(To be read as background Luke 1v5-25)
It is not uncommon for proud new fathers to be walking on air and a little dumbstruck. No least because they have often been up all night!
When Zechariah heard that he was going to become a father – he too was dumbstruck but for another reason and in his case it was literally dumbstruck.
Both he and his wife Elizabeth were too old to have child – Luke 1:7 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years. (NIV)
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even a gynaecologist for that matter, to know that couples in old age don’t have children. This was reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah.
Zechariah just couldn’t believe it even when told by an angel – as a result he was struck dumb by the angel Gabriel.
In due course Elizabeth became pregnant and the baby boy was born just as the angel had predicted. When the child was 8 days old and was due to be named the friends and family wanted and expected him to be called Zechariah after his father.
Read from v57- 66.
Once Zechariah had written that his name would be ‘John’ his power of speech was restored.
All who witnessed these proceedings knew that this was to be a special child. Luke 1:66 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. (NIV)
Most new fathers tend to babble on about their new born – “he is the strongest, best looking, most amazing ….” As if he or she is the only child to have ever been so perfect!!!
Given the unique circumstances of John’s birth and the age of the parents we might expect Zechariah to be going on about his new son. BUT out of 12 verses the 1st eight don’t mention the child at all. Then there are 2 verses about the new child and then 2 more about the “Coming Light”
This is not because he is not pleased to have a son. Rather it is because he has a correct sense of proportion in relation to the “Coming One” – the Messiah. Zechariah realises that John is just the forerunner to One who is infinitely more important than his son John.
When the angel announced John’s birth Zechariah was doubtful – now there is no doubt.
Now he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Now he sees things from God’s point of view and praise to God wells up within him.
The long night for Israel and the world is over – at last after 400 years of silence God has spoken. There had been no prophet in Israel since Malachi 400 years before. However, God has not forgotten his people
– he has kept his promise to send a Messiah. Luke 1:70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
– he has remembered Luke 1:72-73 72 ….his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
God always keeps his promises – we may weary of waiting but that doesn’t lessen the certainty of his promises.
This is the subject of the SGM Christmas and millennium services this year – “Promises, Promises!”
When Jesus was presented at the Temple on his eighth day Simeon said – Luke 2:28-30 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, (NIV)
Psalm 145:13 13 ..The LORD is faithful to all his promises…..
Sometimes when life is hard / when we are under pressure and we read about the good things God has in store for his children we may wonder if it is all just a fantasy – will it really happen?
How can we be sure it will come about? BECAUSE he has kept his promises in the past!
The theme of these 1st 8 verses is “God’s Promised Salvation”.
It is likely that Zechariah, like most of Israel, saw liberation from the political bondage of the occupying Romans BUT nevertheless the principle meaning of these words is salvation / liberation from the power of sin and guilt.
Luke 1:68-69 68 ….he has come and has redeemed his people.
How will this redemption / this rescue be accomplished?
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (NIV)
HORN – It is a symbol of strength and power.
ILLUS.: If you were to go on Safari in Africa – visit a game park as we did in 1993 – you will see the leader of a herd of buck or wildebees has the biggest and strongest horns / antlers. We watch two male kudu fighting.
The Horn of salvation is therefore the one who possesses the power and strength to redeem.
How do we know that Zechariah is not referring to John? Because this Horn of Salvation will come from the house of David which was of the tribe of Judah – whereas John was from the tribe of Levi – Zechariah was a priest and all priest descended from Levi.
The Remarkable thing about Zechariah’s statement is that it is in the past tense! He is so certain that it will happen that with the eye of faith he considers it to have already been accomplished.
This way of expressing things is very common in scripture
– Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
– Ephesians 2:6 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (NIV)
BUT we are not yet in heaven – we are seated in Binscombe Church on the 12th December 1999 – BUT it is so certain that we will receive what God has promised that the Bible speaks about it as if it is already accomplished.
No doubt there were those in Zechariah’s day who were very sceptical that the Messiah would ever come.
