Luke chapter 1, verse 68—there’s a design in the text as we talked about last week, the intention of the Holy Spirit to cause us to slow down and linger a little while on Zechariah’s Benedictus, his song of salvation, a prophetic word. Last week we used the hour to get an overview of this rich, very, very profound doxology, a song of blessing and praise. We’ve called this Zechariah’s Gospel Doxology because the song highlights gospel themes. God was acting in Zechariah’s day and Zechariah’s time with things he was seeing right in front of him, unfolding right in front of him. God was acting to bring about his plan of eternal salvation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, God has fulfilled Scripture—all of it, particularly the words of promise that he spoke to Israel in the Biblical covenants, and we talked about that a little bit last week. In the Gospel, God was bringing about the consummation of all praise, all joy, all song. And it concentrated the reason for the joy and the praise and honor and the blessing—all of it was concentrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and, as I said, Zechariah was watching this begin to happen, and he was absolutely amazed.
So Luke and the Holy Spirit, who was superintending his writing, wants us to slow down. He wants us to join Zechariah in his amazement and in his wonder. Frankly, many of us who’ve been raised in this culture have been set up for failure. We’re in danger of missing it. People today have been raised—no matter how young or how old—people have been raised in an age of unparalleled self-centeredness, a focus on the now. We live in a culture that is educated and that has influenced its children to serve the self, to indulge the self. The result: People don’t pay attention very well. There are so many options to pursue self-centeredness, so many choices on how to use our time to please ourselves, to gratify ourselves, where we can focus our attention. Historic truths of the Christian faith by comparison are distant and foreign. We’re used to being marketed to. We’ve become accustomed to the consumer-is-king model. We’re the consumers; therefore, we’re the kings. So, if the old historic truths of Scripture don’t reach out and grab the consumer’s attention, well, they’re just not going to get in, are they?
That’s okay. There are plenty of things to distract people. Plenty of shiny, pretty objects to look at, plenty of things to click on the iInternet, just change the channel if nothing looks good there and pass the popcorn, right? That’s how we’ve been raised. People today have been raised in a culture that favors the young, favors the new—a culture that is prejudiced against all that is old and historic. Many today see history as just an artifact, a matter of fleeting curiosity, largely irrelevant, though, on how we lives our lives every day. Many educators, many academics today tread clumsily through history. They even sometimes stomp around violently through history passing judgment as they go. Because we’ve come to such an elevated modern age, people become accustomed to looking down on the thinking of the past, criticizing from the lofty perch of modern progress. Wisdom of the past is judged, criticized, reinterpreted, or even all together ignored by the arrogance of the present, which looks not to the past, but instead to the false promises of the modern gods, modern idols. People today have put their faith in the god of progress, in the false hope that all problems, all issues, all challenges will be solved by science and technology in the very near future. Really, with the newest iPhone update.
That may be the spirit of the age, but it is not the spirit of Scripture. God points us to old truths, very old truths, just as Zechariah points us to God’s ancient ways. And Luke, the Gospel writer, points us also to listen to Zechariah, to ponder, to mediate on God’s eternal wisdom. These truths are not going to cater to the self-centeredness of a narcissistic age. These truths are not going to fawn over self-indulgent children. They’re not going to flatter them. These truths will not accommodate or pander to foolish, distracted minds. These truths are noble truths. They’re glorious truths, and they demand our attention just by virtue of being true and right. They demand our attention because they actually happened, and they’re reported to us by God from the heavens. So, all of us, no matter what age—some of you are saying, “Well, I’m older and I have more respect for ancient things.” Well, listen, if you grew up in the post-war generation after World War II, you’re used to being catered to as well. You’re no different than the youngest in the congregation. All of us are used to television and commercials and advertising and everything that says, “You are the most important person in the universe.” You’re used to being flattered.
We have to humble ourselves, don’t we, if we’re going to learn. We have to repent and turn away from every distraction. We have to devote our attention and our energy to learning what Zechariah prophesied by the Holy Spirit, filling him, energizing him, speaking through him to us. We’re not going to be prepared to live in the present or to have any hope in the future if we don’t understand what God has accomplished in the past. And that’s why Luke wants us to slow down, to concentrate and to meditate, to ponder and to consider the significance of what we’re reading.
