Luke 1:69-72 “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us…salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us–to show mercy to our fathers…”
Sin, Satan, and our old Self–these are the true enemies from which Jesus comes to bring us salvation. These are the true source of our miseries. We may think that much of it is just “natural.” Hurricanes are just part of the natural weather cycles and patterns. They cause a lot of misery, but they are just a random act of nature. Diseases, like the kinds that land us in the hospital, or obligate us to a life of taking pills, are just a natural part of being human, especially of getting older.
But this stuff isn’t purely “natural.” It is the result of sin. God subjected his whole creation to frustration as a result of sin. It doesn’t work right anymore. God uses these things as a reminder that our own hearts and souls aren’t right.
Much of our misery is self-inflicted, because sin leads us to ignore God’s commands. Disobeying our parents leads to spankings, or being grounded, or far worse things later if we don’t learn our lesson. If we fail to control our tongues, we may say something to a friend that ends a friendship, to an employer that ends our employment, to a spouse that ends a marriage, or at least lands us on the couch for a few nights. When we forget the Sabbath Day instead of remembering it, we carry our guilty burdens alone, and we live life less and less aware of God’s presence or promises. We could multiply examples for all the commandments. But the greater misery is that sin, and Satan, and our Old Self lead us down a path away from God that ends in the eternal miseries of hell.
So God looked down on our world from heaven above, and this is what he saw. Much of the world was unaware of the source of their miseries, or of the greater miseries awaiting them. They were like chickens in one of those huge operations you can sometimes see from the road. They live in a cage all day long, and eat the food they are fed, mostly unaware that life could be any different. And when the day comes that the cage door finally opens, they don’t even realize the fate that is waiting for them. They will land on someone’s dinner table in just a few short days.
If people do have some sense of their predicament, and how helpless we are, life is a frantic but futile attempt to avoid the eternal fires ahead. They get busy trying to do good, trying to pay for their sins themselves, unaware or unwilling to believe that this just can’t be a do-it-yourself project. Based on human attempts, human activity, “…the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay,” the psalmist teaches in Psalm 49.
So God looked down, and what he saw moved him. It moved him to mercy. He came with more than relief for the irritations and annoyances that plague our body and life. Mercy led him to rescue our souls. “Salvation” Zechariah sings in his song from Luke 1. The guilt of our sins was crushing our souls to death, so Jesus came and lifted the burden. He relieved us of the heavy load and carried our guilt himself. He gave up his life so that we could be free from the consequences of our sins, and enjoy a new life infinitely better than the one we deserve.
The fear of our future was choking our faith. So Jesus changed that future from a hellish one to a heavenly one. The fate we feared has been replaced with God’s favor, and we have the confidence to approach God secure that our souls have a safe home with him forever.