Does God have a love for Israel that surpasses or is independent of His love revealed in and through Christ Jesus, or was the love that God revealed in Christ the fulfillment of His covenant promises to Israel?
Consider the words of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. When John the Baptist was 8 days old he was brought to the temple by Zacharias and Elisabeth to be circumcised according to the instructions given in the Law of Moses.
Zacharias had been unable to speak since the announcement by the angel Gabriel that God had heard his prayers and his wife Elisabeth would have a child. Since Zacharias could not speak, the people decided to name the young child after his father thinking this was right.
However, Elisabeth spoke up and said, “Not so; but he shall be called John.” The people replied, “there is none of you kindred that is called by this name.” They then signaled to ask Zacharias asking him what the child would be called. Zacharias asked for a writing table, and wrote, “His name is John.”
The Bible says “they all marveled” and immediately Zacharias’ tongue was loosed, and he spoke, and praised God. The scripture says, “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying…”
Before telling us what Zacharias’ prophesied, Luke gives us this interjection – “Fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea, and all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, WHAT MANNER OF CHILD SHALL THIS BE! And the hand of the Lord was with him.”
With a causal reading, it is very easy to miss the impact this had on Israel. The sign of Zacharias not being able to speak, and then his tongue being suddenly loosed at his child’s circumcision ceremony along with the words of his prophecy caused the fear of the Lord to come on the people. They talked among themselves holding these things in their hearts and asking the question – “What manner of child shall this be!”
Now consider the words of Zacharias’ prophecy which spread throughout the region, and the impact these words must have had on those who were looking for hope in Israel.
Zacharias prophesied the following:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swear to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:68-79).
Through Zacharias’ prophecy, the Spirit of God was interpreting what the redemption of Israel as foretold in the Old Testament scriptures would actually look like. God was was visiting His people to save them, and this child John, was the forerunner who would reveal their Savior to them ( John 1:31).
God”s love for Israel -His saving grace, His mercy, and His redemption – is revealed in Jesus Christ. In the land God gave them (the land in which they were now servants to others because of the curse of the Law), in that land, the Messiah came and redeemed them with His precious blood. He did this not to restore them to their physical inheritance. He did it to bring them into their true spiritual inheritance. Through repentance and faith in Jesus, God fulfilled His purpose in the calling of Israel by giving them their true inheritance in of the Kingdom of God and as citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is above.
He offers the same to all, both Jews and Gentiles alike; for God SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON!