“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” (ESV ) – Zechariah 12:10

When our son, Ethan, was 4 years old he was diagnosed with bilateral amblyopia. Simply put, this condition is a developmental abnormality where the eye can never fully focus and a person’s vision is always blurry. Because it happens primarily in young children, the result is that the brain “learns” to see this way. If left untreated the brain will never learn to see clearly and the blurry vision will become permanent.

Thankfully, the treatment was simple. Ethan just needed to start wearing glasses so that his brain could have the opportunity to re-learn how to see clearly.

God has a similar diagnosis for the people of Israel through the prophet Zechariah. This passage in chapter 12 is surrounded by prophesies of the coming of the day of the Lord. There is a real anticipation for the power of God being made manifest in and through Jerusalem and for God’s plan to lift up his people before all the nations of the world in victory and power. With all of this excitement, you’d think that the Israelites would see clearly how they should receive God; that they would have been joyfully waiting for the day of the Lord to come. And yet, in Zechariah 12:10, God reveals the truth to them. Instead of receiving God among them with a spirit of humble obedience, they have chosen to put him to death. They pierced the firstborn son who is the heir and savior of his people. The uncomfortable truth is that, when left to ourselves, rebellion against God is all we know. Our vision is darkened and clouded.

Notice that it is only by the Lord’s action of pouring out his grace and mercy that his people are able to see the truth clearly. It is the same for us. It is his grace that allows us to recognize the reality of our sin. God is the actor here. He extends his grace to us. He is the one moving in power. He is the savior of his people.

So during this advent season how do we prepare to receive Emmanuel, God among us? The people of Israel spend the rest of chapter 12 in mourning. The whole nation mourns and repents, knowing that they have been blind to their sin and are undeserving of the victory God will give them. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to receive our king through confession and repentance. We must humbly depend upon the Holy Spirit for the grace to clearly see and repent of the sin in our lives. Only then will we be able to understand the truth that the hope and promise of salvation given to us through the incarnation, and again in the final coming of his kingdom, is God’s work. It’s all Him! Glory be to God for the grace to see our sin clearly, repent, and turn to him for our salvation!

Lord God, I am grateful for the outpouring of your grace and mercy. Please help me to see clearly the sin in my life and to repent and turn to you. I pray that your Holy Spirit will be at work in me this advent season so that I might live a life that is focused on the truth of who you are as I wait in joyful anticipation for the day of the Lord.

~ Ben and Gayle Lichius