************ Sermon on Luke 1:78-79 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 21, 2008
"Jesus - The Rising Sun"
Candle Light Service 2008
When the Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth, she said a prophecy about Mary and her Child (Lk 1:41-45). When the Spirit came upon Mary, she sang a prophetic song (Lk 1:46-55). When the Spirit came upon Zechariah, he sang a song of prophecy (Lk 1:67-79). The same thing happened with Simeon: moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts, saw Jesus, and sang a song of prophecy (Lk 2:25-32). None of them prophesied on their own. None of them spoke on their own. All of them were moved by the Holy Spirit and spoke from God (cf 2 Pet 1:21). What we have been looking at this Advent and Christmas season, then, are not just songs. Let there be no mistake about it: we have been looking at the Word of God.
A couple of weeks ago, Robert preached on Zechariah's song. He concentrated on verse 68 – praise to God because He has come to redeem His people. This evening, in this candle light service, I want to concentrate on what Zechariah says about Jesus as the "rising sun."
I Darkness and Death
A In his Sprit-inspired song, Zechariah talks of "those living in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Lk 1:79). What does he have in mind?
Originally, this is an image of travelers. These travelers have been overtaken by the darkness of pitch-black night before they have reached a place of safety. They are sitting terrified and helpless and expect at any moment to be overwhelmed and killed by wild beasts or enemies. They are in darkness and in the shadow of death.
It can be scary to travel at night. A couple of months ago, our son Josh was traveling home one night when a board fell off a truck and shattered his windshield. A couple of nights later, in almost the same spot, a tire went flat after he ran over debris on the highway.
Now, what does this image of travelers refer to? What is Zechariah really speaking about?
B Zechariah has Satan in mind. Our text speaks of Jesus as the "rising sun." Another acceptable translation of the Greek is "morning star." It is no accident that this phrase is used for Satan. Jesus is described as the "morning star." Satan is described as the "morning star." But there is one big difference: Satan has fallen.
(Is 14:12-15) How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! (13) You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. (14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (15) But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.Satan used to be the morning star, the rising sun. Now, he has fallen and is darkness instead. That's what Zechariah has in mind.
Zechariah also has the prophecy of Isaiah in mind. Isaiah speaks of darkness in more than one place:
(Is 8:22) Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.Isaiah is speaking about the darkness of sin which afflicts all men. Isaiah is speaking about the darkness of Satan covering the earth. That's what Zechariah has in mind.
(Is 59:9-10) We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. (10) Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight ...
(Is 60:2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples ...
Zechariah also has in mind the darkness of foreign occupation. The Promised Land is under Roman rule. The Romans desecrate the Temple and the worship of the one only true God.
Zechariah has another darkness in mind too. As you know, the Word of God is light. But, at the time of Zechariah the people of God have not heard the voice of prophecy for some 400 years; for 400 years the voice of God has been silent. This is a grievous darkness as well.
Darkness and death – that is what Zechariah sees.
II The Rising Sun
A In his Sprit-inspired song, Zechariah also talks of the "rising sun" or the "morning star."
We need to go back to the image of the travelers. They have been overtaken by the darkness of pitch-black night before they have reached a place of safety. They are sitting terrified and helpless and expect at any moment to be overwhelmed and killed by wild beasts or enemies. But all at once a bright light appears to show them the way, so that they reach their destination safely where they enjoy rest and peace.
B Zechariah knows his Old Testament. He knows that God promised the coming of the Light.
(Num 24:17) A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.
(Is 9:2) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
(Is 60:2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
(Mal 4:2) But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
C Inspired by the Spirit, Zechariah recognizes that the Light that chases away the darkness (Jn 1:5,9) is coming from heaven (Lk 1:78). Zechariah recognizes that the coming One is the Light of safety. Zechariah recognizes that He is the "rising sun" Who "comes to us from heaven" (Lk 1:78). Zechariah recognizes that He is the bright "morning star" (cf 2 Pet 1:19; Rev 22:16).
We know, of course, that the Light is Christ.
III Comes to Us
A Zechariah's Spirit-inspired song starts and ends the same way – with the God Who visits. Listen to verse 68:
(Lk 1:68) Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.Now listen to verse 78:
(Lk 1:78) ... the rising sun will come to us from heaven ...In his song, Zechariah celebrates the coming of God. Zechariah is one of the faithful people of Israel who looked forward to those moments when God would come to visit His people.
The Greek word for "visit" in verses 68 & 78 is very instructive. It is the word "episkopeo." The Greek word for those in the office of bishop or overseer or elder is "episcopos." Do you hear the similarities? Church leaders are those who visit in God's name. They visit the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, the hurting, the widow and orphan, the aged. Elders come, they visit, with the Light of Christ, the Light of the Gospel.
B Now, the Bible teaches us that Jesus is the Bishop or Overseer of our souls. Like an elder, He visits. His visit to this world was cloaked in mystery and has changed the course of history. He came, not as a military general, but as the "rising sun ... to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death."
Even as the sun chases away night's darkness every morning, so Jesus chases away's sin's darkness. Jesus is the "rising sun." Jesus is the "morning star." Or, as John puts is, Jesus is "the true light that gives light to every man" (Jn 1:9). He is "the light (that) shines in the darkness" (Jn 1:5).
C Why did God, in Christ, visit this earth as Light? Why did God, in Christ, visit us who live in darkness? Did you notice the first part of verse 78? Jesus has come "because of the tender mercy of our God" (Lk 1:78).
Right now, this reminds me of Tom & Jackie. I watch them as they visit Sam & Tommy. Sam is in total pain with her six broken ribs and broken collar bone. It hurts to move, to breathe, to sneeze, to cough. As for Tommy, he lies there in a coma, so helpless. And Tom & Jackie are so soft and gentle and kind and compassionate with them.
God is this way with us every day. God is this way with us even though we are in the darkness of sin. Don't ever forget what the Psalmist says:
(Ps 103:13) As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him ...
(Ps 103:8) The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
D Like a bishop or overseer, Jesus has gone visiting. I want to know if He has visited you? I want to know if He has entered your heart? I want to know if He has chased your darkness away?
(Lk 1:78-79) The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death.
If you, by grace, believe in Jesus, then Jesus stands at your door and knocks (Rev 3:20). He is there to visit with you, to dine with you, to chase away your darkness and to give you His Light.
The purpose of this service is to celebrate that Jesus is the Light Who has come into our darkness. So, we say with Zechariah:
(Lk 1:68,78, 79) "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people ... (78) ... [He has] come to us from heaven (79) to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."
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