Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Zechariah's Hymn, Day 9

Leslie Basham: God is like the bright, noonday sun that lights up everything. Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When we're battling with the darkness, whether in our own heart or in our homes or in our world, our natural tendency is to settle for artificial light, to settle for what we can come up with, for ways to light our own darkness.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, December 24, 2015.

If you've ever had a long, difficult night, you know what a relief it is to see the dawn finally come. The sunrise changes everything. Maybe that's why the priest, Zechariah, compared the coming of Christ to the dawn. Nancy will tell us more about that today.

Nancy: The teaching we’re about to hear is being spread to all kinds of women in all kinds of situations. A woman named Agnes wrote to tell us about a Revive Our Hearts series that aired when Agnes couldn’t get out of the house. She said,

While it was airing I was basically bedridden due to poor health. With that was a lot of discouragement and hopelessness.

And during that time when Agnes was discouraged and bed ridden, God used His Word to revive her heart. She said,

Through the teaching on Revive Our Hearts, I feel I have found the heart of God in the heart of His Word. My love for the Lord has grown as I have been blown away by God's love for me. 

If you’ve supported Revive Our Hearts, you make it possible for us to share God’s Word with Agnes, and women in challenging real-life situations all around the world. We’re asking the Lord to continue calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ through Revive Our Hearts in 2016. But we can’t do it without listeners like you.

As we've been sharing the last several weeks, when you support Revive Our Hearts this month, your gift will go twice as far. Some friends of the ministry are doubling the gift of each listener, up to a matching challenge amount of $820,000. I’m so grateful for every person who have given in meeting this challenge. If you haven’t given yet, would you pray about how the Lord would have you get involved for such a time as this?

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. To get involved, call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Let’s get back to the series "Zechariah’s Hymn."

Nancy: Last Sunday in our Sunday morning worship service, our pastor read a letter from the mayor of our town. (I'm hold the letter in my hand. I asked the pastor if I could have this.) It's written on the official letterhead of our town. I thought it was an astounding letter. Let me read to you a portion of it. This letter was sent to pastors and religious leaders throughout our community. The mayor said:

As you are aware, we've had a number of homicides this year in our city. I meet with the city manager and the police chief weekly to discuss strategies to help curtail the situation. I believe in my heart that one of the best options is prayer. So I'm asking you and your congregation to join me in a day of prayer this weekend.

With domestic violence at a high, substance abuse increasing, young people walking the streets with no direction, homelessness increasing, and lack of respect for laws and authority, we need God to intervene in our city.

I thought, Wow, what a great letter! I'm sure it's one that the ACLU will be thrilled to know came on an official letterhead and that mayor will not be running for re-election, so he had nothing to lose. What a great recognition for a public official to say, "We need God to intervene in our city."

As I heard about that letter I thought about the passage I would be teaching on this week from Luke's gospel, chapter 1, where we read about the visitation of God to His people, the intervention of God. It struck me that "intervene" is exactly what God wants to do in our world affairs. It's exactly what He has done and exactly what He promises yet to do.

We've been looking at Zechariah's blessing or benediction, the benedictus, in Luke chapter 1. Let me just read a portion of that benediction as we've been studying it. Remember he said at the 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."

Then verse 76,

And you, child,” speaking of John, who would be John the Baptist, “you will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (vv. 76-79).

I want to focus today on that phrase, “whereby the sunrise,” or some of your translations say “the dayspring” or “the dawn.” “The sunrise shall visit us from on high." Back in verse 68 he says, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited . . . his people." Now he says in verse 78, “The sunrise" the dayspring "shall visit us from on high.”

That word translated sunrise or dayspring is a wonderful word. It's the word anatole. There's an Anatole Hotel in Dallas, maybe in other parts of the world, and I didn't realize that that word literally means “the dawning, the dawn.” It's often translated “east” in the New Testament. It's where the sun comes up.

