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To Prepare His Ways

“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant– As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old– Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:67-76)

We have heard the story of how an angel appeared before Zacharias as he was preforming his priestly duty of entering into the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar. While Zacharias was busy doing this duty to burn incense unto the Lord an angel appeared and told him how his and his wife Elizabeth’s prayer had been heard by the Lord. Elizabeth was barren and advanced in years and now the angel told Zacharias that she would be with child. That the child would be the forerunner of the Messiah and the people would be filled with joy at his birth. Zacharias was told that the name of this child would be John and we know him today as John the Baptist.

But Zacharias questioned the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18) Now I am sure that Zacharias was a little uneasy. It is not an everyday event to be approached by an angel. It would have been a frightening event and those of the past and future have fallen down when an angel came into their presence. I imagine at this point Zacharias, advanced in years and a man who was blameless in the sight of God would be bowed down at this time. Still he had doubt in his heart of the words of the angel and the angel replied with his credentials. “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

The months past and Zacharias remained silent and unable to speak until the proper time for Elizabeth to give birth to John the Baptist, the Prophet and forerunner of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist who would be the Herald for the coming King of the Jews and the Savior of the World. It came to pass as the angel had said and Elizabeth gave birth to a son and named him John. On John’s eighth day Elizabeth and Zacharias took John to the Temple to be circumcised according to Jewish law. And the people gathered there and were amazed and joyful. It was at this time that Zacharias received his voice back and was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to give this prophecy of the One whom his son John was born to Herald.

In the prophecy of Zacharias he validated that John would be the forerunner of the Messiah. In Zacharias’ prophecy he speaks of the greatness of the One to come after his son John.

We read in verse 68, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people.” (Luke 1:68) Jesus came to pay the full price of our disobedience to the Word of God. A price that no man nor mankind could pay or repay. For the wages of our sin is death and no man can pay that price and live. (Romans 6:23) Jesus came to pay the price of our redemption that we could be reconciled through Him unto God our Father. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Verse 69 tells us, “And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant.” (Luke 1:69) An animal’s horn is the symbol of strength and our Savior has the power and strength to accomplish the work which He has begun. Our Messiah is a mighty Savior and there is not one who is more powerful. And by His Word we have this confidence. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

In verse 71 we take comfort from our enemies. “Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us.” (Luke 1:71) The world hates us just as it hated our Lord Jesus. (John 15:18) As the world is an enemy to God so to as Christians we are enemies to the world. The Apostle Paul teaches us not to be conformed to the world and its ways as we no longer belong to the world but to the Kingdom of Heaven. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

More importantly our worst enemy is that which is evil. Demonic powers, sin and death are no longer our slave masters, as on the cross of Calvary Jesus defeated these enemies of ours when he declared victory. “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30)

This was the call of John the Baptist to give us the knowledge of the One who would lead us out of the path of the Shadow of Death. “To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins.” (Luke 1:77)

Let us approach this Christmas season with a true humility that we are but men and women. Men and women that God has shown His grace upon, men and women that have sought the new born Savior that we celebrate in this season of the year and He has not cast us out. As Jesus promised us, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37) Come and let us adore Him, and serve Him that He will grant unto us eternal life with Him. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)

Look at what Zacharias said in verse 76. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways.” (Luke 1:76) Jesus has promised that He will come for His own. You and I, and this is a wonderful privilege. But this is also a powerful responsibility. It is the same responsibility that John the Baptist has and fulfilled. And we should also. There are many in this world who are lost to the truth of Jesus the Savior, the Messiah for all of mankind.

Jesus came that those who are lost in sin can be lifted up into service to God in the Highest. He came so that those who serve the false gods of this world may find the true God and Creator of the universe and be restored to a right relationship with Him. He came so that those who fear being before God might be reconciled to Him and stand before Him in the righteousness of His Son. He came that those who have lost purpose for living might find the true purpose and have life abundantly. He came for those who live a life of displeasing action can learn to live and please Him forever. He came that those who live an unholy life might find through Him the way to life. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

We each here tonight are the product of God’s creation and we are known unto Him. He sees us not as we were or as we are but as we will be through the work that He has begun in us and the righteousness that He gives us to stand before His Father in Heaven. It is not by anything we have done or will do but by our faith in Him that has saved us from the wrath of God to come. It is by His grace towards us that we have been called out of the darkness into His marvelous light. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) There is a path that we must follow that He will lead us through to the day that we are before Him. We are to love God with all our being and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot even accept one to face an eternity without the presence of God’s love. We have a ministry towards all that God brings into our path.

We have the ministry of reconciliation, as John the Baptist had, “To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins.” (Luke 1:77) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is of such greatness that we cannot help but share it to all who will hear. We in our humility should beg to all on behalf of our Lord that they be reconciled unto God. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, December 17, 2015

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