Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Zechariah’s Hymn, Day 6

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has some good news for you.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I want to tell you that there’s not a thing that you or I could ever do to placate the wrath of God. But the gospel, the good news, the message we celebrate right here at Christmas is that we don’t have to! It’s been done!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Monday, December 21, 2015.

Have you ever made plans with your kids and gotten them all excited only to feel so bad when things didn’t work out in your schedule and you had to cancel?

When it comes to keeping promises, God is a lot better than we are. In fact, on Friday we celebrated a promise God delivered on. It had been made to the very first two people on the earth. We explored that in the series "Zechariah's Hymn."

Here’s Nancy to pick up on that series and tell us more.

Nancy: I’m sure that your life is very busy right now. There's probably a lot going on in your home. But I am trusting that in the midst of it all you are taking time to stop, to pause, to reflect on what this is all about.

We’re trying to help you do that this week and this past week on Revive Our Hearts by meditating on one of the great hymns of Scripture found in Luke chapter 1. I hope that you’re reading it along with us, meditating upon it, perhaps memorizing it.

It’s a hymn that was spoken by Zechariah the priest. In Luke 1:67–79 he spoke it at the eight-day birthing party of his son, John, who would be John the Baptist who would grow up to be the forerunner of Christ, the Messiah.

Six months later Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. That’s why we’re airing this series at this time of year because there’s so much in this passage that helps us understand why Christ was born, why He came to earth.

We’re looking at some of the great themes of redemption and salvation that surface in this passage.

Let me read beginning in verse 68,

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel 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 from of old that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

Then verse 72,

To show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.

Now, let’s just go that far and I want to point out several things about what we’ve read thus far that touch back on this whole subject of salvation and redemption and God’s visitation.

Again, let me ask you to keep in mind the setting. John, the baby, Zechariah’s son is eight days old and the family and relatives have come together for celebration and Zechariah speaks this benediction—as they called it in Latin, the benedictus.

It’s interesting that the words of Zechariah’s hymn show a connection (if you put together some words from the original language), a connection with the name John as well as the name Zechariah and the name Elizabeth, the mother of this child.

Look at verse 72, “to show the mercy promised to our fathers.” The name John means “the grace of God” and Zechariah talks about the mercy promised to our fathers.

This whole song celebrates the grace of God. John, whose name means “the grace of God.” So this child is born, and he’s celebrating the grace of God that has come to earth and the salvation and its fruits that are the outcome of God’s grace. This song is all about God’s grace.

God’s grace, the gift of God’s mercy. It can’t be earned. It can’t be deserved. So God names this child John, “the grace of God” to say that this grace, this mercy that was promised for generations back has now come to earth.

Then he says, “to remember His holy covenant.” The name Zechariah means “God remembers." Zechariah is saying, “God has remembered His holy covenant. God made a covenant with our forefathers, and He didn’t forget His promiseGod remembersthe grace of God.

Then Elizabeth’s name means, “the oath of God.” Look at the very next phrase in verse 73. “To remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.” Elizabeth.

God put together in His supernatural wisdom and providence this family: Zechariah"God remembers,” Elizabeth“the oath of God,” John (born in their later years)“the grace of God.”

Zechariah says that God has come. He has visited; He has redeemed His people to show the mercy promised to our fathers, the grace of God to remember His holy covenant. God remembers the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, the oath of God and how precious that the names of this family should remind them and us of the grace of Godthe fact that God remembers and keeps His word and He keeps his oath.

This salvation, this deliverance, that’s being celebrated in this hymn had been promised for generations, for centuries beginning back in Genesis chapter 3 when the man and the woman first fell into sin.

From that point, in an unbroken line through the end of the Old Testament, Malachi chapter 4, one after another God promised through His prophets that He would send a Savior, a Redeemer.

God made a covenant with Abraham. God promised that this seed of Abraham, that out of the seed of Abraham would come blessing for His chosen people and for all the nations of the earth. That covenant was passed on from Abraham to his son Isaac and from Isaac to his son Jacob and from Jacob to his twelve sons and thy passed it on to their sons and they pass it on to their sons and the prophets spoke about it.

God revealed to the prophets: “I’m coming. I’m going to send a Savior. I’m going to come! EmanuelGod with us.”

The coming of Christ was the fulfillment of all those years of covenant promises that God had made to Old Testament believers. As we look at this passage, we are reminded that God is a covenant-making and a covenant-keeping God.

