'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel'

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67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets of long ago, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, 72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, 73 the oath which He swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, 78 through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise from on high has visited us; 79 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 1:67-79

In these prophetic words, Zachariah the priest, being filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the salvation God was providing in His only-begotten Son and of the ministry of his son, John the Baptist.

Jesus, Son of God and descended from David through the Virgin Mary, came into the world as promised from the very beginning. In Jesus, God Himself visited and redeemed His people.

Jesus bore upon the cross the punishment for the sins of the whole world and made atonement for God’s people and for all of mankind. He suffered, died and rose again that He might set us free from the curse and condemnation of our sins to live for Him and serve Him evermore!

John the Baptist, the son born to Zechariah in his old age, would be the prophet of the Highest, going before the Lord Jesus Christ — Jehovah God Himself in human flesh — to prepare His ways.

And how was John to prepare the people for the coming of their Lord? He was to give them knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. He was to teach them of God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of God’s Son, the Dayspring from on high who would visit them. He was to call upon all to repent of their evil ways and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world for mercy and forgiveness. In this way, he would give light to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death and guide their feet into the way of peace with the Lord their God.

People today are still sitting in spiritual darkness and the shadow of death. They do not know the LORD God and His mercy in Christ Jesus and are headed for an eternity of suffering and punishment apart from Him and His lovingkindness. Thus, the ministry of God’s Church today, as it prepares for the second coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven, is to give to people in this world knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins. The Church, through its ministers, is to call people to repentance and faith in the Messiah and Savior; for Jesus, God’s own dear Son, came into this world, redeemed all of mankind by suffering and dying on the cross for all sin and rose again on the third day.

Ministers of Christ proclaim the law of God that people might see their sinfulness and the error of their ways. And they make known the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus that people might trust in Him alone for eternal salvation. In this way, the called servants of Jesus continue to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death and guide their feet into the way of peace.

O gracious and merciful God, bring us all to repent of our sinful and erring ways and grant us mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the Son, Jesus Christ, that Dayspring from on High who has come to visit and redeem us. And, dear Lord Jesus, move us to share with others sitting in darkness and the shadow of death the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins through faith in You and Your innocent sufferings and death in their stead. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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