Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Zechariah’s Hymn, Day 2

Leslie Basham: If God showed up at your door, would you be happy to see Him? Your response would have a lot to do with how you’d been living. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When God comes to visit, He comes to rescue and deliver His people. He also comes to bring judgment and punishment on those who do not belong to Him.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, December 20.

Here at Revive Our Hearts we’re asking “What Time Is It?” Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy: I believe it’s time to invest. We have so many opportunities to spend our time, our energy and our money in all kinds of things. But you know what? The time is short. We need to be asking what will really matter for eternity? I believe there is a generation of women who are tired of investing in things that don’t last. It’s time to invest in God’s kingdom. To come together to do something that will result in a rich harvest.

In 2016 on Revive Our Hearts, you’ll hear teaching from God’s Word you can trust. We are asking the Lord to take his Word, plant it in women’s hearts and to see much fruit. And in 2016, we’re also issuing an urgent call to prayer. We’re asking women to cry out to God to transform a hurting, broken world "for such a time as this." If you believe in the value of God’s Word and prayer, would you consider investing in Revive Our Hearts?

The need is huge. The opportunity is huge. I believe this is an investment in your time, energy and finances that will last for eternity. Some friends of the ministry are doubling each gift given to Revive Our Hearts between now and December 31 up to $820,000. And in order to keep the ministry of going, we really to need to meet and exceed that challenge. Let me ask you first to pray and ask the Lord, "What part do you want me to have in that challenge?" Then you can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Leslie: Have you ever gotten some exciting news before everybody else knew it? The Bible tells us that Zechariah found out the greatest news of all time then was rendered unable to speak. Nancy started telling his story yesterday, and here she is to explain the big news in a series called "Zechariah's Hymn."

Nancy: In May of 2004, George W. Bush was campaigning for re-election, and he kicked off one of his bus tours in Niles, Michigan.

Niles, Michigan, you may recognize that name, happens to be where Revive Our Hearts is located, where our office is based—population 12,202, I think, in the 2000 census.

And George W. Bush visited Niles, Michigan. Detroit we could have understood, but Niles? It’s just this little bedroom community of South Bend, Indiana, there in southwest Michigan. It was really astounding.

Everybody heard about it. Everybody was talking about it. That was a big day for Niles, Michigan. I thought about that as I meditated on the hymn of Zechariah, the praise of Zechariah as he stood over his newborn son, John, who was to be the forerunner of Jesus, the Messiah, and Zechariah offered up a blessing to the Lord.

We’re looking at that blessing this week and next in Luke chapter 1. I want to encourage you to follow along in your Bible if you can. Perhaps take that passage, Luke 1, verses 67–79 and be reading it, studying it on your own, meditating on it, and perhaps even memorizing it over these next couple of weeks as we focus on these words.

He begins this hymn of praise, this Benedictus as we said yesterday, this benediction, by saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (v. 67).

God has visited His people. The birth of Christ which is what Zechariah is referring to here even as he looks at the birth of his own son. He’s not talking about the birth of his own son; he’s talking about the coming birth of Christ, the Messiah, still months away. He says, “God has visited his people.” The birth of Christ is a divine visitation.

Now the reference in verse 68 to God visiting His people is the first of two references of divine visitations in this song. The second one you find toward the end of the song in verse 78 where Zechariah says, "The tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise [or some of your translations say, the dayspring] shall visit us from on high.”

In verse 68 he says, “God has visited and redeemed his people.” In verse 78 he says, “The sunrise or the dayspring or the dawn will visit us from on high.”

They both speak of the coming of Christ to earth—God visiting His people. And prophetically, though the birth of Christ has not yet taken place, Zechariah sees this visitation as already have been accomplished. He knows that it’s coming, and he looks forward to it with confidence. God will visit His people. God has visited His people. It’s accomplished as far as God is concerned.

Now this is very significant in the mind, not only of Zechariah, but of all his Jewish friends and relatives—anyone who’s listening, anyone who’s aware of what’s going on—because it’s been a long time since planet Earth has had any word at all from God.

In fact, it’s been 400 years since anyone on earth has heard anything from God, 400 years from the end of the book of Malachi until the birth of Christ. Silence. Darkness. Waiting. Longing. No word. No echo. No visitation.

So now, after all these years of God being “absent” as far as the people could tell, God has visited His people. This is a long-promised, long-awaited visitation.

The word visited, “God has visited his people,” in the original language—I won’t try and pronounce it, but it’s a word from which we get our word, episcopal, or episcopacy. The word episcopal, or episcopacy has to do with government, oversight, that a bishop has over a church.

“God has visited his people.” What does that mean? God’s visitation is His oversight and government over His people. This is a hymn of grace. It’s a hymn about God seeing what’s going on, God acting on based on what He has seen, and God coming to govern His people.

What is described all through this hymn of praise is the result of God’s visitation.

Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke; Luke, the beloved physician, uses this concept of visitation more than once in the Gospel of Luke. One of those references is in Luke chapter 7.

That’s the instance when Jesus came across this funeral procession where there is a widow from the village of Nain, and she had just lost her only son. She was bereaved both of husband and of child and Jesus stopped.

