“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:68 NLT)
I have skimmed over this verse many times without noticing it. The chapter is a long one and some of it seems repetitive—until this week, when the importance of this one jumped off the page at me.
During this time in history, the Roman Empire occupied the land of Israel. If Zechariah had looked around him, he would have seen their soldiers in every direction, carrying the swords and spears which symbolized their authority and power. In earthly eyes, the idea that God had come and delivered Israel from their cruel captors would have provoked ridicule. By the evidence around them, clearly God had not visited them nor delivered them.
The Israelites can be pardoned for thinking the prophecies regarding God’s deliverance could be taken as “of this world”, since a passage in Isaiah was thought of that way: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” (Isaiah 9:2-5). A biblical example of a godly man who subscribed to this common belief is in Luke 2:25 (NLT): At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.
In reality the Romans were the small fry, just the temporary global big shots. The real captor was Satan, the prince of this world (as Jesus described him in John 14:30). The deliverance from slavery was going to be spiritual and eternal, not just a temporary fix for one era and one people group.
It’s interesting that Zechariah speaks here in the past tense, as if God had already finished everything. Actually, in a very real sense, He had. The outcome of this battle was never in any doubt. It had all been decided.
Many historians consider the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944 to be the pivotal event of the twentieth century. Although almost a year of heavy fighting still lay ahead and many more would die in the meantime, the D-Day landing spelled doom for Nazi Germany. Once Allied forces got a firm grip on that beachhead, the end was never in doubt. Hitler’s armies could not survive what was coming.
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Zechariah here, was speaking prophetically about the ultimate end of this series of events which began with the birth of John the Baptist and would continue with the birth of Jesus.
The next verses in the Isaiah passage, verses 6-7, give us better insight, and is clear from our perspective because we can look back on history: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Zechariah had glimpses of this as well, continuing his prophecy in verses 78-79, …Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.
In this Christmas season, we can rejoice that Jesus, the Light of the World was born to fulfill these prophesies and bring light into this dismal, dark world: In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)
© 2017 Darvis McCoy
About the Picture: Taken in 2012 in Bogota, Colombia at the world's largest living nativity.
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