Many centuries had passed since the Jews had been carried off into captivity, and although they were eventually allowed to return to their own land, they remained under foreign dominion. Even in the days of King Herod, an Idumean whose family had been converted to Judaism, the Jews were still under foreign leaders, for he was appointed by the Roman Empire and was quite tyrannical. So the Jews were in their homeland but they were not at home in their homeland — they were still in exile.
The expectation about Messiah, however, was still alive. God had spoken the promise in various ways over the centuries, and many of the various Jewish movements still looked for Him — longed for Him — though their understanding was very mixed about what it would be and how it would happen. But they knew that Messiah would come to deliver Israel and establish God’s kingdom. They had the promise of God, and to the extent they trusted Him and believed that promise, they had expectation. Because God spoke, there was hope.
And now here was Zechariah, whose faith revived very late in life, praising God for the miraculous birth of his son, John, who was somehow caught up in the fulfillment of the messianic promise (see Zechariah’s Expectation). Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah began to prophesy:
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,Zechariah begins with the declaration that God has come to His people and redeemed them. Then he relates it to the promise the things spoken by the mouths of the Old Testament prophets. He recalls the covenant, the “oath” God “swore” to Abraham. He focuses on the promise of mercy and deliverance and freedom, that God’s people would be able to serve Him without fear all the days of their lives.
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And 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,
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.
In short, Zechariah’s prophecy was an announcement that the time of Messiah was at hand. With his faith renewed to the promise of God, Zechariah began to understand that it was now beginning to be fulfilled — God was doing what He promised. Zechariah believed the promise and he was bursting with expectation.
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles
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