He had mercy on her and He performed a miracle and raised the dead boy out from that funeral procession. The boy stood up and was alive! As you might imagine, this was quite a startling thing to the people in that funeral procession.

It says in Luke 7, verse 16, “Fear seized them all [I can understand that], and they glorified God, saying, ‘God has visited his people!’”

“God has visited his people.” Same word as is used here in Luke chapter 1. “God has visited his people.”

Now the theme of divine visitations is one that runs through both the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the word in Hebrew that is often translated “to visit” can be with a friendly intent or to visit with a hostile intent.

The words are translated differently in different translations. Sometimes when it’s with a friendly intent, a visitation with a friendly intent, the word is translated “to remember, to deliver, to attend to.”

Sometimes, on the other hand, it is to visit with a hostile intent. Then you’ll see words like “to punish, to avenge.” It’s the same word that relates to visitation. It means "to look into something with a view to help out." God has visited His people. He has looked into our situation, and He has come to do something about our condition.

You see this concept throughout the Old Testament. In Genesis chapter 50, just before he dies, Joseph speaks to his brothers in Egypt, his relatives, and he says to them, "'I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land [of Egypt] to the land that he has swore to Abraham, and to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel, swear saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (vv. 24–25). God will visit you.

Joseph died believing that one day that God would visit His people in Egypt and would deliver them out of their captivity. He died without ever seeing that promise fulfilled, but He died believing that God would fulfill those promises.

In fact, almost 400 years later God did visit His people in Egypt. After 400 years of slavery, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. You read about this in Exodus chapter 3.

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (vv. 7–8).

When God visits His people, He always visits them to deliver them out of something and to deliver them into something else.

God said, “I have come down to deliver my people out of Egypt.” He says that to Moses in Exodus 3. “I’ve come to bring them into a good land” (v. 8).

God goes on to say in Exodus 3, “I have surely visited you and have seen what is done to you in Egypt.”

The New American Standard says, “I am indeed concerned about you.”

You see, God’s visitation isn’t that He’s just stopping by for a social visit. It’s, “I’ve seen what’s going on in your house. I’ve seen what’s going on among My people, and I’m concerned about your condition. I’m concerned about your circumstances. I’ve come to do something about it. I’ve come to take over.”

So God sees and God acts. The purpose of His visitation, His seeing, His acting, is with the purpose of delivering His people. This is all bound up in that concept, “God has come to visit his people.” He’s come to do something about their crisis. He knows what’s going on, and He’s come to visit them.

You find in the Old Testament repeated prayers and pleas for God to visit His people.

Normally when people pray this way in the Old Testament, it’s in times of distress. It’s in time of bondage. It’s in times of crisis or turmoil.

Psalm 106, verse 4, says, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favor you have towards your people. O visit me with your salvation” (NKJV) .

Jeremiah 15, verse 15, Jeremiah says, "O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.” Or as the New King James says there, “attend to me.”

“Do something about my plight. And not only help me, but take vengeance for me on my persecutors.”

When God comes to visit, He comes to visit us in both salvation and deliverance for God’s people; and in judgment and in punishment for those who reject him. Those are two aspects of God’s visitation.

I thought about that not too long ago when I thought for a moment that my garage had been broken into. I heard some noises. And long story short, I won’t tell you the whole story but . . . So I called the police, and sure enough, before too very long the police came to visit.

These two, big, burly men showed up wearing their badges of authority, in their uniforms, armed, guns in their holsters, and they came to visit. But it wasn’t just a social call. They came because I had called, and I had said, “I need someone to come and visit. There’s a situation here I need someone to check into. I’m not sure I’m the best person to check into this situation in case it’s more than what I think it is.”

It turned out to be nothing, which I was relieved to know, but I didn’t know that at the moment I called out. I was in distress. They came to visit, and they had a two-fold purpose in their visit.

First of all, they came to provide protection for me—taxes at work here—and to make sure that I was safe. If necessary, they were prepared to deliver, to rescue me. Now, I’m making it much more dramatic than it turned out to be, but that was part of their purpose.

But they had another purpose, and that was to deal with the intruder if there was one—which it turned out not to be, thankfully. It’s interesting that when they barged into that garage, hand on the gun, they used a different tone of voice talking to any potential intruder that might be in that garage than they used when they were talking to me.

When they talked to me, they spoke in reassuring tones, but when they barged into that garage, at the top of their lungs they were going, “POLICE, POLICE.” Who were they talking to? They were talking to anybody who might be in that garage who’s not supposed to be in that garage.

So the second part of their purpose was to deal with anybody who wasn’t supposed to be there.

When God comes to visit, He comes to rescue and to deliver His people, and He also comes to bring judgment and punishment on those who do not belong to Him.

Now more often than not, when you read about God visiting in the Old Testament, it refers to the use of judgment, punishment.

For example, you read in Isaiah 23, verse 17, “At the end of seventy years, the Lord will visit Tyre,” one of the pagan nations. One of the translations says, “God will deal with Tyre.” He’s coming in judgment, in punishment.

