Luke 1:57-80 - Securing Salvation

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My friends, God has been working to secure salvation for the world since before the foundation of the universe. He has been divinely orchestrating all of the events that led to Christ’s incarnation on this earth.
Sometimes, we miss the fact that God is working in the micro as well as the macro. He is working in the small things and in the big.
And today we are going see God working in the lives of individuals, in the lives of His chosen people Isreal, and in the lives of Gentiles throughout the world.
We are going to be covering a lot of ground to get us primed and ready to get into the beginning of chapter 2 - where we see Christmas fully realized.
I am getting more and more excited as we anticipate Christmas coming next week. And going through Luke this year has only added to that anticipation.
Let’s pray as we get ready to work our way through these wonderful verses.

I. As He Secures Salvation, God is Working Through Individuals (57-66)

Luke 1:57–58 ESV
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
Elizabeth fully realizes the promise given to her by God. This righteous woman who was barren her entire life finally holds a baby in her arms.
And all of those around her rejoice with her. They glorify God Who has done the impossible. An old and barren woman bearing a child. And not just any child - but one who would prepare the way of the Lord!
If you recall in verse 56 last week, Mary stayed with them three months and would likely have left very shortly before John the Baptist was born. It is possible that she was there but it is less likely as she is not mentioned in this narrative at all.
Luke 1:59–62 ESV
And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called.
Interestingly, it is eight days later and no name had been given for the child. This was not typical of Old Testament birthing narratives, but it is known that there was a practice of naming the child on the day of his circumcision that had developed by this time period in Jewish history. It possibly came from the tradition that Abraham was given his new name on the day he was circumcised (Genesis 17:5,23).
It was Jewish law that a child be circumcised on the eight day of life. This was started with Abraham and formalized with Moses as seen in Leviticus 12:3. And at these circumcision rituals, Jewish tradition required that at least 10 people would be present and be able to vouch that the child was circumcised. Many had even more than that in attendance.
Moving forward we get to the naming of the child. The people present seek to name the child after his father Zechariah. It should be noted that most children weren’t directly named after their fathers. They would often be given a name that ran in their families - oftentimes a grandparent or further back in the lineage. But the people may have wished to name the baby after Zechariah because of the afflictions he had gone through and because of the experience that he had from God.
But his mother shoots back with an emphatic no. The Greek word used here is ouchi (oo-he) which means in no way. It is very emphatic. And she proceeds to let them know that his name will be John.
The surrounding people are extremely persistent in this and argue that no one in their family has a name like that.
Next they inquire of Zechariah who, as you might remember, is mute at this point. Can you imagine the scene? They are motioning to him and everyone is getting frustrated.
And we need to see the faith of Zechariah growing here. Let’s flash back a few verses which is at least 9+ months ago and hear what the angel Gabriel says to him:
Luke 1:20 ESV
And behold, 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.”
Zechariah was made mute because of his unbelief. And now these people are wanting to name this child after him. What an honor he could have claimed for himself here. Most people see naming a child after them as a very honoring gesture.
But we see Zechariah’s faith come full circle in the following verses. He has fully embraced the promise of this son in complete faith.
Luke 1:63–64 ESV
And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
In the middle of this interchange, John asks for a writing tablet (possibly similar to what this picture shows). This was likely a wooden tablet with a wax covering that could be written on. And he writes a simple sentence, ‘His name is John.’ He definitively puts a hush on the crowd that had been so vocal in opposing Elizabeth. His words show the growth of his faith in God’s plan. He has fully trusted in what God is doing. His faith is now emulating the faith that we have seen from Mary.
And in a moment - or immediately - his mouth is opened and his tongue loosened and he spoke. We will see this word immediately many times throughout the book of Luke. The Greek for this word is parachrēma (para-cray-ma) which is a common word that Luke uses 16 times in his two books while the rest of the NT only uses it twice.
But as we reflect on what just happened, note the first thing he spoke was not selfish in nature. He didn’t reflect back with pity on the months of life he seemingly lost due to muteness and complain. He didn’t start talking about the weather with some superficial conversation. He blessed God.
What would be the first thing you would say if you were in Zechariah’s shoes? Maybe we can put a little more rubber on the road and talk about something closer to home. What is your response when God provides healing to you? What is your response when God provides you with a new job? What is your response when God blesses you with a child or grandchild?
What is your response when God blesses you with .... ______ (fill in the blank).
Is your response to bless God? Or is it to go back to normal life and keep moving along like nothing happened. I pray that we truly appreciate the gifts of God and bless Him and praise Him for what He has done. Frankly, we should praise and bless God continually for the greatest thing He has done for us - namely give us eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Luke 1:65–66 ESV
And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
Moving forward we see that the crowd around him had fear fall upon them. This was reverent fear and is a right response to the moving of God. This is another common theme that we have seen in this first chapter. The right response to God is a reverent fear. We should respect and revere God.
Theologian John Nolland, when summarizing the account we have traversed says the following:
“A totally unlikely pregnancy, a strange insistence on a completely unexpected name, and the subsequent instantaneous recovery of Zechariah combine to produce that involuntary response of fear in the presence of the divine activity which Luke is so fond of noting.”
- John Nolland (WBC Luke)
As we have seen throughout this account, God is working through individuals to secure salvation. We have see him working in Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, and now even the individuals in this crowd are becoming God’s hands and feet in this world by spreading the good news of this child that is to be born and the plan that is to come.
And as we start to zoom the lens out a bit to see the bigger picture, God is not only working through individuals…But
Scripture References: Genesis 17:5, 23; Leviticus 12:3, Luke 1:20