The oath of God means something. It stands for something. It cannot be broken! Today people make promises and they break them just as quickly, but God keeps His word. God keeps His promises.

Now, for sure there are seasons when it seems as if God has forgotten His covenant, God has forgotten His commitments, God has forgotten His oath. For the Jews in Zechariah’s day, it had been 400 years since they had last heard any word from God—the 400 silent years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Don’t you think that it seemed to those people that God had forgotten?

But Zechariah’s name means what? God remembers. God remembers His oath and God will fulfill His promises. He will visit you in His time and in His way. Listen, when your world is in turmoil and things are flooding around you and things are overwhelming in your home, in your workplace, in your life, you can count on the oath of God!

He says that “we shall be saved from our enemies,” in verse 71, “and from the hand of all who hate us,” verse 73, “to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies.”

Twice he mentions this being saved or delivered from our enemies, and we are reminded that God’s visitation, God’s redemption, God's salvation brings deliverance from our enemies, from Satan, from sin, from self.

That word “delivered” (that we being delivered from the hand of our enemies) . . . I like that word. If you look it up in the original language, it means “to draw with force and violence, to drag, to pull, meaning to deliver or to draw out of danger or calamity and to liberate.”

It’s like somebody’s in a burning house and somebody goes in and snatches them out at the last possible moment, just before they get asphyxiated. It’s this very dramatic picture of a rescue.

God delivers us from our enemies. He drags us out. He draws us out. The “horn of our salvation” is powerful enough to do that for us.

This is the first of eight references in the Gospel of Luke to “enemies.” You’ll see that often times Luke refers to the enemies as supernatural and spiritual opposition.

Now as we’ve mentioned before in this series, Zechariah is undoubtedly thinking at this point when he talks about being delivered from his enemies of what was every Jew’s longing and desirethat was to throw off the oppression of the Romans.

They were the enemies as far as the Jews were concerned. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in this hymn, this praise of Zechariah, there is a promise of deliverance from the spiritual forces that hold captive the hearts and souls of men.

God was talking about something far more significant than temporal deliverance from Romans. We have other forces of terrorism and totalitarianism in our world. There are brothers and sisters of ours in Christ who live in other parts of the world today where they are under regimes that are like the Roman empire of old.

One day, God will do away with all those enemies, but in the meantime, every child of God can experience that ultimate deliverance from Satan, from the spiritual forces that war against our hearts and hold them captive.

He’s talking here about salvation from sin, salvation from the dominion of Satan. That’s our enemy, salvation from every form of corruption.

Luke talks in chapter 11 of his gospel about the “strong man who rules over a house.” That’s a picture of Satan in that passage until, he says, "someone stronger comes and throws him out" (see vv. 21–22).

Who is the someone stronger who overcomes our enemies? It’s Jesus, the horn of our salvation.

Jesus is able to conquer not only human opponents, but also the spiritual ones that stand behind them as we read in Ephesians chapter 6, the powers of darkness that stand the forces of wickedness in this world (see v.12).

So while Jesus was here on earth ministering, what did He do? He was giving signs, visible expressions of His power to deliver from the enemy. When he healed people, He was demonstrating His power over the enemy who causes sickness, ultimately.

When He did miracles and stilled the winds and the waves and the storms, He was showing His powers over all the enemies and the demonic, hellish forces behind them.

When He cast out demons, He was demonstrating His power over the works of Satan and his demons. He was demonstrating His authority, His mission to deliver us from the hand of our enemies.

Jesus’ miracles weren’t just acts of physical deliverance, they pictured a deeper realitythe power of Christ over evil and His power to deliver us from evil and from the evil one.

We saw earlier in this passage that Christ is the horn of salvation, the mighty, powerful Savior, the one who deals with the enemy, who puts him on the run, who guarantees victory for those who belong to Christ. God’s salvation brings deliverance from our enemies.

Then we see in verses 73 and following that God saves us for a purpose, not just so we can be saved, but there’s something He wants to come out of that.

Look at the end of verse 73, “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 our days.”

Jesus came to this earth to save sinners, to deliver them, to rescue them, to redeem them (all those related words), why? So we could serve Him.

We are not saved or delivered as an end in itself. We’re saved, we’re delivered from the yoke of sin and the yoke of Satan so that we can take our place in the yoke with Christ, so that we can serve the Lord with gladness, so can be linked with Him in kingdom work and purposes.

