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Freedom by the Blood July 6, 2014

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Zechariah 9:9-12

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 6, 2014

 

Focus: God freed us by His blood.

Function: That the hearers rejoice in the blood of the Lamb.

Structure: This is the historical situation of the text…these are the meanings for us now.

 

Freedom by the Blood

 

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation….”

The words of the prophet Zechariah mark a celebration, rejoicing.  They mark the arrival of a King, a King who would bring with Him peace.  Because of this, we can have this reading in the midst of our celebration.

As we come together this weekend, many of you are with your family and friends.  Many more aren’t here because they’ve traveled to see their family and friends.  We are celebrating.  If you were here in town just a couple of days ago, you would have seen the celebration.  The street dance, the festival, the food, the parade, the fireworks.  Stewartville loves to celebrate the 4th of July.

It’s Independence Day.  It’s the day we gather to celebrate the events that happened 238 years ago, as our nation’s Founding Fathers put pen to paper and signed the Declaration of Independence into existence.  It was fought for and won.  It’s been fought for by millions of men and women ever since.  And so it isn’t only a place on our calendar, but it’s the very freedom that makes this country what it is.

After decades of war and civil war, the remainder of God’s people were conquered by Babylon in 587 BC.  For roughly 50 years, they served in Babylon, many, if not all, under poor conditions.  They were weighed down, they were oppressed.  But in 538 BC, King Cyrus the Great led his Persian army against Babylon, and won.  God had sent him.  God had given him a mission.  “Set My people free.”  And so in that same year, Cyrus proclaimed that freedom to God’s children.  They were free to return to Judah and Jerusalem.

“As for you, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.  Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

After the United States declared their independence, there was a growing process.  It took thirteen years to get the Constitution in place.  It took time to figure everything out again.  It was no different for God’s people.  Not only did they not have a plan, they hadn’t even begun to think about what freedom might look like.

But God kept His promise.  He reminded them of the blood of the covenant, by which He pledged Himself to be their God, and they His people.  He never forgot.  He was still looking out for them.

So in the midst of their newfound independence mixed with confusion and chaos, God again provided for His people.  He gave them two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah.  In recent history, God’s people only knew the prophets for declaring bad things for them.  Isaiah and Jeremiah forecasted the doom of the nation.  Some prophets are so negative, you’ll never hear about them in most churches.

But not so with Zechariah.  Martin Luther said this about him:

“This prophet lived after the Babylonian captivity.  With his colleague, Haggai, he helped to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple and to bring the scattered people together again, so that government and order might be set up in the land again.  He is truly one of the most comforting of the prophets.  He presents many lovely and reassuring visions, and gives many sweet and kindly words, in order to encourage and strengthen the troubled and scattered people to proceed with the building and the government despite the great and varied resistance which they had till then encountered.”

It wasn’t often a prophet was sent to encourage and build up God’s people.  But in their newfound independence, delivered by the blood of the covenant, they were lost, and encouragement was exactly what they needed.  They had been free for 16 years and they had accomplished nothing.  Many of them, out of fear, hadn’t even left Cyrus’ Persia.

But in the year 520, that’s what Zechariah and Haggai did.  They empowered the people with God’s Word, and inspired them to return to their homes and rebuild.  And so they did.  And by the year 516 BC, the new temple was complete.  And they celebrated.  They’d been set free.

Zechariah did, however, leave them with a couple other prophesies to remember.  He warned them of people who would come, false christs, who would claim to be their Savior.  But these men would only lead them astray.

And then he told them of the true Christ.  Of the King who would come to them “gentle and riding on a donkey, the colt, the foal of a donkey.”  “He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  We celebrated this together on Palm Sunday just about three months ago.

But he also told them about the thirty silver coins and that their shepherd would be struck.  These events came to pass through Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ and then the crucifixion.  The King’s blood was shed.

The peace Zechariah proclaimed to God’s people wasn’t the peace they expected.  After the generations of war, they expected earthly peace, a ceasefire.  But that’s not what we needed.  Instead, God again provided for His people precisely what was needed.  And the blood was shed.

The blood of the covenant, which Jesus calls “the new covenant in My blood,” is again God taking care of His people.  By His blood you are free.  By His blood your transgressions have been forgiven.  By His blood, your sins have been washed away.  By His blood, you have been washed clean.  All of us, and now Emi, are white as snow.  We are clean, we are free.

But in our newfound freedom from sin, we are just like God’s people of old, just like the Founding Fathers of this nation.  We are lost.  If you doubt it, try to read through Paul’s statement again.  It’s tongue tangling!  “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

In our freedom, we’re lost and confused.  We allow ourselves to get caught up in the world and the culture around us.  We believe the lies and we give in to the temptations.  We listen to the false christs who lead us astray.  We seek the comforts of this world rather than rely on the only true source of comfort.

For this Paul tells us there is another law at work, a war being waged.  He says, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The peace that was prophesied wasn’t a ceasefire.  The peace that was prophesied was the blood of the Lamb.  That our sin is washed clean.  That we are free.  The peace of God is salvation.

And to help us in the present time, God has provided many gifts for His people.  There’s the gift of baptism, when God calls us His child.  There’s the gift of the Lord’s Supper, where He freely forgives us of our sins.  There’s the gift of the church and this community, where we gather together to be built up and encouraged.  There’s the gift of parents, teachers, pastors, and others who help to raise us in the one true faith.  There’s the gift of God’s holy Word, which continues to strengthen our faith as we read it daily.  God has richly blessed His people.

Zechariah closed his prophetic ministry with one more prophecy.  He foretold the coming day of the Lord.  He told the people that the day would come when “Yahweh will be King over all the earth.  On that day Yahweh will be One and His name One…Jerusalem shall dwell in security.”  When that day comes, we will no longer be lost or confused.  We will see clearly.  We will not only taste the freedom that we have in Christ, but we will enjoy to the fullest.  And it will be cause for celebration and rejoicing.

 

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