When you read in Matthew 2, “There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem” (v. 1 KJV), it's that word “anatole.” The word literally means “a rising up,” and it's used to speak of the rising of the sun and the stars or the place where the sun and the stars arise.

When we read, “The sunrise shall visit us from on high,” it's speaking of the rising of the sun at the break of day, the dawn, the beginning of the day, the first appearance of the light, daybreak. As we look at this whole passage, we've been reading about Christ, the Messiah. All of this passage has been descriptive of Him. It's been a prophecy of Christ: who He would be, what He would be like, what His role would be, what His mission would be, what He would do, and how John the Baptist would prepare the way for His coming to earth.

Here we have this beautiful, powerful description of the coming of Christ, that it's the sunrise, the dayspring, the dawning, the break of day visiting us from on high—a clear reference to Christ the Messiah. Christ is the dayspring.

You see this concept both in the Old and the New Testaments. You're probably familiar with that verse in Malachi chapter 4 that says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (v. 2). Who's that talking about? That's a Messianic promise. That's talking about Christ—the sun of righteousness will rise.

Then in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation chapter 22, Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (v. 16).

We see it in 2 Peter chapter 1, where it speaks about the prophetic word of God, "to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns" (the anatole) "the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (v. 19).

Now as I was studying this passage and studying this word "the sunrise," I have to confess that I'm not a person who often sees the sunrise. I see a lot more sunsets than I do sunrises, and I thought, You know, I can't teach this passage not having seen a sunrise in who knows how long.

So I took a field trip to see the sunrise. About 4:30 in the morning I went out and just sat there first in the dark and then as the day began to dawn, making some notes of just some impressions of things I was seeing and experiencing there in my car, watching the sunrise.

Let me just make application to our spiritual lives and to our situation from this text as I think about what I saw, watching the sunrise. First, it's very obvious to say that it's dark before the dawn. Before the sun comes up, it's dark.

You say, “Well, that doesn't seem very profound.” But it's a picture of the world and of life and of the progression of things spiritually. In the same way that you wouldn't notice the sun rising if it were already light. (I mean, you couldn't be seeing the sunrise if it were already light. The reason you see it is because it's lighting up the darkness.) Before the dawn it's dark.

When I first walked out of my house, it was quite dark, and I was jittery and a little nervous. I had to turn on my porch light to even get to my car because it was dark. You can't see in the dark. You need light. That's why we're thankful that the sun rises and that we're able to have daylight.

But it's a picture of the world sitting in darkness, waiting for the light to dawn, waiting for someone to lead them out of darkness into light. We live in a dark time, a very dark time today in our world, and even, sadly, within many of our churches.

Within evangelical Christianity there's a lot of darkness that has encroached. The light of Christ in many ways has been dimmed. Our witness of His light has been dimmed in many ways, and where we should be the light of the world in the world, Christ shining through us, a lot of times the world looks at Christians, and it's a real dim light if it can be seen at all.

We see back in the Old Testament, in Isaiah, the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9, it says there's darkness, distress, the gloom of anguish. They will be thrust into thick darkness (see v. 22).

But then we come to chapter 9 of Isaiah. “There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish . . . The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (vv. 1-2).

You don't have a sense of your need for light if you haven't been in the darkness, and the people who have never received the light of Christ are still in darkness, still in their sin, still struggling to find their way, faltering and fumbling and stumbling, though most of them don't realize it. They cannot see. They are in that anguish of darkness. It's dark before the dawn.

Then I learned on my little field trip that it can be tiring waiting for the sun to rise. Now I love just seeing the beautiful part of it with all the colors in the sky and whatever, and occasionally I'll see that. When I do, I have a little tradition. I sing whenever I see a sunrise. I sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” usually all three stanzas. I just remember God's faithfulness in bringing another day to pass.

I don't remember before just sitting and waiting for the sun to rise. I realized it's tiring. The time between darkness and the sunrise—there's a lot of gray, a lot of the darkness is dissipating, but the light hasn't really come. You're just waiting. For the longest time, it seemed, it looked like nothing was happening. Nothing was changing.