There have always been the sceptics and the cynics. All this talk about Jesus as a Saviour / about guilt and judgement / sin and repentance.
When Christians talk about guilt and sin most people think we are nuts. “I don’t feel sinful or guilty” they will say. For many there is no sense of need of a Saviour.
For many people God is irrelevant to their lives. “I decide what is right and wrong for me” – “I do what is good for me” – “Why do I need all this religious stuff?”
The Christian faith brings us face to face with a God who is just & holy and to whom we are accountable. It is only when we see God for who he is that we see ourselves for what we are and realise our need of a redeemer.
Verses 74 & 75 give us the purpose of redemption.
Luke 1:74-75 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (NIV)
Zechariah may have had the Romans in mind but the deeper meaning it rescue from Satan and his forces – The devil is our greatest enemy.
Jesus came to break that power and to destroy Satan and his works.
This is the negative side of Salvation – rescue from Sin / Satan / guilt / fear ….
The positive side is that we are saved to serve God in Holiness and righteousness.
Luke 1:76-77 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, (NIV)
These verses focus on John as the one who is to prepare the way for the saviour’s arrival.
His task is to prepare the people so that they are ready to receive the coming King.
ILLUS.: In ancient time when the Emperor was going to visit a town the people would go out onto the approach road and remove the obstacles – fill in the potholes so that his Chariot could have a smooth ride into town.
It was John’s task to summons the people to prepare to receive their king.
How did he do that? What was his message to them? Matthew 3:2 2 … “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
The Messiah is coming John said to the people – “Build a highway in your heart to welcome him!”
The way to do this is through repentance and forgiveness and getting right with God. Preparing hearts to receive the king!
Is your hearts prepared / ready to receive the King!
Luke 3:4-6 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ” (NIV)
What kind of roads are we? Little donkey tracks full of obstacles and pitfalls! OR Highways ready and welcoming!
ILLUS.: Ever watched a motorway being built? Mountains are moved / valleys filled in / the surface is smoothed / the obstacles are removed.
Are their obstacles in your life that are hindering God’s work? Is your heart and life open and welcoming to the Messiah – King Jesus? Is your heart like a highway or an obstacle course?
The world is – ….living in darkness and in the shadow of death, … Luke 1:79
ILLUS.: I guess we have all watch murder mystery movies at some time – it is dark and gloomy / the music is eerie / the victim is unsuspecting / the shadow of a knife or gun appears on the wall / … you know what is coming! UNLESS a hero saves the day and overpowers the murderer.
The world is in spiritual darkness and Satan is the murderer ready to claim his victim UNLESS there is a hero who will overpower him and restore the light!
John could not save or forgive sin or restore the light BUT he could point to the One who can.
Sometimes in these movies the victims are aware of the danger but they are helpless – sometimes they are oblivious to the danger.
Isn’t this a good illustration of our world – some are have all sorts of fears and phobias and problems while others seem to sail blissfully through life without a care in the world – BUT both are in darkness and the shadow of death until “the rising sun shines in their hearts”
Jesus is the Light of the world – the sun of Righteousness – John the apostle tells us that John 1:4-5 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (NIV)
Jesus also tells us – John 3:19 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
When people respond to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith THEN his light shines in us – 2 Corinthians 4:6 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (NIV)
Has the Light of Christ’s salvation and love shone into your Heart? What are the obstacles / the mountains or valleys that need to be smoothed?
If you are a Christian not only has the light of Christ shone into your light BUT it is to shine through you into a dark world – Christians are to be “salt and light”. Are there obstacles in our lives that hinder the light of God shining through us?
Earlier we sang these words:
As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
ever changing from glory to glory
mirrored here may our lives tell your story.
Shine on me…..
John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus and point people to him. That too, is our task! To point people to Jesus so that Luke 1:77-78
77 to give …. people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven (NIV)
He has come – 2000 years ago – he brought salvation / forgiveness / light / Life / love / peace….. and it is freely available to all who respond in repentance and faith.