Joining In Zechariah’s Praises

As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, there is a lot of eager anticipation—especially among those who are waiting to receive presents and to feast on high-calorie meals. While this anticipation can be quite strong among some, it is perhaps nowhere close to the anticipation felt by Zechariah and Elizabeth in the time leading up to the birth of their son. God had shown favour to Zechariah and Elizabeth by giving them a baby in their old age, and the months of waiting would have been thrilling for the couple.

But the best and the most exciting part through their months of waiting would have been to know that the Messiah had almost come, and that his own baby boy would actually be the one preparing the way for the Messiah. After a few generations of humiliation and oppression, the Jewish people were eagerly looking forward to God’s promised Messiah, the one who would put an end to their groanings and make the Kingdom of Israel a geo-political superpower. And although Zechariah’s initial response to the angel’s message had been one of doubt, there was no longer any doubt as he held John (the Baptist) in his arms and praised God in the song recorded for us in Luke 1:68-79.

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (ESV)

Zechariah understood that his boy would be the forerunner of the Messiah, and he praised God because:

1. God Saves
Although Jesus’ birth had not yet happened, Zechariah is so sure of God’s work that he says God “has visited and redeemed his people” (vs. 68) and He “has raised up a horn of salvation” (vs. 69). We see that in Zechariah’s understanding, aided by the Holy Spirit, the purpose of this was that Israel “should be saved” from her “enemies” and from “all those who hate” her (also see vs. 74). But that was not all—he understood that the salvation of God’s people had to do with the “forgiveness of their sins” (vs. 77). Zechariah praised God for the salvation that would be accomplished by the Messiah.

2. God Reveals
The reason Zechariah was so sure about the coming salvation is that it was rooted in Scripture. God had spoken about this salvation “by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (v. 70) and had “promised” to show mercy and to “remember his holy covenant” (v. 72). Zechariah also recognized that God had not only revealed his plans in the past,  but that He would also “give the knowledge of salvation” through John’s prophetic ministry. As a prophet of the Most High God, John would reveal God’s plan of salvation in his public ministry, ultimately by pointing to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Zechariah praised God for revealing His will to His people.

3. God Remembers
Zechariah was so sure about the salvation God was going to accomplish, not only because God had revealed His plans, but also because God remembers His promises. The fact that Zechariah had become a father at such an old age, and that Jesus was going to be born in a few months, was evidence to him that God had not forgotten His covenant with Abraham (vs. 72-73). God had promised to deliver His people so that they could “serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness” (vs. 74-75), and Zechariah knew that God would not forget to do what He said He would do. 

As we read and reflect on this song, and think about its relevance for us, we should start by realising that things have changed between Zechariah’s days and ours. The salvation which was the future for him has been accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ in our past. Zechariah looked forward with anticipation, and we can look backwards with gratitude.

However, we can rejoice and praise God for the same things that Zechariah praised Him for.

We can praise God because He is a God who saves. We know for a fact that God saves because the baby whom Zechariah sang about was not only born, but He lived, died and was raised to secure our salvation. In so doing, He has redeemed us, and has saved us from our enemies—satan, sin, and death. Because He has forgiven our sins and given us eternal life, we know that one day we will no longer have any enemies. And as we look forward with eager anticipation, we can praise Him!

We can praise God because He is a God who has revealed His will to us in His Word. Zechariah knew that God’s plans were centred on the appearance of the Messiah. But through the fulfilment of the first coming of Jesus, and the progressively revealed Scriptures, we know that God’s plans – for which the cross was central, will be consummated when the Messiah comes again. As we wait for this consummation, we can live our lives waiting for his return, clinging to Scripture for guidance.

We can praise God because He is a God who remembers His promises. The Bride of Christ has been waiting for the marriage feast of the Lamb for almost 2000 years. We can be assured that the “delay” of the Second Coming is not because God has forgotten anything. Jesus has not come yet, because it has not been time yet. This means that just as Zechariah was eagerly waiting for God to fulfil His promises, we can look forward with longing hearts to the time when we, having been “delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (vs. 74-75).

This Christmas, let us join in Zechariah’s praises! Let us rejoice in our salvation, as we cherish God’s revelation, and trust Him to be faithful to His promises. Let us celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, as we look forward to His victorious return!