The Morning Light from Heaven
What does it look like when the world hates you?
The Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people during the WW II era. Millions died. The Nazi death camps are still well known, and horrifying pictures from those camps are still available. Is this what it looks like when the world hates you?
In 2001 we watched in horror as airliners were flown into the twin buildings of the World Trade Center. 2,977 people died in those terrorists attacks. Is this what it looks like when the world hates you?
In part, this is what it looks like when the world hates you. Recently in California and Paris, we again saw the devastating effects of sin, evil and hate.
In 2011, there were 12,664 murders in the United States.[ii] In the same year, there were 9,878 deaths from alcohol impaired driving. These and other statistics like them are all the results of sin and evil in our world.
These numbers touch us all. We all know someone who has lost a loved one. Perhaps you have lost a loved one.
Jesus warned us, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:21, ESV) And, John the Apostle wrote, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13, ESV) The horrifying statics and the death on our news videos are the effects of sin and evidence of the truth of 1 Peter 5:8.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ESV[iii]
If you are like me, we tend to think light of our sin. Our anger or unforgiveness is justified. Actually, we do not call it anger or unforgiveness when it occurs in ourselves. However, we must consider the words of James 1:14-15.
14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ESV
The connection between lured and enticed to burning buildings and highway deaths may seem farfetched, but this is where all evil starts. It starts in the heart.
The passage we are looking at today reminded me of the darkness from which we are saved. If there were not darkness, we would not need a Savior. Our hope and rejoicing are great because the victory is great. Our hope and rejoicing are great because our need is great.
Zechariah’s song, found in Luke 1:67-79, is a joyful, triumphant prophecy of the coming of a Savior. Verse 67 tells us that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy. All true prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit. Men moved by the Holy Spirit record the message God wants to deliver. This is what prophecy is. 2 Peter 1:20-21 says:
20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ESV
Up to the time of Zechariah, Israel’s history included plenty of suffering. Zechariah says, “Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hates us.” (vs 71) He also says, “We have been rescued from our enemies.” (vs 74) Because of the suffering, because of the enemies and hate, Zechariah had reason to rejoice in being saved from these things.
This is why I started with the question, “What does it look like when the world hates you? Moved by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah addresses the issues of enemies and a world that hates God’s people. The world hated God’s people in Zechariah’s day, and it hates God’s people in this present day. As we look at Zechariah’s prophecy we will see how Jesus has overcome the world and its hate for God’s people.
We see this in the praise that Zechariah offers. He says:
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.”
There are two parts to this praise. Part one is that God has visited his people, and part two is that God has redeemed his people.
This visitation is Immanuel, God with us. In describing this visitation Zechariah says, “He has sent us a mighty Savior.”
John the Baptist was the forerunner of this visitation. Zechariah describes John’s ministry as a forerunner when he says:
76“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. 77You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)
“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us.” God’s visitation means the forgiveness of our sins. To live in bondage to sin is to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Because of Jesus Christ, we can be set free from bondage to sin. He guides us to the path of peace.
Psalm 23 says:
“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” KJV
This is what His visitation means. In a world that hates us with an enemy that seeks to devour us, we have the presence and protection of a mighty Savior.
The second part of the praise is that He has redeemed His people. This is what ties us to the promises. This Savior sent from God is from the royal line of his servant David. This means a lot to us because we have been bought with a price and are now part of the family of God. 2 Peter 1:18 speaks of this redemption when it says:
18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. ESV
All the promises of God now apply to us because of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what 2 Corinthians 1:20 means when it says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” ESV
Just as God delivered Israel from Egypt at the cost of Egypt’s firstborn son, God has delivered us from slavery to sin at the cost of His first-born Son. So, when Zechariah says, “He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant.” We are partakers in those covenants.
So, in spite of the darkness and evil around us, we can join with Zechariah in praising God for the great salvation He has brought to us.
However, we must understand there is a now and a not-yet element to this prophecy.
The now part of the prophecy is our spiritual salvation and inclusion in the covenants and promises of God. Hallelujah, our sins are forgiven. We have been given new life. We have the Holy Spirit, and have even been made partakers in the divine nature. Because of these things, we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those that love Him.
The not-yet part of the promises are also many.
The fact that the Savior is from the royal line of David points to His rightful position on a throne. Although He sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us, all of His enemies have not yet been made a footstool for His feet. (Hebrews 1:13, Colossians 3:1) He does not yet sit on a throne on earth with all the world subject to Him. This was foretold in Daniel 7:27, which says:
And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. ESV
Isaiah 2: 2-4 also speaks of this future day when it says:
2It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. ESV
There is a day coming when there will be no more crime, hate, murder and trouble on our streets. There will be a day when there will be no more sin in our hearts. This is the not-yet part of this prophecy.
We still eagerly wait for this day. Every year when we put up our Christmas trees and decorate our houses, we point to our eager hope and expectation that Jesus will come again. This is what Philippians 3:20 is talking about when it says, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”
The world and its ruler are going to try to distract you from this hope and expectation. Let the praise of Zechariah’s song remind you of why we celebrate. Let this encourage your heart.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[iii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.