So as we approach the text, we need to put ourselves, as hard as it is—it’s hard for every single one of us, it’s hard for me as well—but we need to put ourselves in Zechariah’s frame of mind as he anticipates what God was about to do, appreciating all that God had already done so that we can appreciate and be prepared to understand what’s coming in the rest of Luke’s Gospel. That’s what this is about.
So that said, and having been prepared last week with a bit of an overview with Zechariah’s song and some of the main themes, let’s get into the first few verses of this wonderfully rich prophecy, this doxology of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us through the prophecy of Zechariah. Follow along as I read starting in verse 68, saying: “‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 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 for our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 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. 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, 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.’”
What a beautiful portion of Scripture. As we pointed out last time, that opening line, “Blessed be the God of Israel,” is really the thesis statement of the entire song. Everything that follows elaborates and unpacks that theme. And as we look at verses 69 to 81 for this morning, that’s what we’re going to cover. We’re going to see several reasons why Zechariah blessed God. That’s really what this is about—the reasons he’s blessing God, why he’s so filled with joy and song. Right after that opening thesis statement, notice that little word, “for.” “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed.” That little word—it’s called a subordinate conjunction grammatically—that provides an explanation for Zechariah’s doxology. In fact, we could translate it either “for” or “because.” “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed.” After the little word “for,” the explanations start rolling out. The Lord, the God of Israel, has done three things as you notice there, three verbs. “He’s visited,” number one. Number two, “he’s redeemed,” verse 68. And then verse 69, number three, “he’s raised up a horn of salvation.” So you see visitation, redemption and the exaltation of a horn—three things, three reasons that Zechariah blesses God.
Let me show you another important little word that will help you see some structure. There’s another subordinating conjunction there at the beginning of verse 70. Look at verse 70. You see it there? It’s the word “as.” Some Bibles say, “just as.” That points back to things God had spoken beforehand through the prophets. Very important verse there. It’s parenthetical. It’s like a parenthesis within the structure. It’s very important. Then, back in verse 71, Zechariah continues picking up that theme of salvation again, and he carries it forward a little further to explain the kind of salvation brought by the horn of salvation. More detail on the nature of salvation. So, that’s the structure, that’s what’s in front of you. But the structure, understand, that’s just the framework, right? That’s the framework for the truth that Zechariah is blessing God for. What we want to focus on for this morning is the content, right? The truth that’s framed within this elaborate, poetic structure.
“There’s a fullness of salvation that’s realized in the New Testament that wasn’t fully comprehended or understood in the Old.”Travis Allen
So what is the content? What is the truth that’s framed within this structure? What’s this about? Well, there’s a very important and familiar term repeated three times in this song. It’s the word “salvation.” It shows up three times. Look at verse 69—it speaks of a horn of what? Salvation, right? Look at verse 71—it refers to salvation again—salvation from enemies, “the hand of all who hate us.” Then look down in verse 77—it refers to the knowledge of salvation. The term “salvation” then—just used three times and scattered throughout the song—is really the theme. And you see the theme of salvation really does dominate the entire song even if the word’s not used even more times than three. From start to finish, this is a song of salvation. Notice the terms. Just walk through: “redemption” in verse 69; look at verse 70 mention salvation; verse 71 – the word “saved”; “mercy” in verse 72; “deliverance” in verse 74; “salvation,” again as I mentioned, verse 77. Also, in verse 77 it talks about forgiveness of sins, right? “Tender mercy” in verse 78. Verse 79: “light to those in darkness and the way of peace.” The whole song is saturated in salvation-oriented terms. So, this is rich, rich salvation theology. Theologians refer to this as soteriology. This is a song of soteriology – the doctrine of salvation.
And as Zechariah unpacks his reasons for blessing God—all the reasons point to one truth: God is Savior. And this is where the themes of Mary’s song and Zechariah’s song really come to together as one magnificent theme. God is Savior. Look back at Luke 1:46. Mary, at the beginning of her song says, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in,” what? “God my savior,” right? “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Saved her. Mary’s song exalts in God as her personal savior first of all, but then she, as we talked about, she expands to see how God has concerned saving concern for really all who are humble. He lifts them all up. Zechariah’s song also rejoices in God as savior, but Zechariah is more focused on national themes. He’s more focused on covenant promises, eschatological fulfillment. He’s talking about the theology of God’s saving plan. And as a teaching priest, that’s what we might expect, right? I mean he is a teacher, he’s the theologian, he’s a priest, he’s always ministering truth to God’s people. So, it’s entirely fitting for Zechariah’s song to kind of reflect his nature, reflect his profession and his life’s work.