II. As He Secures Salvation, God is Working To Save Israel (67-75)

We are entering what is called the Benedictus or also called Zechariah’s Hymn. The word benediction actually means a declaration of, or supplication for, divine blessing. Remember that as we start through this beautiful section of Scripture. Note that the first half of this refers to the nation Israel moreso and the second half points to the vastness of the Messianic workings.
Luke 1:67 ESV
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
Here is yet another instance of the Holy Spirit at work which is a common theme in the book of Luke. We have seen John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15). We have seen Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:41. And now Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins prophesying.
Luke 1:68 ESV
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
1. God has visited and redeemed his people (68).
This is quite a statement. This thought of visiting means that God comes to bless and save His people. And this very fact is hammered home even more by using the word redeemed which follows.
To be redeemed is more than just being delivered - although that is certainly included in the definition. It means to be bought back from ransom. It involves a payment of sorts to buy back someone.
We know the full meaning of this today. We have been bought back from the ransom of death by Jesus Christ on the cross. We who are in Christ have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). And that price was the life of Christ.
Next Zechariah prophesies:
Luke 1:69–71 ESV
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
2. God has raised up a horn of salvation from the house of David as spoken by the prophets of old (69-71).
The word horn is a metaphor for strength and power. The horn of an animal is a symbol of its strength. This horn of salvation does not refer to John the Baptist but instead refers to Jesus Christ who comes from the house of David and is prophesied about some 300+ times in the Old Testament.
It is interesting to note that the term salvation is used eleven times in Luke’s two books but is only found one other time in other three Gospels -although it should be noted that it is a common theme in Luke’s traveling companion and mentor Paul’s writings as well.
This salvation refers forward to being saved from enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. This carries with it a nationalistic protection for Israel but was also understood by Luke to have more a personal view. It was a personal salvation looking back at our last section of Scripture in regards to redemption. Redemption clearly has a personal nature to it.
And moving into the last part of this work God is doing through Israel as he secures salvation, Zechariah states:
Luke 1:72–75 ESV
to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
3. God is fulfilling his holy covenant of deliverance given to Abraham.
Luke 1:72 ESV
to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
In verse 72, it is helpful to note that this mercy is an active and not a passive mercy. The Greek literally states that God has done mercy.
As theologian Joel Green implies - God does not just ponder - God acts.
Luke 1:73–75 ESV
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Zechariah reflects on the covenant to Abraham. This covenant was one that promised deliverance and safety. How the nation Israel longed for deliverance and safety. They were oppressed night and day by a dictatorial Roman government. They were powerless at the hands of the Romans. They were being mistreated and overtaxed. There was always an underlying fear that the temple would be destroyed yet again - which indeed came to fruition decades later in AD 70.
But there was hope that Israel would be able to worship the God without fear. They would be rescued and delivered from the hand of their enemies.
We know today, that this was not coming with the first coming of Christ. We know that this will ultimately be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom. But it did find its partial fulfillment. Because of Jesus’s sacrificial and atoning sacrificial death on the cross, Israel and all can worship in holiness and righteousness. Christ’s righteousness has been placed upon us and there is no more need for an earthly temple that can be destroyed and taken. Now we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we can worship anywhere and anytime. What a glorious blessing from God! What a glorious partial fulfillment of this prophesy.
Yet Israel has a further fulfillment to come. We have seen that God has been working through Israel and that God will have a future work in Israel yet to come. And lastly we will see that...
Scripture References: Luke 1:15, 1:41; 1 Corinthians 6:20

