Praise is in the heart and on the lips of the Psalmist as he lifts up the name of his Lord, saying, “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psa. 11:9). Praise was in the soul of Zechariah as he prophesied by the power of the Holy Spirit, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68).
The Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has kept His covenant. He has come and redeemed His people. As David and Isaiah and Zechariah rested upon the promises of God, we too rest upon His promises. His promises or covenant is kept in Christ, the Son of God, whose name is Joshua, for He has saved His people from their sins. Therefore, “Let us learn to rest on promises, and embrace them as Zechariah did. Let us not doubt that every word of God about His people concerning things future shall as surely be fulfilled as every word about them has been fulfilled concerning things past. Their safety is secured by promise… We have a seal on every promise which Zacharias never saw. We have the seal of Christ’s blood to assure us that what God has promised God will perform” (J. C. Ryle, Exposition of Luke).
It was Zechariah’s time, as a priest of the temple, to burn incense to the Lord. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, “standing on the right side of the altar of incense” (Luke 1:11). The angel told him to fear not, for his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son. His name would be called John (1:13). The angel promised that Zechariah would have joy and gladness, “and many shall rejoice at his birth” (1:14). And God’s people still rejoice today. The promise continues. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, “even from his mother’s womb” (1:15). And, then the promise of redemption: “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God” (1:16).
Zachariah questioned the angel of the Lord as to the promise of a child and received a sign he could not question: “Behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed” (Luke 1:20). Elizabeth soon conceived, and when her time came, she brought forth a son (1:57). Zechariah and Elizabeth obeyed the command of the Lord, naming the boy John. When he wrote his name upon the tablet, his mouth was opened, and Zechariah’s first words were to praise God (1:64). And all the people questioned in their hearts, “What manner of child shall this be?” (1:66).
Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he beganto prophesy. He was to declare the truth by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. He was to answer the unspoken question upon the hearts of God’s people, including those of himself and Elizabeth, “What manner of child shall this be?”
Zechariah’s praise began with “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.” It is only the Lord who is worthy to be praised and receive honor because of birth of John. Why? Because it is the Lord God of the Covenant who has visited His people, has redeemed His people, and has raised up a “horn of salvation.” The horn of salvation refers to glory and power of the grace of God to save. The Lord has done this according to His promise which He Himself spoke through His prophets (1:70). This visitation and work of redemption come, as promised, through the house of His servant David.
What would be the result of these promises? The first promise is that the Lord’s people would be saved from their enemies, and from the hands that hated them. This promise is also for His people today, for we are taught to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven… deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matt. 6:10–13). Within the kingdom of our Lord, the King of kings will save, protect, and claim the victory over all evil.
What else is promised? That his people will be able to perform mercy and remember his “holy covenant’” What is this covenant? It is the oath which He swore to uphold to “father Abraham.” What does this covenant contain? That our Lord would grant to us, who were delivered out of the hands of the enemy, the ability and desire to serve him without fear. Our service would be in “holiness and righteousness.” We are to obediently serve our Lord before His presence all the days of our lives.
Our Lord delivers us out of darkness into His marvelous light, into His kingdom. In this new relationship, we have the covenant fulfilled that says the Lord will be our God and we will be His people. In this relationship we serve the King of kings, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
Zechariah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, turned to his new born son, John. What was his position in the Kingdom? First, John was to be the “prophet of the Highest,” for he would go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways. John, God’s prophet, was to perform his service before the presence of the person of God the Father. He was a chosen servant who would declare that given command of all of God’s prophets, “Thus saith the Lord!” In so doing, John was to prepare the way of the Lord, of God the Son.
His message was clear. He was to give “knowledge of salvation unto” God’s people. They will receive this knowledge through the “remission of their sins.” There is only one way to know the salvation of the Lord, and that is through the forgiveness of our sins. This is the glorious message of salvation that God’s people have been released from the sin and guilt, and so the deserved punishment thereof, through the shed blood of Christ. He released us from sin and guilt by taking upon Himself what we deserved, the eternal wrath of God the Father. This wonderful message of salvation is given through the tender mercy of God. For God has visited His people, to give light to those who sit in darkness, “and in the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23:4; 1 Peter 2:9–10)
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