So as we begin to look at the reasons Zechariah blesses God here in verse 68 to 71, we’re going to see several aspects of God’s saving plan. People today may have boiled this down into a few points on the Roman’s road, but God’s version is a little bit longer. It takes a few more minutes to cover the ground. Hope you’ve got some time. Maybe an hour or so. But this is the salvation that God planned in eternity past. He’s revealed this over many, many centuries, in fact over several millennia, thousands of years. And this is the salvation that you and I as gentiles living thousands of years after these events described, living on the other side of the world, different culture, different kinds of people—we’ve been grafted in to this. This is our story right here. We share a continuity with these people. You think, “Well no, my people come from Europe. I come from, you know, over here in this part of the world or that part of the world.” “No, the people that came here…” No, no that’s not your people. I need to tell you. You’re no longer those people. You’re citizens of the kingdom of heaven. This is your story right here.
So we’re going to learn God’s version of the plan of salvation. This is the salvation that God has planned from eternity past, revealed it over several centuries—we’ve been joined into this by God’s grace. Through the virtue of a God-given faith, we’ve been joined into this. We’ve been grafted into it because of our union with Jesus Christ that he gave us through the Holy Spirit. So when we get a grasp of divine salvation from Zechariah’s perspective, we’re going to find ourselves with every reason to rejoice, so much cause for rejoicing and unshakeable joy that’s undiminished and growing ever more by the day because we have an unshakeable assurance and confident in our God because we’ve seen what he’s done in the past.
Take a look at the first point in your outline. God revealed salvation progressively. But you may not understand exactly what that means. So, let’s start there—just defining the terms, okay? Then I’m going to show you in the text. When we talk about the progressive nature of divine revelation, or we could say the progressive nature of salvation, we’re talking about how God revealed his plan in the Bible with increasing levels of clarity as time moved forward, okay? Anybody’s casual reading in the Bible—if you start in Genesis and read to Revelation, you’ll see that. You’ll see that the New Testament seems to be far more detailed, far more propositional than some of the storied truths of the Old Testament, some of the poetic truths of the Old Testament. Anybody can see that. There’s a fullness of salvation that’s realized in the New Testament that wasn’t fully comprehended or understood in the Old. For example, consider the increasing clarity in these just three verses here. Genesis 3:15, right at the beginning of the Bible, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” That’s God’s curse on the serpent, right? But in the curse on the serpent is the promise of Gospel for us. That’s the Gospel in seed form. But it took the New Testament revelation to go back and realize what all that meant, right?
Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed.” You ask any Christ-rejecting Jew today what that means, and they have no idea. You know in most synagogues, they don’t even read Isaiah 53. The rabbis just pass right over it. It’s confusing. Why? Because they’ve rejected Messiah, who would explain all of that. They come to Isaiah 53 and say, “What’s it talking about?” Remember the Ethiopian eunuch? He’s reading from this text. He says, “Who’s he talking about?” Well, then we come to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who knew no sin.” Who’s that? Only one. Jesus Christ already revealed. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Now we see the salvation of God, the imputation of sin to Christ and God punishing him instead of us. We see the imputation of his righteousness to us; even though we didn’t do all his righteousness, now we have it. We’re righteous before God and him. We see all that fulfilled in one verse and it’s all explained because we know the story. Christ came. It’s all clear.
Many other example in the Bible. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, but listen to this good, good explanation from Charles Hodge, who explained this concept of progressive revelation in his Systematic Theology. He said this: “All that is in a full grown tree was potentially in the seed. All that we find unfolded in the fullness of the Gospel lies in a rudimentary form in the earliest books of the Bible. What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts in the sacred volume until the truth is revealed in its fullness. This is true of the doctrines of redemption, of the purpose and work of the Messiah, the promised seed of the woman, of the nature and office of the Holy Spirit and of a future state beyond the grave.” That’s what we’re seeing here unfold in the first few verses of Zechariah’s song. He’s unfolding the salvation from that seed to a fledgling plant, to a fully developed and blossoming and fruitful tree.
