Bidding 2020 Farewell with Hope not Cynicism.
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“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn[ of salvation for us in the house of his servant David(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1: 68-79
Just a few nights ago gathered around the Christmas tree by candlelight in our living room I had the opportunity to read and reflect on Zechariah’s prophesy with our family. I wondered if Zechariah really understood what kind of Messiah he was prophesying about as he spoke the divinely inspired words? There is no doubt that Zechariah as priest would have been familiar with the promises of God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob given so many years ago; but how did he expect God to rescue Israel from all their enemies, to be able to serve the Lord in fear and holiness, to be delivered from the hand of those that hate them? In those dark days for the people of Israel, days when they were oppressed and ruled over by the Roman Empire it is in some ways of little wonder that many looked for a messiah to deliver them from earthly suffering, bondage, and oppression.
And what about us today? What kind of messiah do you and I think that we need? Are we looking for someone or something that will deliver us out of the hand of a virus, or out of the hand of corrupt and subversive governments? Perhaps we fear as we look to the future and we wonder how long we (and our children) will be able to “serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days”? I am often reminded that my thoughts are not the same as the Lord’s, and his ways are not my ways.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Like many of the Israelites in the days when Jesus was born, our hope of salvation and perceived need of salvation are far too small. Why he has come, and the salvation that he has wrought for us would be greater than our feeble imaginations could conjure up left to their own devices. God’s purposes are not in line with simply giving his people a comfortable life now, but rather in redeeming and sanctifying a people for himself (due to our hardness of heart, and remaining indwelling sin we often need hard circumstances to turn us from our idols back to our Creator). It is helpful to remember that God is not only redeeming individual persons, but “a people”. We therefore understand that God’s plans are not only for us individually but for his church and for those who are not yet called.
“…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:14
To that end he not only has entered our world as a baby born in a manger, but has lived a perfectly righteous life, suffered, died, conquered death, rose again as the first fruits of the resurrection (1Cor. 15:20), rules the world from his seat at the Father’s right hand, but he has also not left us here alone. We are justified in him and we are sanctified by the power his Spirit and our union with him (Christ). So we find that Zechariah’s prophesy has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled. We find that we can serve (and worship) him without fear all the day of our lives, because Christ has conquered death, and because he has loosed us from the bondage of sin, bearing the wrath of God, and clothing us in the his righteousness. In Christ we need not fear approaching a holy God. We find that we are rescued out of the hand of those that hate us, our arch enemy the devil, and our earthly enemies who may kill the body but cannot harm the soul, which is kept faithful not by our own strength, but by him who conquered death.
In light of all this we have much to be thankful for as we turn the corner on a new year. Much to rejoice about as we remember so great a salvation and much hope in future grace as we look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who is preparing us for glory with him and will see his work in us through to completion.
We look back on the past year with confidence that God’s plans are bigger and greater than ours and what he has planned we have not even imagined yet. It has been a year to hold plans, including plans for the ministry, loosely in our hands. We look forward not with fear and cynicism, but with confidence and hope that God is working a wonderful salvation for his people and he will both walk with us as our shepherd in the dark valleys of life, and death (Psalm 23) and will sustain us with every spiritual and physical provision along the way.
Grace and Peace,
Kyle and the Ferguson Family