That word serve (“that we might serve Him without fear”) is an interesting word in the Greek language. It’s sometimes translated “serve” and other times it’s translated “worship.” I looked up almost every reference I could find to that word in the New Testament, and it’s hard to tell why in some cases they translate it “worship” and in some other cases they translate the exact same word “serve.”

I’m not into Bible translation, so I’m sure there’s a good reason for it, but it’s the exact same word. It really means “to worship God by serving Him,” or “to serve Him worshipfully.”

It’s our “reasonable act of worship,” we read in Romans 12:1. It's the same word—service, worship. We serve Him with our hearts and with our lives. Our service becomes an act of worship and our worship always involves active service.

You can see that concept in the Old Testament in Exodus chapter 3 when God says to Moses as He’s getting ready to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt, to deliver them from slavery. God says, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (v. 12).

Now, fast-forward to the New Testament book of Acts when Stephen is getting ready to be stoned. He gives this whole rehearsal of Jewish history. He says when he’s quoting this passage from Exodus chapter 3 (“when you come out of Egypt you shall serve God on this mountain”) when Stephen quotes it in the New Testament he says, “they shall come out and worship me in this place” (7:7).

The same words—serve and worship. We are saved to serve Him worshipfully. We are saved to worship Him with service.

The purpose of God’s visitation, the purpose of salvation and redemption is that we would serve Him as priests unto God.

Then we see that God’s salvation enables us to worship and serve Him “without fear” (v. 74). Without fear. You say,”Why would people worship and serve God with fear?”

I was reading a piece the other day on John Paton who was a nineteenth century missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. When Paton and his wife, Margaret, first arrived on this island in 1866, the islanders were cannibals.

They would sometimes eat the flesh of their enemies once they had destroyed them. They practiced infanticide. They practiced widow sacrifice. In Paton's autobiography he describes what their religion was like, and he says that it was a religion of fear.

He says that their religion was “entirely a service of fear, its aim being to propitiate this or that evil spirit. Their whole religion was one of slavish fear, and so far as I could ever learn, they had no idea of a God of mercy or grace.”

They were terrified. “We’ve got to do this to placate the evil spirits. We’re terrified! If we don’t do this, what will they do to us? They’ll destroy our crops. They’ll destroy our children.” So out of this slavish fear, they served their gods. There was no concept of a God of mercy or grace.

We come to the New Testament, we come to the God of Scripture, and we see He is a God of infinite, awesome mercy and grace and He has saved us, delivered us, redeemed us from our sins so that we can serve and worship Him without fear.

Scripture says in Hebrews chapter 2 that Jesus became a man, "He took on flesh and blood so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, even the Devil and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to life-long slavery" (vv. 14–15 paraphrased).

How many people in the world today through fear of death are still subject to life-long slavery to false religions, even sometimes what they call “Christianity"? They are trying to do things, slavishly fearful of God. They are trying to do things to placate Him, to make God happy, to appease the wrath of God.

I want to tell you that there’s not a thing you or I could ever do to placate the wrath of God! But the Gospel, the good news, the message we celebrate here at Christmas is that we don't have to. It's been done! The Redeemer has come! He has visited us. He has delivered us that we might serve Him without fear.

He delivered us from the one who had the power of death, delivered us from that fear of death and our life-long slavery.

“There is no fear in love,” 1 John 4 says because “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (v. 18). There’s only one source of that kind of love. It’s the incredible, awesome love of God and that perfect love will cast out any fear of punishment.

That we "might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him” (Luke 1:75). We are saved to be holy in heart and in conduct.

"He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him,” Ephesians chapter 1, verse 4 says.

He saved us so we could "serve Him without fear in holiness before Him all our days” (Luke 1:75).

Do you have some of those days, as I do, when you think, There is no way I can keep hanging on to my faith? There are circumstances that come into your life, there are doubts that assail, there are fears and you think, How in the world will I ever be able to persevere all the way to the finish line?

He came to save us from the hand of our enemies that we might serve and worship Him without fear all the days of our lives.

Listen, I’m not the one holding on! He’s the one holding on! It’s His love and His mercy that are eternal. It’s His staying power. I am kept by the power of God today, and I will be tomorrow and the next day and the next and by faith in His delivering, redeeming, saving power. You will be as well.

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has visited and redeemed us. He has saved, delivered us from our enemies that we might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives" (vv. 69, 74).