Take a look there in verses 68 to 69: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” There you are—the reason Zechariah has given for blessing the Lord: God has visited, God has redeemed, and he’s raised up a horn of salvation. Those are progressively revealed steps in God’s sweeping plan of salvation. Now this is a stair-step structure here in verse 68 to 69; you can kind of see it. A short statement, a little bit longer statement and then a long statement at the end. You find some of that in the Psalms and the Prophets. It shows a graduating kind of specificity there, a progressive clarity of meaning. The first statement’s very short, “God has visited.” Not even a direct object there, just “God has visited.” Then, that’s expanded in the second statement, which has a direct object, “God has redeemed.” Who has he redeemed? His people. Little bit longer. Then the third statement goes further even longer, “God has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” You see how it’s progressive? It’s growing in specificity, growing in clarity and what it shows is the steady intentional consistent marching along of God’s sovereign plan to accomplish what he set out to do, which is this: to save sinners from all of their sins.
Let’s take each of those phrases one a time. First phrase: “God has visited.” Very interesting word—that word “visited.” It’s episkeptomi. The root idea is to give a sense of going out and seeking somebody, going out and getting them. The idea is to seek someone, pursue the person, find him. But it’s never—get this—it’s never seeking out somebody for selfish reasons. It’s always out of a sense of loving responsibility. It’s a sense of sacrificial, self-sacrificing concern for the good of somebody else. This is a visitation, it’s visiting, it’s going after, and it’s going after for their good. It’s actually the same root that the word “overseer” comes from—episkopos. Pastors and shepherds, elders and overseers—their role in the church can be summed up with this word: “visitation.” Visitation for the good, getting into your business for the good of you. That’s the idea. Their role in the church is summed up there with oversight, drawing near to people with shepherding concern, with helpful intent. That’s what God did for Israel, that’s what God has done for his people. God first visited Israel when Israel, that is, Jacob, was still in the loins of his father, Isaac, and he was still in the loins of his father, Abraham, right? First visitation from God to that family is through the patriarch Abraham, right? In Genesis 12:1 to 3, it says this, “Now the Lord said to Abram [he wasn’t even called Abraham at that point], ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” Abram didn’t seek that. He didn’t go out looking for God one day among all the idols of Ur of the Chaldeans where he lived. He didn’t even know Yahweh before that time. God just visited, spoke to him, promised him good.
That’s what Zechariah calls to mind with that short little phrase, “God visited.” He just arrives, shows up. Zechariah hasn’t been too specific here. We don’t really know precisely what he’s talking about—if he’s talking about the visitation to Abraham or somebody else. We don’t know the timing or the circumstances of this visitation, just a general reference to the past, “God has visited.” So, he takes a second step in progressive clarity here. “God has redeemed his people.” Now for every Jew who heard Zechariah’s prophecy in person—that is, all those relatives and neighbors who came, remember the naming committee a couple Sundays ago? They came there, they heard these words. Every Jew who read these words later, every Jew who’s heard about the report throughout the hill country of Judea where all these things were spoken about—that word “redemption” was significant, right? The word redemption brought them mentally right back to the Exodus from Egypt.
Just to show you this quickly, turn back to the book of Exodus. You’ll actually see these first two verbs, “visited” and “redeemed,” in their Old Testament context. First, just turn to Exodus Chapter 4. Fourth chapter in Exodus—when the book of Exodus opens, the Israelites have been in Egypt for 400 years. Circumstances that led to their sojourn in Egypt were related to a very severe, widespread seven-year famine, a devastating drought. Everybody was seeking food, and because God had sent Joseph there ahead of all of his brothers to stockpile food, well, Israel took his family down there. But even that was not an accident. Even that was God’s doing. God, after all, promised Abraham back in Genesis 15 verses 13 to 16, God said, “Know for certain your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for 400 years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. They shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” You watch God in all his sovereignty even thinking about the Amorites knowing that some things need to progress there before he brings his people back to exercise judgment on them. Amazing. Amazing picture, insight into God’s sovereignty. But when God first began to visit Abraham, he promised this sojourn in Egypt. He promised 400 years. He planned the 400 years of affliction and slavery. Hard to wrap your mind around that especially if you’re an Israelite living through that age.
