Monday

24 December 2012

"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 by the forgiveness of their sins." (vv. 76-77)


Background

When Mary celebrated the promise of God to her that she would bear the Messiah, she celebrated by singing of how God exalted the humble and cast down the proud. Her song is one of salvation as social wrongs being righted, and reminds us of the importance of the poor in God's salvation. In today's passage we see a contrast, for Zechariah, who had literally been made speechless (Luke 1:20) since hearing the news of his wife's pregnancy with their son (to become known as John the Baptist) sings a song of celebration at the birth. This song adds to our understanding of the nature of salvation - for here Zechariah not only speaks of external wrongs being righted - 'we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us' - but also of the internal nature of salvation. He speaks of salvation including forgiveness of sins (verse 77), light in the darkness (verses 78-79) and a way into peace (verse 79). Although we can see these as making a difference outwardly, yet we also see them being clearly about the internal life of the believer.

It is also worth noting that what Zechariah sees happening is clearly to be set in the context of the whole of salvation history. He sees the coming of the "mighty saviour" (verse 69) as the delivery of promised mercy to his ancestors (verse 72) and the covenant made with Abraham. To give such high description of this event is to make absolutely clear the central importance of what he sees happening.

Also fascinating is Zechariah's implied message about Jesus. He speaks of his son John being "the prophet of the Most High" and going "before the Lord to prepare his ways". Either John sees Jesus as the Lord himself, or, at least being the one which God is sending with salvation. Either way, this song elevates our understanding of what is happening in these events - God is coming to earth in Christ.


To Ponder  

  • How do you understand salvation - both its external and internal nature?
  • Do you feel that light in the darkness is something that you need just now? Or could help someone else find? What nature might this light take?


Bible notes author: Piers Lane

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