You often see this used in the book of Jeremiah. Many verses refer to God visiting His people and other nations who do not obey Him, visiting them in judgment.

For example, in Jeremiah chapter 5, verse 9, God says, “Shall I not visit them for these things? says the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (KJV). You can tell by the context there that this is not a pleasant visitation. This is a visitation of vengeance, punishment, and judgment.

But God also promises to visit His people in the sense of deliverance, salvation, redemption, and for those of us who are in Christ, that makes the visitation of God to earth something to celebrate. God visits His people in salvation.

Jeremiah 27, verse 22, God says, “They will be carried to Babylon” as a punishment for their sin. The Jews would be exiled to Babylon. And they will “remain there until the day when I visit them, declares the Lord. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.”

This is a visitation of restoration, a visitation of salvation, a visitation of being rescued and delivered from their enemies.

Jeremiah 29, verses 10 and 11, “Thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon [when you’ve had your exile, your time of disciplining and chastening in Babylon], I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promises and bring you back to this place,” this place is your home, I will restore you to your home.

Then that verse that we know and love, this is the context. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future, and a hope” (v. 11). This is the divine visitation of God—to rescue His people and to restore them.

I love that verse in Job chapter 10, verse 12, in the King James it says, “Thou has granted me life and favor, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” God’s visitation.

The English Standard says, “Your care has preserved my spirit.” It’s a tenderhearted God who comes and visits His people to preserve and deliver and to rescue them.

So when God visits, He does so in two ways. He does so in judgment, and He does so in deliverance. He does so in punishment and in salvation.

Sin is judged and punished and righteous prevails. The coming of Christ into this world means both. When Christ comes again to visit this world, He will visit for both of those purposes.

As those two police officers came to visit me to protect and to rescue and to defend me and to deal with anybody who should not be there, Christ is coming back to rescue and to deliver from this world those who are His people.

But He’s also coming back to avenge and to punish and to bring to final judgment on all those who have not believed in Christ. So God comes to visit His people.

Often when He does, it seems to be so long that we’ve been waiting. In fact, it just struck me in the last day or so as I was meditating on this passage, how often God delays His visits until it’s past the point when anybody thinks it’s going to happen—when people have given up thinking it’s going to happen.

Back in Genesis 50, Joseph said to his brothers, “God will visit you and will bring you out of this land . . . take my bones,” take them up back to Israel (vv. 24–25). God promised when He would visit His people.

And how long until God came in Exodus 3 and said to Moses, “I’ve come to visit my people and deliver them out of slavery”? Four hundred years of waiting and longing, 400 years of tough slavery, of cruel oppression, and Egyptian taskmasters, waiting.

Don’t you think it seemed to those oppressed Jews that God was never going to fulfill His promise to visit? Then think about God speaking to the prophets all through the Old Testament saying, “I’m going to visit this earth. I’m going to send the Messiah. I’m going to come to earth Myself to visit you and deliver and save you.”

And how long was it between the end of the Old Testament and the time when Zechariah said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for He has visited His people”? How long? 400 years! Again, 400 years! Four centuries of waiting and longing and some giving up and some saying, “It’s not going to happen.”

The same way some people say today, Jesus isn’t coming back. It’s been so long. Peter talks about that in Second Peter. People just say there’s no judgment coming. There’s no deliverance coming. Things will always go on as they are.

Remember, it may be long as we measure time, but God will come again and visit this earth.

We celebrate those fulfilled longings in a song we often sing at this time of year, “O Holy Night.” You know those words?

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 
    ’Til He appeared and the soul felt His worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices, 
     For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Exodus chapter 4, "When the people heard that the Lord has visited the people of Israel, and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped" (v. 31).

That’s what Zechariah did when he saw his little son, John, who would prepare the way with the coming of the Messiah just months later.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he has visited his people.”

O Lord, we give You praise, and we bow our heads now and worship you. Thank You for coming, for seeing, for knowing our plight, for knowing our fallen and sinful and enslaved condition, for having mercy on us. Thank You for coming, Emmanuel, God with us.

Thank You for coming and visiting this planet, not just once, the first time on what we celebrate as Christmas, to come to bring salvation to this earth, thank You also for the hope that we have that You will come again. You will visit Your people. We bow our heads and worship and say, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and He will visit and redeem His people," amen.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been encouraging us to worship the Lord this Christmas season. She's in a series called "Zechariah's Hymn."If you missed any of that program, you can hear it or read the transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com. Nancy: Christ paid the price to God, in a sense

Jesus paid for our sins. You’ve probably been hearing that a long time, but do you understand it? Who did Jesus pay? Zechariah talked about it in his hymn, and Nancy will too when she picks up her teaching tomorrow. 

Nancy: Christ paid the price to God, in a sense, it's as if God paid Himself to deliver us, to redeem us, to buy us out of the hands of God's justice. We read in 1 Peter 1 that we were redeemed, we were ransomed from the futile way of life that we inherited from our forefathers, but we weren't redeemed with perishable things such as silver and gold. There is no amount of money that could have purchased our redemption. We were redeemed instead with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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