He also promised to bring them out. And that’s where the book of Exodus begins. There arose a new king over Egypt, a pharaoh who did not know Joseph, and that pharaoh ratcheted up the pressure. He increased the affliction, he strengthened his stranglehold on the children of Israel. You could look at Exodus 2:23. It says there, “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery, and they cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel [and get this, love this phrase] and God knew.” God knew. So God raised up a delivered, a redeemer in Moses. God sovereignly protected Moses, making sure he was not slaughtered with all the other infanticide that was going on Egypt. God sovereignly protected him; he providentially educated him, raising him in Pharaoh’s household with all the learning of Egypt. And then God drove Moses away into the wilderness of Midian so he could visit him, so he could educate him, so he could commission him, and then send him back into Egypt to deliver his people from the hand of Pharaoh. After God gave the overarching plan to Moses there in the wilderness, Moses explained the plan to his brother, Aaron, the two of them in Exodus Chapter 4 there at the end convened the elders of Israel to relay the message to them. Notice there in verse 31, Exodus 4:31, “The people believed., and when they heard that the Lord had visited—there’s that term—the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped.” Just pause and think about that for a moment.
When Zechariah began his song, the first reason he states for the blessing of God is that “God has visited.” And whether it is the gracious initiative that God showed with Abram, visiting him in a land of paganism, teaching him about himself, calling him to himself, pulling him away, sending him to a different promised land—whether it’s that which Zechariah is referring to with “God visited,” or whether it was the merciful intervention that God demonstrated toward Abraham’s offspring, the phrase, “God has visited,” is meant just like it did for the people of Israel here; it’s meant to evoke worship. It’s meant to evoke praise, appreciation, joy. Listen, God has visited us, has he not? He’s visited us in that cross, sending his own son to die for our sins. We need to stop all the time, beloved,, bow our heads in humility, and worship because God has visited us in grace and mercy as well. He’s been so kind, and not a day should pass when we don’t see our sinfulness. Not a day should pass by when we don’t see our need and bow in dependence, humbly before him to confess our sins, but then to remember, oh yeah, he visited in Jesus Christ. He’s erased everything on the cross. Praise God. Praise God for that.
After Moses and Aaron visited the elders of Israel, you know, things didn’t get better; they got worse. That’s often the case when God is working—things don’t get easier. Often they can get harder, more difficult, more painful. Ask any brand new Christian after they’ve kind of gone through the heights of salvation and joy, all of a sudden they get into, “Whoa, am I a sinner!” and “Man, is this hard. I’ve never seen all this sin in my life like I’m seeing it now. Wow, my conscience is all of a sudden sharp and this hurts. Sanctification is hard and it feels painful to go through this.” Any new believer will tell you that and if you’ve lost that sense, listen, go talk to a new believer. We’re going to have a baptism service, Lord willing, November 1. You’ll get to hear a bunch of testimonies from believers. You’ll get to rejoice in that once again. God has visited us, but when God is working, sometimes things get hard, more difficult, more painful. That’s certainly what happened with the Israelites.
