Without sin, there’s no song to sing.
DECEMBER 29, 2020
Zach Van Dyke:
Without sin, there’s no song to sing. Let’s talk about it on Key Life.
You’re listening to Key Life. We believe that because of what Jesus has done, God will never be angry at you again. Zach Van Dyke is teaching us this week. Zach serves as the Teaching Pastor at Summit Church right here in Orlando, Florida. If you’ve been trying to earn God’s approval, we invite you to hangout.
Thanks Matthew. All this week, I’m talking about Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. The very beginning of the Gospel of Luke tells this story. And this is really a continuation of something I started when I was here right after Thanksgiving, as we started the Advent season. And I’m titling this Long Expected Hope. So back in November, it was Long Expected Hope Part One, and here we are coming to the end of 2020, and this is Long Expected Hope Part Two. And really the idea that Luke begins his gospel with is that hopelessness can be found in God’s people, that sometimes our circumstances are such that even in the midst of wanting to have hope, of being told we should have hope, sometimes we find ourselves hopeless. And it’s in that context that the savior of the world comes. So last time I was here back in November, I spent a lot of time, just kind of talking about what that means, what it means to struggle with hopelessness. And really this week is about what Zechariah learned, as he was forced into silence for nine months until his wife gave birth to their son. Now it’s interesting, you know, God had been silent for 400 years, then he appears to Zechariah in the temple and tells him, Hey, guess what your prayers have been heard. The Messiah is coming. And not only that, you’re going to have a son, who’s going to prepare the way for the said Messiah. And Zechariah says, how can this be? I’m old. My wife’s old. Like this is impossible. I don’t believe it. And so the angel then says, because of your unbelief, you’re going to be silent. You’re forced to be silent for nine months. And it wasn’t just that he couldn’t talk. The indication in Scripture is that people had to make signs to him and write things down for him as well. Meaning he couldn’t hear. So he was in total silence for nine months. And as I thought about that, and as I thought about that 400 years of silence, that God’s people had experienced. I started wondering, what if God wasn’t really silent? What if people just weren’t listening? What if they weren’t silent? I mean, maybe those 400 years, there’s a bunch of people trying to do a bunch of religious things, trying to figure out what they needed to do to earn God’s favor or have God act in a certain way, but maybe they just never slowed down enough, to be silent. And maybe I’m feeling that because, you know, we just got done with Christmas and if anything, Christmas is loud, it’s not silent. I mean, how many of you got to spend some really sweet, quiet time during Advent? Don’t lie. You didn’t, right? You had too many things to do. You had too many events to go to. You had too much shopping to go to, like my guess is that none of us spent any time in silence. Zechariah was forced in to silence. And I believe that it was in that silence that God really changed Zechariah’s heart. I think it was in that silence that God gave Zechariah insight into what was really happening, what was about to be, so that when Zechariah finally breaks that silence, once his son is born and he’s able to speak. The text tells us, he begins praising God, and he sings a song of prophecy. He sings a song of what will one day be, what is happening with the birth of his son and the coming of the Messiah. I just, I want to, I know I read it yesterday, but I just want to read it again. Listen to these words that Zechariah sung. And remember, these are the first words out of his mouth, after being silenced for nine months, not only him being silenced, but him being in a world where he can’t hear anything, he is complete deafening silence that he’s been in. And then he breaks forth with song and he says this.
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant, David (as he said through his Holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us– to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; where you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Zechariah sings a song, he breaks his silence with a song that I found myself longing for that kind of silence. I want the kind of silence that would lead to me singing that song, because he doesn’t just sing about God and his power and his sovereignty, even just his goodness. He sings about God’s tender mercy. Without sin, there is no song for Zechariah to sing. Without sin, there is no song. Without sin, tender mercy are just empty words. I realized as I sat with Zechariah’s song. It was a song of a man who was forced to see himself as a sinner and dig deep in God’s word for hope. And because God is a God of hope, because God is a God of grace, because God is a God of tender mercy. When his silence was broken, he could sing. Zechariah, an old man held his baby boy, an unexpected miracle in his arms. And he sang over him,
You, my child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, where you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sin because of the tender mercy of God.
Zechariah’s boy would proclaim what his old and dying heart most needed to hear.
Salvation through the forgiveness of sin, because of the tender mercy of God.
When preaching on this text, Charles Spurgeon said,
There is an exceeding melody to my ear, as well as to my heart, in that word tender.
Mercy is music. And tender mercy is the most exquisite form of it, especially to a broken heart, to one who was despondent and despairing, this word is life from the dead. A great sinner, much bruised by the lashes of conscience, will bend his ear this way and cry. Let me hear again, the dulcet sound of these words, tender mercy. Zechariah’s boy would proclaim what all of our hearts most need to hear. I don’t know why each of you are listening today, but I do know it wasn’t by accident and maybe you’re not even a believer. Maybe you were just changing the dial and you just landed here. I want you to know there is nothing better, I can tell you in what John, the son of Zechariah spent his life proclaiming. Listen to this. You are forgiven because of the tender mercy of God. I am, I wrestle with sometimes giving personal illustrations, especially if there hasn’t been a number of years in between, when it happened, especially when it’s about my own sin. Like, you know, sometimes you just think, no, you should usually wait until you get a little bit of distance from this, before you share. But a few weeks ago, I lied to my wife, Kelly, and she realized, I had lied as I was boarding a plane to fly to Alabama for a funeral. She wasn’t able to go with me, it was a super quick trip. It was there one day, back the next. I hate flying already. I think it’s a total crap shoot. I write a letter of goodbye to my wife and kids, every time I board one of those impeding, death machines. But, you know, I was on the plane. I was getting ready to go. It happened to be like a tiny propeller plane, which is just absolutely terrifying. There’s no WiFi, there was no movie or anything. And right before I did turn my phone off or before I lost service, I got this text from my wife saying, I love you, but I don’t believe you. And then we were off. No wifi, no movie on the plane. I didn’t even bring a book because it was such a quick trip. No one was sitting beside me, just silence. Now because it was a tiny plane, what normally would take over an hour, took about two and a half hours. So for two and a half hours, knowing I had lied to my wife, knowing she knew it and I knew it and there was nothing I could do, but just sit in that silence. And at first, as is often the case when we’re caught, I spent some time thinking through some excuses. I played out some of the ways I could smooth it over or minimize it, but about an hour in, I just started crying. I began to see it for what it was, a sin, a real sin. A sin that has consequences, a sin I began to hate more and more and more. How often do we sit long enough in our sin, that we begin to hate our sin. Zechariah was forced to sit in his sin and because he did that he could sing. Without sin, tender mercy is just empty words. Without sin, there is no song. Let me say this again to you. No matter what you’ve done, you are forgiven because of the tender mercy of God, because it’s all about grace.
That was Pastor Zach Van Dyke, continuing to teach us from Luke, about what Zechariah learned and what we can learn from his story about God’s tender mercy. If you enjoyed that, then be sure to join us again tomorrow for more great teaching from Zach. Hey, while you’re here, can I ask you something? Have you ever tried to be better? Like deep breath, grit your teeth, this time it’s going to work tried. Oh, you have. Yeah, me too. How’d that go? Have you ever considered that, maybe it’s not about getting better. What if the reason we’re so bad, is that we’re trying so hard to be good. Steve wrote about this in a booklet called Three Free Sins. If what I just said comforted you, or if it ticked you off, you need to check that booklet out. Just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also email your request to Steve@keylife.org. By mail, write us at
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