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Zechariah’s Song of Praise

05 May
Zechariah -2

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Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit as he uttered words of praise to God and described the missions of both his son, John, and that of Jesus, the Messiah (Luke 1:67-79). Basically, it can be divided into two parts. First, it is a description of what God had already done (Luke 1:68-75), and, secondly, it is a description of what God intended to do (Luke 1:76-79). Moreover, there are references to Hannah’s song of praise at Luke 1:68-69 and again at verses 71 and 74 (cf. 1Samuel 10:1, 10), inferring that, although Zechariah had been both deaf and dumb during Mary’s visit, there was a lot of discussion going on during her three month visit, through the use of his tablet. Zechariah knew of Mary’s Magnificat. The similarities in his song to that of Hannah’s might be the result of his discussion with Mary concerning Gabriel’s visits.

Zechariah stressed three points in the first part of his praise to God. First, he claimed God had redeemed his people by sending the Messiah. Therefore, we can assume that Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah believed Mary was pregnant with the long awaited descendant of David. Secondly, the coming of the Messiah was the fulfillment of all that the prophets had declared would occur. Herein is testimony that all things under the Old Covenant pointed to Jesus! Finally, the Messiah was the object of God’s covenant with Abraham. Everything was wrapped up in God promise of this Redeemer.

How should we understand Zechariah’s words that God visited his people in Luke 1:68? Well, Genesis 21:1 says God visited Sarah when Isaac was to be miraculously born. Genesis 50:24 tells of Joseph’s prophecy of Israel’s miraculous return to the Promised Land, when God would visit them. Moreover, Exodus 4:31 describes God’s visitation just before Israel left Egypt. Ruth 1:6 describes the blessing of food by saying God visited his people. In 1Samuel 2:21 Hannah says God visited her by enabling her to give birth to Samuel. Zechariah 10:3 describes God’s judgment against Israel’s enemies when he visits his people. In Acts 15:14 James describes Peter’s preaching the Gospel in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10), as God visiting the gentiles. In Luke 1:68 God visited his people in the person of the Messiah in order to redeem his people.

Redemption concerns paying the price of a debt held over one’s near kinsman, who has sold himself to serve his debtor, as his only means to pay off the debt. It may involve marrying the destitute widow of a near relative, who died without leaving an heir, as was the case of Boaz and Ruth. This was also the case of the Davidic dynasty, as is noted by Jeremiah in that Jerusalem had become a widow. Lamentations 1:1-8 identifies Jerusalem or Zion as a widow. The text says the city is like a widow and describes her desolate state. Her walls are destroyed, and her gates are sunk into the ground, her king and princes are in captivity and she is bereft of her sons (cf. Lamentations 1:16). Jerusalem mourns and entered her widowhood without hope of redemption, because her king and her sons (the princes) were made eunuchs in Babylon. The Davidic line through Solomon ended in Jeconiah and Zedekiah.

Nevertheless, the God of Israel is merciful and loving. He remembered his promises and is willing to lift Israel out of her trouble. Notice in Isaiah 54:1-6 Jerusalem is described as the barren one, having no children (princes or heirs to the throne). The Lord, himself, says he will build up her walls and place her gates in their proper places (Isaiah 54:11-12). How is this done? The Lord describes himself not only as her Husband (Isaiah 54:5), but also her Redeemer. The context of the title, Redeemer, is not in the sense that is usually understood by Christians. It is in the context of giving seed to the barren one just as it is used of Boaz in Ruth 4:14.

Thus, it is the Lord who provides Seed (the Messiah) for the widow (Jerusalem), and the King is born into the Davidic line. Only the Virgin Birth could have solved this problem. Zechariah claims the coming of Jesus was Israel’s horn of salvation (Luke 1:69). The horn is a symbol of power and authority (cf. Daniel 8:8, 21). David saw God as the Horn of his salvation (2Samuel 22:3), and Zechariah  applied the horn of salvation to the Messiah.

The Messiah was the object of all the hopes of God’s people, and it was to him that all the prophets pointed. He is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with his people back to the time of Abraham when the age began (Luke 1:70-75; cf. Genesis 12:3; 22:18). Moreover, Zechariah expresses this central theme in God’s relationship with his people in Luke 1:72-73. There he infers the meanings of the names: John, Zechariah and Elizabeth when he speaks of God’s mercy or graciousness in remembering his oath. It is not seen in the Greek, but it is very clear in the Hebrew, which is the language of the priests. The wordplay in Hebrew is God is chanan (H2603) “merciful or gracious” (Jehohanan – John) and zakar (H2142) “remembers” (Zekaryah – Zechariah) his shebuah (H7621) “oath” (Elisheba – Elizabeth) to Abraham.

 

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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Gospel of Luke

 

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