24 December 2015

Luke 1:67-79

“The dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (vv. 78-79)

Psalm: Psalm 10


Some readers will recognise this passage as the Benedictus, used in some Christian traditions at morning prayer. It rounds off Luke's account of the birth of John the Baptist. It falls into two contrasting parts.

Verses 68 to 75 could fit easily into any Old Testament context. They speak of deliverance from enemies and the restoration of the kingdom of David. If we read them by themselves we could easily see them as a song about the liberation of Palestine from Roman rule. But we have to read them in the light of what follows.

Verses 76 to 79 refer to the infant John the Baptist. Here salvation more specifically refers to forgiveness of sins (verse 77), and "going before the Lord" (v. 76) must refer to John announcing the coming of Jesus (see Luke 3:1-22). Overall, it seems, the passage is saying that ancient hopes of political freedom are now being fulfilled in a new way, as deliverance from sin. Zechariah's words are "prophecy" (v. 67) in both senses, interpreting the present and declaring what is to come.

To Ponder

  • What is your experience of God giving light to those who are in darkness?
  • What, for you, are the enemies from which you look to God for deliverance?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..