Zechariah: A Song of Faith
Even in silence, God is at work.
As familiar as we are with the songs of Christmas, there are four songs recorded in the Bible sung by people surrounding the birth of Jesus that aren't sung much at all now. The angels sang a song to the shepherds (we know part of their song: "And on earth peace and goodwill toward men."). Mary sang a song to God after she had time to get over the shocking news that she was going to be the mother of the Savior. Simeon had a song that we'll talk about in a few weeks. Then there's Zechariah's song. Zechariah was an elderly priest who sang after being visited by an angel. This wasn't like a Broadway musical—these people didn't suddenly burst into chorus. But the ancient church captured their words and created songs known as canticles.
God spoke through Elijah.
For some background, let's reach back in history to about four centuries before the birth of Christ. The Old Testament ends with this mysterious phrase in Malachi 4:5-6: "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Just like that, the Old Testament comes to a close. It's confusing, cryptic, disturbing. It's not really the way you want to end a book—unless you're planning to write a sequel.
Elijah was probably the most famous of the Old Testament prophets. He was relentless in calling God's people to turn away from their sin and toward the one true God. He often stood up to evil rulers and never tried to sugar-coat his words. Elijah had died hundreds of years before the time of this passage. Is the Book of Malachi talking about reincarnation? ...
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Ed Rowell is pastor of Tri-Lakes Chapel in Monument, Colorado, and author of Preaching with Spiritual Passion (Baker).