Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad. Psalm 14:7
As I was singing this old hymn (12th century!) on Sunday in church, I was struck anew by the words and started thinking about the double meaning - this hymn could have been sung by the Jews in the Old Testament as they waited for their Messiah, and it applies just as beautifully to us here today as we wait for the second coming of Jesus.
Over the next few weeks, we'll look at each verse of this wonderful Advent hymn, and meditate on what it means to wait for our Emmanuel to come once again.
God's people, who we read about in the Old Testament, had been waiting for a Savior and Redeemer to come, ever since Adam and Eve first sinned against God. We read in the early part of Genesis that God promises hope to these first humans who went against His word. Here God speaks to Satan to tell him the consequences of his deception of the people God created in His image:
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." Genesis 3:15
We continue to see God promise a Messiah all through the Old Testament.
It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. Isaiah 19:20
God's people, Israel, were captive. They were literally slaves in different parts of their history, and they were also captive to their own sin. They were able to make atonment for their sin, once a year, through the sacrificial process, but as the author to the Hebrews tells us, that was just a reminder of how sinful they were. It was impossible for the blood of the animals to wash them clean of their sin.
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:3-4
That's why Jesus Christ was sent by God. He paid the ransom for their sin (and ours!), once and for all.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:25
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. I Timothy 2:5-6
Today, we are Israel. Jesus Christ, by His work on the cross, has made us His chosen people, and has grafted us in to Israel. Even if you weren't born into Israel, you are now a part having been saved by Christ. (see Romans 11)
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands--remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13
Israel was in exile, in a land not their own, waiting for their Messiah.
Doesn't that sound like us today? Those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and claim forgiveness through His blood shed for us on the cross are exiles, living in a land that is not ours because Heaven is our home. I find it interesting that Peter even addresses his readers as aliens in his letter -
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. I Peter 1:1-2
Israel was in mourning until their Redeemer appeared. Just like we are in mourning as we wait for Jesus to come again and take us to place He has prepared for us. Just as they rejoiced when Messiah appeared on that blessed Christmas morning, we can rejoice, knowing that God will be "with us" (Emmanuel) once again.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Unknown author of the 12th century
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.