74 since we have been rescued
from our enemies’ clutches,
to serve Him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness
in His presence all our days.
76 And child, you will be called
a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare His ways,
77 to give His people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the Dawn from on high will visit us
79 to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (full text here)
God must have seemed silent. Oppressed by a Roman occupation, in the midst of a culture growing more and more Hellenistic, as every Sabbath ancient scriptures were read that promised a hope and a future, many must have pondered how long it could be before God would act. Most thought a military answer would save them - a Messiah strong and mighty to save. Surely they would be saved to rule themselves, miraculously overthrowing the Romans and reestablishing the house of David.
But when the Holy Spirit rests on Zechariah, he prophesies about a much different scenario. Yes salvation was coming, but it would free God's people to serve the Lord. Rather than free to make military and financial gains, they were free to live in righteousness and holiness. The covenant of Abraham was not to overthrow enemies, but that through his descendant, Jesus, the world would be saved from the shackles of sin.
No prophet had been recorded for 400 years, but John was sent as a prophet of the most high God. He prepared the way for the Christ by brazenly calling people out for their sins and showing them tangible ways to repent. God's compassion wasn't about a comfortable life, it was about shining a light to lead us away from the path of sin that winds through the shadow of death. It was about peace, not prosperity. And today that same peace is available to us through God's merciful compassion! God may not act in the way we expect or desire, but he will always amaze us with his faithfulness and compassion when we walk his path.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
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. - Isaiah 9:2