Now, something was happening. Something was changing, but it was slow. It was almost imperceptible, and I found myself just getting bored, wanting to give up and go home back to my comfortable bed, waiting for the sun to rise.

Then I thought, What about these Jews—400 years—waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for the Messiah to come? How many times were they tempted to give up and go home? How many times did they say to themselves, “It must not be coming”?

How often in life are we tempted to give up and say, “God hasn't come yet. He's not visited my situation yet. He has not shown the light of His presence into my situation yet. I'm tired of waiting for God to move. I'm tired of waiting for God to visit. I think I'll just go home. I think I'll just give up”?

As we wait for the return of Christ, it's easy to grow weary and to think, Things are just getting worse and worse. It's so gray outside. There's no sign that the sunrise is coming. It's easy to grow weary in the waiting.

But keep in mind, as someone said to me earlier today, on a break, “There's blessing in the waiting. Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength” (Isa. 40:31 paraphrase). So it's not just that we're waiting for something that's down the road. It's that God wants to minister to us even in the waiting time.

And then—and I've touched on this already—the process from darkness to daylight happens gradually. Darkness dissipates gradually. There's that long period of gray during the dawn, and it's hard to say exactly when it became light outside. You just know that at one point you couldn't see—and I was making notes under a streetlight. And within an hour, I could see easily to write.

When did it become light? I couldn't really tell you, though I was sitting, watching the clock. I was making notes, but at what point? It's a gradual dawning of the daylight. Well, the entrance of Christ into this world did not take place in a burst or a flash of light. He came humbly. He came in a manger. He came in obscurity. Very few in that day recognized what was happening.

God didn't just burst on the scene with chariots and orchestras and lightning and loud voices. It was a quiet, humble birth—the dawning of the day. Most didn't realize it. Most today don't realize that the sun has risen upon us, that the dawn has come, and they're still unaware that Christ has come into this world to bring light.

Let me just say, having sat there for about an hour and a half or more the other day, watching the sunrise, waiting for it, I want to say that the wait is worth it. There is reward. If you wait, you will see the sunrise.

The sunrise banishes the darkness. It changes how everything looks. It sheds light on things that have been hidden in the darkness. The light brings things to life. The light of the sun exposes things that you can't see otherwise.

I realized that even in the afternoon light, how the sun does that on all the dust in your house. Until those rays of sun shine in on it, you thought your house was dust-free. Then all of a sudden you see there's dust everywhere. There are cobwebs, and there are things you couldn't see until the light shone on what had formerly been darkness.

In the light everything takes on a different appearance. Things that seem acceptable in the darkness, once you shine the light on them, you realize, oh, this is not acceptable at all. That's what happens when the sun rises in our hearts, shines the light of Christ on our thoughts, our motives, our conduct, our words. Everything about us comes to light.

Then, at the risk of sounding less than profound, the sunrise is certain. The sunrise from on high shall visit us. I knew that if I sat there long enough, the sun would come up. There would be light.

It wasn't going to stay night all day because God has promised there will be day and night as long as this earth is here. The sunrise will visit us. There is the promise that was given to those Old Testament Jews that Christ would visit, and ultimately God did fulfill that promise.

We have today the promise that Christ will visit again this earth for the final time, and we know, though it seems forever, that the sunrise is certain. We have that promise.

You know, I think it's that promise of the sunrise that makes the dark bearable, that makes the grayness bearable, that makes the long wait bearable. That's what gives us hope. That's what gives us perspective.

I was talking with some people the other day who were dealing with a major issue in their family, and it's just created all kinds of havoc. We were just talking about the sunrise from on high will visit. There is hope.

Christ is going to, sooner or later, shine His light into this situation, so don't give up waiting. Keep clinging, but keep living in light of the certainty of the coming sunrise, the visitation of Christ into your circumstances and your situation.

