67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
I honestly didn't think there was enough material here for me to write a blog of any worth. I was almost considering simply copying and pasting the pericope and saying, "Welp -- that was some good stuff, eh?" But, after a second reading, I found two concepts that seem to contradict each other and wanted to pontificate:
One being God's protection, the other being John the Baptist's preparing the way for God. Going before God and, yet, following God.
In the first part of Zechariah's prophecy (v68-75), Zechariah praises God for His mercy and protection. He began his prophecy with the same words found at the beginning of other prayers and prophecies throughout the Old Testament, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (1 Kings 1:48, 1 Chronicles 29:10, Ezra 7:27, Psalm 41:13, Psalm 72:18, Psalm 106:48). He then proceeds to praise God for the provisions He has already made and the provisions He is going to make -- he speaks with the voice of the prophetic, calling things that are not as though they are. He praises God for protection and for ransoming Israel.
He then turns his attention to his child, John (v76-79). He prophesies that John will be a forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord and telling the world that salvation is on its way. Of course, Zechariah is merely echoing the words of Malachi:
Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6
1 "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts... 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction."
In verse 80, of course, Luke informs us that John did, in fact, live in the wilderness and became strong in spirit before he made his debut as "John the Baptist." Then, would come John's ministry: going from town to town, as Jesus's forerunner, preparing everyone for his arrival.
Even today, God is sending out forerunners to go before Him. God is still using us to prepare the way of the Lord for all the people. He is still using us to "turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers" (Malachi 4:6). No, we can't save people -- only God has that ability. But He does use us to spread the word -- to inform mankind that salvation is on its way.
And who are we to be considered able to perform such a task? Who are we to have such a high calling? I must not only call into our question our personal statures, but I must even question our abilities -- what a high calling to prepare the way for GOD ALMIGHTY. I'm talking about the supreme creator and ruler of the universe, here. To quote an old song, we can't even walk without Him holding our hands! How, then, is it that God Himself has enough faith in us to prepare the way for Him?
A: Well. It's because He's got our backs. We have His protection.
Q: But if we have His protection, doesn't that suggest that He is going before us, and not the other way around?
It's such a paradox knowing that not only does God go before us to prepare the way, but He sends us before Him to prepare the way for Him!
I just had an interesting conversation with Joshua Riley a couple hours ago and, in this conversation, it was mentioned that "God justifies the ends to His own means." When people ask, "Why are things this way?" the only answer, really, is "Well... God." Sometimes, the only answer we can give for life's mysteries is, "God is obviously working on something."
Even John the Baptist recognizes the backwards logic of this situation! In Matthew's gospel account, he writes:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
Even Jesus recognizes the backwards logic of this situation! Unlike John, however, he also understands there's something bigger than both of them at work, here. Check out his response:
15 But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then [John] consented.