III. As He Secures Salvation, God is Working To Save Infidels (76-80)

God is not just working to save Israel. God is also working to save infidels. That is quite a word to use. It seems rather offensive because it refers to you and me friends. It refers to us before we placed our trust in Christ. It refers to our ancestors as well. All of those who were not God’s possession.
The word infidel actually means an unbeliever. It is one who rejects a system of belief. In our case - one who rejects God.
Let’s continue on and see how this applies to us:
Luke 1:76–77 ESV
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
These first two verses of the second half of Zechariah’s Hymn or the Benedictus speak of the future work of John the Baptist. He is to prepare the way for the Messiah.
John is effectively the last of the old covenant prophets. Maybe it would be more properly stated that he was the hybrid prophet. He prophesied to Israel about the One who was to come with the new covenant. And he is a special prophet at that.
We must remember that by the time of John the Baptist, Israel had not heard from a prophet of God for around 400 years. Malachi, the final book of the Old Testament, was the last word that the people of Israel had recieved from God. Four centuries of silence had to be deafening for the people of Israel. Malachi’s final words must have seemed forever in their fulfillment:
Malachi 4:5–6 ESV
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
And as they awaited this prophet that would be sent, they went through quite a roller coaster historically.
They had times of relative freedom to worship and they had times of oppressive rule. No more oppressive and offensive rule occured during this time period than in 171 B.C. when Seleucid King Antiochus IV (who referred to himself as Epiphanes which means ‘illustrious one’ or ‘god manifest’) began persecuting the Jews and sold the priesthood. This evil ruler went on to desecrate the Holy of Holies by stealing all of the treasures of the temple, setting up an altar of Zeus, and sacrificing pigs on the altar.
Fast forward to around 4-6 B.C. and the Romans have taken over the territory of Israel decades ago and Herod the Great is in charge. And that is where we are historically-speaking at John’s birth.
Luke 1:76–77 ESV
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
But now this promised forerunner has arrived. John the Baptist. We have discussed that he would prepare the way of the Lord. But we did not address verse 77 which tells us how he does that. He gives knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.
John would not be the one to save anyone. But he would preach of One who could save!
Zechariah highlights an important fact by mentioning the forgiveness of sins. He highlights that there is something much bigger than a political and earthly deliverance coming. What is coming will be an eternal deliverance!
In Hebrew understanding, ‘knowledge of salvation’ was known as the experience of salvation. John would go forth and preach repentance and call the people to turn to God through the coming Messiah. We see it prophesied that he would do this earlier in this chapter in Luke 1:17:
Luke 1:17 ESV
and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
And we see him fulfilling this prophesy a couple of chapters later in Luke 3:3:
Luke 3:3 ESV
And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
How wonderful Zechariah must have felt as he reflected on this prophecy given to him from the Holy Spirit. His son would point others to salvation and forgiveness through the Messiah. But the prophecy does not stop with John the Baptist. Check out the next two verses:
Luke 1:78–79 ESV
because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Sometimes people view God as always harsh and judgmental. We sometimes see Him even as unmerciful. Yet, we see that God has tender mercy. The Greek word for tender used here actually refers to a gut-type of love. It is love that comes from the inner part of someone. So this is saying that God is showing mercy from His most inner-most Being. And in His mercy He offers a promise that is beautiful.
The Sunrise shall visit us from on high and give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death.
My friends:
This sunrise spoken of can be better understood as the Sonrise.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He came to visit us from on high. Some versions even say that the sunrise has dawned upon earth. He has come to save His people from their sins. To save those who struggle with the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1). And those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Hear Matthew relay this as well in Matthew 4:16:
Matthew 4:16 ESV
the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
The Son has dawned upon the earth. Hallelujah church. We will obviously speak more about this next week as we study the first Christmas in Luke chapter 2. But may we rejoice at this very fact. That the Light of the World - Jesus Christ - has come so that we might be saved and not walk in darkness. See John 8:12:
John 8:12 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Brothers and sisters, we live in a world that doesn’t realize that they don’t have to walk around in darkness. They don’t even understand what it would be like to walk around with the Light of Life - namely Jesus Christ - guiding them!
May we share this good news of the Gospel with others. We have a lot of pen lights still left over. If you take a close look, you will see John 8:12 printed on them. I encourage you to grab a handful and pass them out to neighbors and coworkers and use them as a reminder that the Son has dawned! The light of the world has come.
As Christ said - Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
I pray that you have the Light of Life my friends. I pray that the Son has dawned in your life. I pray that you are not walking around in darkness. If you are walking in darkness, I’d love to share the light of the Gospel with you. Jesus is so kind and merciful my friends. Jesus is so kind that he has come to save infidels - or unbelievers. And he wants to work in and through us.
Finally we come to our final verse.
Luke 1:80 ESV
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
This is quite a summary verse for the life of John the Baptist. We will go on to hear more about John in chapter 3. But all we have of John’s life from birth until he starts his ministry is one verse here. This one verse signals a change. We have seen the narrative go back and forth between Jesus and John. Back and forth it has gone. And from now on we will see the main event being highlighted throughout the rest of the book. John becomes less and Jesus greater.
May our lives look like that as well. May we mirror even John the Baptist’s own words seen in John 3:30:
John 3:30 ESV
He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Scripture References: Malachi 4:5-6, Luke 1:17, Luke 3:3, Hebrews 12:1, Matthew 4:16, John 8:12, John 3:30
As we come to a close, we have seen that God is working through individuals. Our God is a personal God who uses individual people to bring His plan and purposes to fruition. He has used Zechariah and Elizabeth to bring forth John the Baptist who would go on to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. We also see that God is working through the nation of Israel here. We see the deliverance being offered and we have been able to reflect on the promises to Abraham and David of the coming Messiah. And finally, we see that God has even chose to work through infidels like we were before we believed in Jesus. We were all Gentile unbelievers. We were all doomed for destruction. Yet because the Light of Life has shown upon us, we have been offered the free gift of salvation. I pray that we have accepted that free gift and that we offer it freely to others.
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