|Dear Lord Christ, thank You for safely getting us through 2003 and ushering us into 2004! Thank You for watching over our lives, keeping us healthy, providing employment, and even providing new people in our lives through whom we can both love and be loved. But, most of all, thank You for loving us, keeping Your many promises to us, and filling our hearts with joy and peace over implanting eternal salvation in our very souls. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO NEVER GOES BACK ON A PROMISE!
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
NEW YEARS 2004: A TIME OF PROMISES MADE, OR A TIME OF PROMISES KEPT?
Zechariah was a priest who lived in the hill country of Judah. He was married to Elizabeth, a cousin of Mary, the mother of Christ. Nine months before, while serving in the great temple at Jerusalem, the angel Gabriel had come to him and announced that God was keeping His ancient promise to send the Forerunner of the Messiah, and that that Forerunner would be Zechariah’s son. The priest was a bit incredulous over this since he was an old man and childless. Elizabeth also was past child-bearing years. So, he doubts the truthfulness of God’s promise—much like Abraham of Sarah of old when told of Isaac’s future birth. As a result of his disbelief, Gabriel states that Zechariah would be unable to speak until “the day this happens.”
Now during those intervening months, Elizabeth becomes pregnant. When she is about 7 months pregnant, her cousin Mary comes to visit, and Elizabeth says this after John leaps in his mother’s womb at their arrival. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Obviously Zechariah and Elizabeth had communicated about what was going on via writing. Obviously they both believed that those many Messianic prophesies were now being fulfilled in their lifetimes. And obviously they knew that their son John would pave the way of the Lord and make straight paths for Him as He saved souls—just as Isaiah had said 700 years before all this.
Now John is born. Now he is 8 days old and is dedicated to God via the ceremony of circumcision. He is also given a formal name, John, by his father whose speech is restored. What was the first thing out of Zechariah’s mouth upon benefiting from this miracle?—“Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.” Those words of praise are found in our text. “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”—Since John wasn’t the redeemer, those words apply directly to his cousin, Zechariah’s nephew: Jesus. “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us (a symbol of strength) in the house of his servant David (as he said through the prophets of long ago).” Indeed, God never forgets any promises. He had resolved to send a Savior from David’s line, and now He kept His word. “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers 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.”
God is timeless. We’re told that with Him a thousand human years are like the blink of an eye. But, right here we’re shown that God always remembers and keeps His promises to us lost sinners. The birth of John and the coming birth of Christ about 2 or 3 months later ushered in a new year, a whole new era of human existence. To borrow from Zechariah’s very words, this was to be and is an era of: “redemption, salvation, mercy, and rescue.” Folks, those words apply directly to you and me. The Holy Spirit had us in mind when He provided John’s father with them.
None of us knows exactly what 2004 will bring. Will there be deaths in our families? Will loved ones get very sick? Will we become ill and incapacitated? Will temptations get the better of us? Will our country undergo another terrorist attack and will we have our lives turned upside down? These things we do not know. We don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future. But, we do have God’s promises, which are better than any crystal ball! And from His holy Word, we know that 2004 will be another year when God will keep His glorious promise to save our souls and free us from the guilt of sin via the blood of Jesus.
God has both made and kept His promises to us, and He continues to do so—today, tomorrow, and forever. For unlike us, God never forgets anything, and unlike us, God never changes His mind.—“Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” Thus, as in 2003, this year our loving God will continue to shower us with His blessings in Christ.
So, how will you respond? Will you forget His resolution to save your soul by neglecting His worship? Will you neglect showing His love unto the least of these His brothers? Will you cast aside the gifts of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?” Or, will you actively try to keep Zechariah’s New Year’s resolution to “serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness all our days?” If we’re honest, we all have to admit that we’ll blow Him off at times, and fail to live up to the high standard that He sets for us. We’ll break our New Year’s promises. But instead of letting that drag you down, focus on the fact that He’ll never break His promises to you! He has kept them in Christ, and He’ll continue to keep them in Christ. And that, my friends is the one and only reason why 2004 will be a most wonderful New Year! Amen