Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Zechariah's Song

Part 2 of The Original Christmas Playlist

Text: Luke 1:67-79




“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (vv. 68-69). 


Leaving Home for Christmas

People like to go home for Christmas. Many popular Christmas songs talking about going home for Christmas. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was originally written to honour soldiers who longed to be home at Christmastime. The BBC actually banned the song in the UK because they feared that the lyrics might lower morale among British troops. [1]

I’ll be home for Christmas 
You can count on me 
Please have snow and mistletoe 
And presents on the tree 

I’ll be home for Christmas 
If only in my dreams 

But Christmas is really about leaving home. That’s what Jesus did. Jesus left home for Christmas. He came to this world to visit us. [2] Jesus traded his throne in heaven for a manger in Bethlehem. He exchanged the praise of angels for the mocking of his enemies. He gave up the glory of heaven for the suffering and shame of the cross.


The Birth of John Foretold

Zechariah is a priest, married to a woman named Elizabeth (v. 5). They have no children. Elizabeth is “barren” and both she and Zechariah are “advanced in years” (v. 6). [3] As Zechariah is serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel appears to him. He announces to Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you shall call his name John” (v. 13). He will prepare people for the coming of the Christ (v. 17).

Zechariah doesn’t believe the angel’s news. It’s just too amazing to be true. He says, “I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (v. 18). The angel tells him, “You will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time” (v. 20).


Salvation!

Zechariah has been unable to speak for at least nine months! When he’s finally able to speak, he praises God: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel” (v. 68). [4] Zechariah praises God for three things God will do through the Christ (i.e., Jesus). He uses the past tense because he’s certain that God will do these things: “He has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us” (vv. 68-69). [5]

How would God visit us? Later in the song, Zechariah declares that “the sunrise shall visit us from on high” (v. 78). “The sunrise” refers to Jesus who would “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (v. 79). “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light shone” (Isa. 9:2; cf. 60:1-2; Mal. 4:2). God would visit us through the coming of Jesus to earth! [6]

How would God redeem us? When the Jews would think of redemption, they would think of their deliverance from Egypt. They has been slaves, and God freed them. In Zechariah’s day, the Jews were looking for a new exodus. They were looking for freedom from the Romans. But Zechariah was looking for more than political redemption. He was also looking for spiritual redemption because he says that his son would “give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (v. 77). Freedom from sin is our greatest need, though most people don’t understand this. God would redeem us through the death and resurrection of Jesus!

How would God raise up “a horn of salvation” for us? A horn is a symbol of power (e.g., the horn of a wild ox as mentioned in Deuteronomy 33:17). “The LORD is…the horn of my salvation” (Ps. 18:2). The phrase “raised up” is often used in the OT of God putting a person in a special position (e.g., a king). In Hannah’s prayer, she says God will “give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam. 2:10). Jesus is the King of kings. God would raise up “a horn of salvation” through the salvation achieved by Jesus!


Saved to Serve

Salvation has come to us because of God’s remembrance, his faithfulness to his covenant, and his mercy (v. 72). The main characters in Luke 1:57-80 are Zechariah, Elizabeth, John, and Jesus. Zechariah means “Yahweh has remembered.” Elizabeth means “My God has sworn.” John means “Yahweh is merciful.” Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” The truth of verse 72 is summed up in the names. Coincidence? I think not!

“The essence of worship is responsiveness to God’s demands.” [7] If we, like Zechariah, are praising God, we should be willing to serve him. (What if I praise my wife for how great she is but refuse to help her out?)

God saves us to serve. God wants us to serve him “all our days” (v. 75; cf. Eph. 2:8-10). God saved us by serving us! [8] As God chose to save us because he loves us, we should choose to serve him because we love him.

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I'll_Be_Home_for_Christmas
[2] See Luke 1:68, 78.
[3] I don’t know how old you need to be in order to be considered “advanced in years,” but I’m sure Zechariah and Elizabeth are well past the age of thinking about having children.
[4] Zechariah’s song is known as the Benedictus because Benedictus (“Blessed”) is the first word of the song in the Latin Vulgate.
[5] These words are prophetic: “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,” v. 67). The prophecy of Scripture is certain to be fulfilled.
[6] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50, 178.
[7] Ibid., 186.
[8] See Phil. 2:7.