a bum like me! I once was lost, but now I'm found. I was blind, but now I can see. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed! Today if you hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts.
I went last evening to visit one of my friends on the west side—actually, the man who provided all these poinsettias for us here—and I went to see him, because I had a text message to say that one of his older brothers had been killed on Friday evening in North Carolina shepherding some people after his company party on a four-wheeler back to their cars. And as I drove home from Oberlin last night, I said to myself, you know, I know these people think that I'm sort of monocousal. I'm sure they'll say when I'm dead, golly, he kept saying the same thing all the time.
And you know what? You're dead right, because life is short, death is certain, judgment is a reality. And I hold before you the way of life in Christ. Today, if you hear his voice, take him at his word. All you have to do is believe—to believe. That is Alistair Begg encouraging us to read the whole Bible, to understand God's promises and recognize that each promise is fulfilled in Jesus.
You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend, and keep listening, Alistair will be back in just a minute to close in prayer. If you listen to Truth for Life Weekend regularly, you know we're very particular about the books we recommend to help you and your family grow in faith. Today's book will help you fortify your prayer life in the year ahead. The book is titled Piercing Heaven, Prayers of the Puritans, and it's a collection of hundreds of carefully selected prayers written by 32 Puritan writers, people like John Bunyan, who is the author of Pilgrim's Progress. The Puritans are probably best known for their scripture-based worship. They were devoted students of the Bible, and their prayers reflect their understanding of God as he reveals himself to us in scripture. Find out more about the book Piercing Heaven, Prayers of the Puritans, when you visit our website at truthforlife.org. Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. Precious God, we want to hear your voice beyond the voice of a man.
We want to hear from you as we read our Bibles for ourselves. We pray for your help, that we might be revolutionized by you as we realize that you remember us. What a thought that the God of the universe remembers us. What a thought that the God of the universe redeems us in Christ. Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood. To every believer the promise of God, the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. Help us then. Oh God, we pray, and may the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with all who believe today and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine.
Thanks for listening. When a new baby is born, people love to make comments about the baby's looks, which parent the baby might resemble. Would I doubt any of us have ever seen a newborn baby and exclaimed that we've seen the Lord's salvation? Join us next weekend to find out why a man named Simeon responded with highest praise when he met the baby Jesus. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-07 23:00:17 / 2023-07-07 23:09:19 / 9