“Everything was great until Solomon turned his heart from the Lord.”Travis Allen
Turn ahead to another verse in Exodus, Exodus 6:1. Moses and Aaron visited Pharaoh, and they told him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go.’” You know what Pharaoh said? “No, not gonna.” You would think it would be easy. I like easy, don’t you like easy? I mean, couldn’t Pharaoh just say, “Sure, go ahead, go worship your God in the wilderness, that’d be fine. I mean, take whatever time you need. After all, I don’t want to impose my beliefs on yours.” No, he wasn’t that tolerant, was he? Pharaoh said, “Go pound sand.” That’s a shortened form of the more literal translation, “Go make bricks out of straw.” Go pound sand. People groaned under their burdens, right? All of a sudden they’ve got to make the same quota of bricks, but they can’t use any straw. Now they just got to use sand. Hard to make bricks that way. So they groaned under their burdens. Know what they did like all good people in submission to their leadership? They turned on Moses and Pharaoh. They wanted to, you know, kill them and go back to Egypt. And, like all godly leaders in times of crisis, Moses and Aaron turned to God in prayer. They bowed before God and the Lord answered. Look at Exodus Chapter 6, verse 1: “But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.’” God spoke to Moses and said to him, “‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, as God almighty, but by my name the Lord [that is, Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel, whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and [here’s the word] I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”’”
You hear that word, “redeem,” in verse 6? That’s the verb gaal in Hebrew. It means to rescue, to liberate, to free somebody. But, get this: The freedom comes at a cost. To redeem is to deliver someone from danger or oppression, but it’s by paying a ransom price. Redemption means the price has been paid. Redemption results, then, in ownership. Redemption results in a transfer of ownership from one master over to another. The one being redeemed has been bought and paid for. Before the one who is being redeemed—he has been completely subdued by his owner. He’s under the tyranny of his master just as Israel was under the tyranny of Pharaoh and the one being redeemed is at the complete mercy of the redeemer. He’s waiting for the arm of redemption to be revealed. He’s waiting for the price to be paid when he can be finally set free. So, what was the cost of Israel’s redemption? Thousands and thousands and thousands of innocent spotless little lambs. Lots of bloodshed. That was the price. God sent the angel of the Lord to pass through Egypt for judgment. You know how he made a distinction between the Egyptian households and his people’s households. Blood, right? His people were identifiable by the blood that covered their households, by the blood of an innocent little lamb literally painted on their lintels and doorposts that covered their houses for an atonement. At that point, they belonged to him. God had become their redeemer, and he flexed a strong arm of redemption and cast them out of the land of Egypt. He actually led them out. Pharaoh cast them out, he led them out.
Jeremiah 31:10-11: “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.” Like a good shepherd, God delivered his redeemed people, those who belonged to him, out of the jaws of Pharaoh. So then, the exodus from Egypt; then eventually, as we read the story, we know the story and it eventually led Israel to Sinai. They entered into the Mosaic covenant. They agreed to obey the law that God gave Moses at the Mount of Sinai. All that and the verb there, “God visited,” refers maybe to the Abrahamic covenant. We can see that maybe the second verb, “God redeemed,” referenced the Mosaic covenant. Redemption from Egypt entering into Sinai. God visited and then he redeemed his people. The general statement about visitation becomes more specific when we talk about redemption. We see all that is unpacked in “God visited.” It also means “God redeemed.” The salvation of God right here in this verse, a couple verses in Luke. Go back to Luke Chapter 1. A couple verses there in Luke; all this is being revealed progressively, right? As the Abrahamic covenant is administrated through the Mosaic covenant, there’s more revealed, more explained.
Let’s take one more step in the progressive revelation of salvation. And it’s here in verse 69, “God raised up.” “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and [third thing] he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” Now, here is where it gets really interesting. This reference to the horn of salvation refers to, as you might imagine, the saving strength of God. It’s concentrated in a single person from the house of David. Now, just as the strength of an animal is concentrated—all that power, all that force, all that muscle—is concentrated into the horn, and that horn is used to either attack or to defend against enemies—same thing here. All the power of God to save concentrated, resting in the Messiah, the son of David. All the force of omnipotence coming to head in a point in Jesus Christ. This is all about the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. We read that earlier. Psalm 132, “The Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place […] There [he says] I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.”
Since this is obviously an explicit reference to the Davidic covenant, let’s turn again in Scripture. Go back to 2 Samuel chapter 7. This is the Davidic Covenant. It’s also, I believe, in 1 Chronicles 17. This is the Davidic Covenant. Let me just read that there because I want you to see how specific the fulfillment actually is. 2 Samuel Chapter 7, verse 1 there: “Now when the king [this is David] lived in his house and the Lord has given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’” It’s bugging David. I mean, what right has he, as a mere man, to live in something so splendid, so marvelous as a palace like that and God is living in a tent? The ark is in a tent. So, Nathan gets it. He says to the king, verse 3: “Go do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” I mean Nathan couldn’t agree more. “But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, [Change of plans], “Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I’ve not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’”’” God’s content, you know, filling the entire universe. “Heaven is my throne, earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you would build for me?” (Isaiah 66:1) Right?