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth helping us grasp the eternal significance of the holiday we'll celebrate this week. She’s in the middle of a series called "Zechariah's Hymn." Zechariah doesn’t always get a lot of attention, but this series has shown me the richness in this wise man’s words.

Revive Our Hearts listeners really appreciate this kind of teaching that opens their eyes to things in Scripture they’ve never seen before. 

A listener named Becky has experienced this. When she started listening to Revive Our Hearts, the Lord challenged her with a lot of new concepts. For example . . .

Becky Ellerman: It was the first time I'd really been taught the definition of repentance—what it meant, what it looked like, a broken and contrite heart.

Leslie: Becky continued listening during a very tough season of life.

I had four children pretty quickly in a row. My fourth child had Down Syndrome. He was in the hospital in the NICU for a year-and-a-half. During that time, waiting on the Lord was taught, the faithfulness and righteousness of the Lord was taught to me, the value of a child in the sight of God, how to give thanks in all circumstances. This was all laid out to me. I didn't really know how how to give thanks in a hard situation where I didn't know if he was going to live or die. He has turned sixteen recently. It's obvious that the faithfulness of God has been seen through his life. At the time, it was the power of the moment where I didn't know if it would be for a moment or longer. The value of that life and his faith that the Lord has shown through my son is evident by the teaching of the Word that Nancy has taught me.

Leslie: After her son came home for the hospital, Revive Our Hearts became part of her family’s schedule. Those four kids and their mom would hear teaching from God’s Word every day. As part of their homeschool day . . .

Becky: From 11:00–11:30 we had a time out for Revive Our Hearts. We all sat and listened to it on the radio.

Leslie: Now Becky’s daughters who heard God’s Word all those years are passing on what they’ve learned to others. Becky and her two daughters are using resources from Revive Our Hearts—the book Lies Women Believe and Lies Young Women Believe—to teach a small group of high schoolers.

Becky: We had fourteen girls who were sixteen or seventeen come and sit in our apartment for two hours on a Saturday afternoon. I didn't offer food. I just offered the Word of God and prayer. We had prayer cards when they came in. They would sign their prayer cards and then we would open up the Word of God through Lies Women Believe.

It was real life. My daughters grew in respect for the Word of God because they got to see the real life change happening in some of the girls in the group. They became young leaders because they have been taught the Word of God for a long, and they have heard God's Word since they were young. They were able to see, "Wow, this really does change a life when you really do open God's Word."

It was simple. It wasn't hard. We didn't make it difficult. I let the Word of God teach through the Holy Spirit to these girls. It facilitated great conversations, and it was amazing.

Leslie: Nancy, that’s what we mean we we talk about a True Woman Movement.

Nancy: We’ve spent some time over the last few weeks exploring different parts of the world where we see God doing more than we've ever hoped or imagined. We’ve told you about women teaching and serving other women in South Africa, Brazil, and in the Muslim world. But do you know what? Becky, the woman we just heard from, has just as effective of a ministry with those three teenage children right in Texas. It's a joy to see the True Woman Movement spreading around the globe. But that movement gets worked out in day-to-day lives of individual women right where they are.

Becky is saying, “Lord, what would you have me do for such a time as this?” And for Becky, that means investing in those teenage children and investing in the women in her church. For others in different seasons of life it look different. Whatever our different callings—we all need the truth of God’s Word, or we can't be effective.

When you support Revive Our Hearts, you are helping us invest in the hearts of women with the truth. And that seed of God’s Word is reaping an amazing harvest in Brazil, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, and in a home in Texas. You make each of those connections possible when you support Revive Our Hearts with your prayers and your financial gifts. That support will go further this month when you help us to meet and even exceed a matching challenge of $820,000. Some friends of the ministry are doubling the gift of every listener up to that challenge amount. In order to continue sharing God’s Word with women, we are asking the Lord to work through listeners to us meet and then to pass that challenge. We don’t want any part of that match to be left on the table when there’s so much need and so much to be done.

To help meet that challenge, call us at 1–800–569–59595, or visit us online ReviveOurHearts.com. Thank you for your part in helping Revive Our Hearts share truth with women "for such a time as this."

Leslie: There’s an important truth we need to grasp in order to fully embrace the gospel. We all need to admit: I am a sinner. That sounds heavy, but it’s actually incredibly good news. Find our why tomorrow when Nancy is back with Revive Our Hearts.

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

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

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