The sunrise is just the beginning of the day. It's not the fullness of the day. The sun continues to rise, so to speak, as we see it. It gets higher. It gets brighter. It gets hotter until we come to full noonday. It's beautiful to see the sunrise, but that's not the full light of day.

I think about how the coming of Christ, as the sunrise to this world, is leading to the fullness of day, the ultimate day, when we will need no light other than Jesus. That's what you read about in the end of Revelation. On the days you get discouraged, go to Revelation and read the last chapter of this story. See what God is going to do—how all evil will be conquered, how Christ will triumph over sin and death and sorrow and sickness and pain.

These things will be no more. Night will be no more. There will be no need for sun or moon or stars in heaven because the glory of Christ, the glory of the Lamb will be the light. It will be noonday, and the light of the sun will never ever set again. That's what we have to look forward to.

Then we know that the sun comes, and there's nothing in the world, according to Psalm 19, that is hid from its light. The intent of God was that the sun should rise for the whole world. John 1 says that Jesus was the true light which lightens everyone and that He was coming into the world (see v. 9). The light of the gospel, the light of Christ, was intended for the entire world.

Then let me just point out that this light has a source. Zechariah says that the sunrise shall visit us from where? From on high, from on high. It's God who causes the sun to rise. It's God who sent Christ, the dayspring, the dawning, the sunrise, to come to this world.

God decides when the sun will rise and when it will set. It's beyond our control. This is a sovereign move of God, both physically, literally in our world, but also spiritually, as He sends Christ to light our darkness as He did in the incarnation, as He sends Christ to light the darkness of our days, and as He will ultimately send Christ to be the full noon.

It comes from on high. God is the one who sends light to our darkness. I say that because when we're battling with the darkness, whether in our own heart or in our homes or in our world, our natural tendency is to settle for artificial light, to settle for what we can come up with, for ways to light our own darkness.

You read about that in the end of Isaiah chapter 50. I won't quote it, but it says beware not to light your own light, but wait for God to send His light. Don't try and fix it. Don't try and change it yourself in your own efforts, in your own ingenuity. The sunrise will visit us from on high.

You say, “The sunrise needs to dawn in my husband's life or in my teenager's life or in this friend's life.” You can share Christ. You can shine light on Christ, but God is the One who makes it click. God is the one who turns on the light. God is the One who causes the dawning to appear.

It happened in Genesis 1. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” But "the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (vv. 2-3).

When God speaks the word, light will come into the heart of that one that you love. Now pray for it. Wait for it. Don't give up waiting for it, but remember God is the One who has to bring it.

Moms, you cannot ultimately be the one who turns on the light in your children's hearts. You can pray for that. You can create an environment that shines light on Christ, but God is the One who has to help them see the truth.

It's God in 2 Corinthians 4, verse 6, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” He is the One who “has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

So as you pray for those you love, as you pray for the darkness in your community and the darkness in your circumstances and the darkness—as our mayor asked us to pray for our community, to pray that God would intervene. That's what we need to do—to pray that God would shine "the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" that all men would come to the light.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). So I think of some of those old songs we used to sing. Remember this one?

We've a story to tell to the nations, 
That shall turn their hearts to the right. 
A story of truth and mercy, 
A story of peace and light. 
For the darkness shall turn to dawning, 
And the dawning to noonday bright. 
And Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth, 
The kingdom of love and light.

The dayspring from on high shall visit us. So we sing at this time of year, 

O come Thou Dayspring, 
Come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. 
O drive away the shades of night, 
And pierce the clouds And bring us light.

Leslie: I'm so thankful for the teaching of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Our current study called Zechariah's Hymn has added so much to my understanding of Christmas and how it relates to salvation and God's compassion. If you've missed any of the programs in the series, you can hear them or read the transcripts at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When Jesus came to this earth on the first Christmas, the world wasn't ready to receive this incredible Guest. We can be guilty of the exact same thing in our day—missing visits from Jesus. Nancy will explain tomorrow. Please be here for 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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