“But now, therefore, [such a gracious word] thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. And when your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with a rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
And just let me isolate and list the elements of the Davidic covenant for you. In Verse 9, you can see there that God promised David a great name. In verses 10 to 11, God promised Israel a safe home, a place of permanence, a place of peace and security, no more threats. In verses 12 to 15, God promised to raise up offspring from David, an eternal son first, spoken of in verses 12 to 13, but also his immediate offspring, Solomon, verses 14 and 15. But it was through that eternal son, verse 16, that David would have an eternal house and eternal kingdom and an eternal throne, right?
In Zechariah’s day, the only element of that covenant that had been fulfilled was verses 14 and 15. God had shown special favor to David’s son, Solomon. It was through Solomon that Israel’s golden age was realized. Massive developments and sophisticated culture—it was all from a God-given wisdom. Literature, poetry, music, wisdom, all kinds of horticulture, architecture and engineering—all in Solomon’s kingdom. He was renowned through the entire world so that royalty from around the world would visit Solomon to sit at his feet. This tiny little nation right there in the center of the world, the kings and the queens from around the earth would come to and visit, and they’d go home in wonder. Everything was great until Solomon turned his heart from the Lord. His heart drifted because of all of his allegiances with foreign wives, and the nation began an immediate decline. God had promised “when he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men and the rod of men certainly came upon him.” His foolish son, Rehoboam, split the kingdom, led to Israel and the northern tribes and Judah and the southern couple of tribes and by Zechariah’s time, the nation had gone through massive denigration, exiled, come back, but they’re a shadow of what they once were. The everlasting kingdom. Where’s that? The throne of the house of David.
Until now. Zechariah is here watching the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant. Both are happening right in front of him. He’s seeing this take place. This where we find something really curious in the text. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God first visited his people, right? And then, that led to the Exodus from Egypt because God took his people to Egypt; then he pulled them out of Egypt, brought them to Sinai, gave them the law, established the Mosaic Covenant, brought them to the land, and they started to inhabit the land. And God governed Abraham’s descendants to the Law of Moses. Zechariah had been using past tense verbs, right? That makes sense talking about things God visited, God redeemed, God accomplished redemption. Both of them past tense. When we get into verse 69 Zechariah continues with the past tense. But notice, he’s not talking about something past tense, is he? This is happening, like I said, right in front of him, in the now, in the present tense. In fact, the most significant issues of fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant were a permanent home of safety, security, and peace for Israel. Eternal offspring of David, who’d usher in an eternal house, an eternal kingdom, eternal throne. None of that had happened yet. That’s all in the future. And yet, Zechariah uses past tense to speak of it.
In Zechariah’s lifetime, the house of David continued, but only as a matter of identifying ancestry, only for tracing genealogical heritage, and yet, verse 69, “He has raised up.” Past tense. Done deal. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David and we, we thought we knew it, we thought we understood what was going on, but now, we’re tripped up in our reading, aren’t we? Wait a minute, we’re flowing along just fine looking backward, backward, backward. What God had done—Abraham, Moses, Exodus—now we’re questioning the time reference. Are we talking about something that happened in the past? Is Zechariah referring to Abraham, Exodus, David, or is he talking about present visitation of God right now—the birth of John, the coming birth of Jesus Christ, Jesus growing in the womb of Mary? Or is Zechariah now pointing to the future? The visitation, redemption and horn of salvation in the saving work of Jesus Christ, which is all future.
You know what? We get our answer by reading the rest of the song, don’t we? The answer to the question—is this referring to past, the present, the future—you know what the answer is? Yes. Yes! That’s right. Ultimately, Zechariah is pointing us to the fulfillment of the New Covenant, ratified in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The shedding of his blood was the New Covenant, and that New Covenant resulted in the forgiveness of sins for God’s people, for everyone who believes. And in that New Covenant, you know what? We’re all fulfillers of the Mosaic Covenant. And you know what? We’re all incorporated into the Abrahamic Covenant. And you know what? Oh, the David Covenant, by the way, is also fulfilled. That’s what Zechariah’s song is all about. Everything fulfilled in Christ. But by the way Zechariah enters into the song, the way this prophecy begins, we the readers are prompted—involuntarily I might add—we’re prompted to consider everything God has done in the past. We’re forced to think, to remember, to look back to everything that he has spoken. Verse 70, look back at Luke 1:70, we’re forced to remember and look back to everything that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. God planned for his salvation to unfold, to be revealed not all at once, but progressively through the ages. Why? What’s the point? Why not drop it all into us right at one time? Because God is shepherding his people. He wants his people—each generation of his people—to look back at the revelation of his wisdom, of his mercy, his patience, his kindness, his amazing grace throughout history. He wants us to look back, to study, to learn because it’s in what has been revealed and what is written that we find certainty, conviction the truth, confidence in our God. It’s right there in black and white. Cannot be denied. Such amazing wisdom in this song. Two verses—we’ve seen it.
