Lutheran Service Book #344 “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist Cry”
“May grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:2)
Psalm 130 [A Song of Degrees.]
1 Out of the depths I have cried to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3 If you, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you so that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD. My soul waits, and I hope in his word. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, even more than those who watch for the morning. 7 Let Israel hope in the LORD, for with the LORD there is mercy and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
1 “For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and all who do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear my name, the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings, and you shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts. 4 “Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
1 Because many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them to us, who, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 So that you may know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.
5 There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the course of Abia. And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. 7 And they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and they were both far advanced in years.
8 And it came to pass, that, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zechariah saw him, he was troubled and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not fear, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel he shall turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “By what shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is far advanced in years.” 19 And the angel, answering, said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and am sent to speak to you and to show you these glad tidings. 20 And behold, you shall be mute and not able to speak until the day that these things are performed because you do not believe my words which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
21 And the people waited for Zechariah and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them. And they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24 And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived and secluded herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me in the days in which he looked at me to take away my reproach among men.”
Why did God send John the Baptist?
“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel he shall turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:15-17
The words of Gabriel to Zachariah echo the Word of the Lord recorded by Malachi, the prophet: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).
And, as we prepare for the second advent of the LORD, our Lord Jesus Christ, we continue in the ministry of John the Baptist by calling sinners to repentance and pointing them to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world.
As God’s Word teaches us, we are to preach “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). We are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:45-47). We are to point people to Jesus and proclaim the truth that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), that He is our “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
While many think lightly of Christ’s return and the final judgment and see no need for repentance, it is indeed a serious matter. If the LORD judges us according to His law, who can stand, as we read in Psalm 130:3? The answer, of course, is none of us, for we have all sinned and come short of what God, in His law, demands (cf. Rom. 3:19-20,23).
In Malachi 3:2, we read: “But who may endure the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap.”
In Malachi 4:1,5-6, we read: “‘For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and all who do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘so that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. … Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’”
It is for that reason that John the Baptist came to call upon sinners to repent and look to Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, for pardon and forgiveness (cf. Luke 3:2ff.; Ps. 130:4ff.). And the Church, through its ministers, still preaches the same message today (cf. Luke 24:46-47; John 20:20-23; Acts 3:19ff.). Both John and the Church seek “to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Through the preaching of God’s Word, the fathers and their descendants are united again in the true fear of the LORD. Those who were disobedient to the true faith are awakened to their sinfulness by God’s Spirit and turned to the wisdom of the just — to the wisdom of those who acknowledge and repent of their sinful ways and look in faith to the LORD God for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the promised Messiah and His redeeming work.
What is the message in this for you and for me? The only way for you and me, or anyone, to be ready for the Lord’s return and to escape the curse and condemnation of God’s holy law is to repent and trust in the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus for the sins of the world (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 3:10,13; Acts. 3:17ff.)
It is as we read in Acts 4:12, “There is not salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your house shall be saved.”
O LORD God, we have sinned and come short of the righteousness Your law demands. We are guilty and justly stand condemned. Have mercy on us and forgive us our sins for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, Your Son and our crucified and risen Savior, that we may be found in Him, just and holy and acceptable in Your sight on that day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, who, by the mouth of Your prophets, proclaimed the advent of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Hope of Israel and the Savior of the world; By Your Holy Spirit, move us to humble ourselves before You, sincerely repent of our sins, and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness that we may be prepared for His second coming, when He shall appear in the clouds of heaven with all His holy angels to judge the living and the dead. Let not that day come upon us unexpectedly and surprise us in unbelief and sin, but grant that we be always watchful, continuing in Your Word and prayer. And, when that day does come, grant that we may lift up our heads with joy because our redemption draws nigh.
Hear us, O Father, for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Your dear Son in our stead. In His name, we pray. Amen.
Our Father who is in heaven, may your name be hallowed. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us for our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14)
Lutheran Service Book #878 “Abide with Me”
[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]