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