Well, now that we’ve done all the heavy lifting in that first point, I told you I’m going to get several points in rapid succession, okay? Look at your outline, get your pen ready because it’s going to go fast. Kindness of God revealed in his visitation—it led to his kindness in redemption and that redemption leads us to a second point in our outline, namely, God planned salvation particularly. Very short point, but we need to make it here. Notice the first few verses of those who God intends to save. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he has visited and redeemed.” Who? “His people.” That means not all are his people, right? “He’s visited and redeemed his people and he 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, so that we should be saved from all our enemies”—our enemies, first person plural—“and from the hand of all who hate us.” Look at verse 72, “our fathers;” verse 73, “our father, to grant us;” verse 74, “that we might serve him;” verse 77, “knowledge of salvation to his people;” the tender mercy in verse 70 of “our God shall visit us from on high to give light and guide our feet;” verse 79, “into the way of peace.”
Look, when God visited, when God redeemed, it came at a cost. And that cost is the purchase price of his people. He paid it for us. Faith is the qualifying factor, the equalizing virtue. It’s what marks the division between God’s people and the people of the world, between God’s people and the people who belong to sin, Satan and death. The redeemed—they belong to God. Like David, they are servants of God. God has redeemed them, raised up a horn of salvation to save them.
Third point. Told you that point would be quick. Third: God promised salvation repeatedly. Verse 70—a parenthetical statement, but very important. God visited, accomplished redemption, raised up a horn of salvation as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. That verse is an extremely helpful explanation about the nature of prophecy. It can belong in a theology of understanding prophecy and all that means. God didn’t speak through just anyone; he set apart his prophets. They were his mouthpieces, and that’s how we should read the word “holy” there. Not just anyone—one set apart by God to speak his word. But notice the subject. Who spoke? Not them. God spoke. God spoke—singular. Many human voices in the multiple prophets of old, but just one mouth, just one voice, God spoke. Zechariah stopped the flow to make this point. He obviously wants us to see God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his word, but he also wants to highlight the historical continuity of what we’re involved in here. This is not some new or novel thing. This is not some renegade movement to overthrow the Romans from the land of Israel and restore Israelite rule in Israel in the land. This is what God has been promising from the very beginning. This is a continuity from start to finish. As we said before, the plan of salvation—it’s been revealed progressively. The sunrise from on high is going to shine forth giving light to everyone, and that rising sun is none other than the horn of salvation in the house of David. When God revealed himself in the rising son, s-o-n, no more need to be said.
Let’s look at another point here. Last point: God revealed salvation progressively, he planned salvation particularly, he promised salvation repeatedly. Final point: God intended salvation comprehensively. The final verse elaborates on the nature of salvation. Verse 71, “God has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” We’re going to say more about this next week, but Israel had a lot of enemies, a lot of enemies historically, and even to the present day. But you know the greatest enemy in Israel? You might say, well, it says the hand of all who hate us. Who is inspiriting that hatred? Satan. Who’s the greatest enemy of Israel? Satan. Well, what did Satan do? Satan provoked sin in Israel so that Israel’s heart turned away from the Lord. So you might say sin is the enemy. No, God is the enemy. For all those who embrace sin, God is the enemy. And that’s why the New Covenant was so necessary to provide forgiveness of sins that would turn God from enemy into friend. Not by changing God, but by changing us. More on that next time. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we have so much to learn from what you’ve revealed in the past in your holy word. We are so grateful for the truths contained in your word that save us and sanctify us. We pray that you would help us to break from this culture—the culture we’ve been weaned in, raised in, the culture that flows through us whether we like it or not, that teaches us to ignore the things of old. Father, help us not to do that, but to turn and praise the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s in his name we pray