PRAISE BE TO THE LORD
Key Verse 1:69
“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.”
In the last passage Mary sang her song of praise to God: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” And, in this passage, Zechariah sings a song of praise to the Lord. Why was Zechariah so joyful that he burst out in song? And what was the subject of his song of praise? Zechariah had much to be thankful for and to praise God for. But he praised God mostly because God came to this world in order to save his people. Jesus, the Savior, would be a Horn of Salvation that would free his people from sin. May God open our hearts today to listen to Zechariah’s song of praise in order that we might have a song of praise to God in our hearts this Christmas season.
Let’s read verse 57. “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.” This was no ordinary event. The priests of God, Zechariah and Elizabeth, had been painfully childless for many years. However, they lived by faith, and overcame their hardship. By faith, they gave themselves to the study and obedience of God’s word and to prayer. And in God’s right time, God blessed them with a son. Let’s read verse 58. “Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.” The people living in Zechariah’s times, could not see the hope of God amidst the sinfulness of the generation. They could only see the tragedies of the day and despair. But now, they could see the hand of God working in this family, and new hope was born in their hearts. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family became a source of blessing. How wonderful it is when families overcome their personal difficulties of life, and instead, live by faith! As God works through their faith, they also become a source of blessing.
Let’s read verses 59-63. These verses tell the events surrounding John’s birth. On the eighth day, it was customary to name the child. Mostly, they would name him after his father. And everyone assumed his name would be Little Zechariah. However Elizabeth objected. She said “No! He is to be called John.” (60) Then they turned to Zechariah to see what he would say. Zechariah requested “for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John.’” (63) We must realize that it was not easy for them to name their son, John. Perhaps it was one of the difficult things for this godly couple to do. So let’s learn the greatness of this family naming their son John.
First, in order to name the boy John, they had to go against strict Jewish tradition. A priestly family must uphold religious and cultural traditions. Therefore, everyone expected them to uphold tradition by naming the boy Little Zechariah. They were under great pressure to follow cultural tradition. But surprisingly, they broke tradition and named him John, instead. They did so, because first, it was the name given him by the angel. They also did so because they were servants of the Lord, who lived to serve God’s will and not human and cultural tradition. At times, what God wants his people to do goes against culture and tradition. But Zechariah and Elizabeth were not slaves of tradition. They were rather, servants of God. It took “spiritual guts and courage” for them to challenge the tradition and to follow the will of God.
God instructed them to name their son, John. In other words, though John was their son, he first belonged to God. He was ordained at birth to serve God’s mission in his life. Therefore, he must be raised as a servant of God. He must learn to give his life to God and to God’s mission. Because of his difficult mission, he would have to suffer. This godly couple knew these facts well! At this time, it was necessary for them to make some decision regarding their son. And they made a decision of faith to name him John, which means “God’s child” to be raised in God’s way. To name him John also meant to surrender him to the Lord and to his work, to encourage him to live the life of faith and holy mission. We can imagine how difficult it must have been for them! But they were determined to commit their son to the Lord to do with him as he pleased. We also must have enough faith to surrender our children to the Lord, that they might serve gospel history in God’s right time.
Let’s read verse 64. “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.” Zechariah’s training was over. Imagine not being able to talk for nine months. During those nine long months of silence Zechariah had learned that God’s word was true. And now, the first thing that Zechariah did was to sing a song of praise to God. Through his song we learn about God, particularly about the coming of Jesus as the Savior of the world. Let’s think about the meaning of Zechariah’s song.
First, Zechariah praised God because he has come and has redeemed his people. Let’s read verse 68. “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” For generations God was silent, as if he had abandoned the earth. During that time, most people despaired. However there lived a priest of God, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who walked with God. Although God had not spoken for many generations, they did not doubt God’s love and his faithfulness to his promises. They continued to have faith that someday God would send the Savior of the world to save his people from their sins. And the promised Savior was about to be born to Mary. It was this knowledge that filled Zechariah’s heart with praise. So he praised God testifying to God’s faithfulness.
So what does it mean that God has come and has redeemed his people? It means that God came to visit his people. It is indeed so incredible that God in his majesty left his throne in heaven and came down to earth to visit his people. No human being is able to visit God because human beings are steeped in sin. Because of sin God should destroy the whole earth like he did during Noah’s time But he didn’t. Instead, God came! He humbly came to us when we could not go to him. He came to help us. Our God is a humble God. He came to suffer together with us. He came to serve us. And he came to save us. Surely God came to us in our desperate need. He plants the hope of eternal life. He restores love to broken lives. And he plants faith in the place of doubt. Surely, God is our shepherd who came to visit us. When we know and remember this grace in our lives, we can tell the wonderful story of our God who came to visit all sinners that he might restore them to himself. This Christmas we also must praise God who came to save us.
Second, Zechariah praised God because he is a horn of salvation. Let’s read verse 69. “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” In the Bible there are two kinds of horns, a horn of destruction and a horn of salvation. The horn of destruction is the horn of Satan, a horn that impales hearts and leaves them to die spiritually. Satan holds the power of sin in his hands. And throughout history he has caused much suffering to all people through the power of sin and death. When people are impaled by the horn of Satan, they are spritually wounded. Satan impales us, for example, through fear, doubt, anger, sorrow, lust, pride, complaining, bitterness, despair. And there are countless other examples. No one is exempt from Satan’s horn. Emotions and human thinking often become the playground of Satan who impales a person to the many thoughts and feelings common to this world. He also leaves them helpless. It is for this reason that God has raised up for us a horn of salvation.
Jesus is the horn of our salvation, and every person needs him to deliver them from Satan’s horn of destruction. No one can deliver themself. Most people think that the problem of evil in this world can be solved if we have the proper means to solve it. They do not realize that they are dealing with a formidable enemy who is humanly undefeatable. People who are slaves to the sinful nature often say: “I can stop sinning, if I want to. I just don’t want to.” Others who are slaves of chronic despair and sorrow often say: “I like feeling sorry for myself.” But in truth, no one likes their spiritual wounds. Sin makes us miserable. For this reason God sent Jesus, the Horn of salvation to save us.
How did Jesus accomplish what no one else could ever do? Jesus gave his life on the cross for the sins of the world. Through his precious blood shed on the cross he brought forgiveness for sin and salvation. Through his resurrection he brought power to set the heart free from sin. What Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection was none other than the power of God to rescue all those who put their faith in him. Apostle Paul describes this victory saying: “..he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.” (Col.1:13,14) There are many proofs of redemption and of deliverance in God’s history. Anyone who comes to Jesus in their helplessness, and puts their faith in Jesus, has deliverance for their soul. God tells us: “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” (2Cor.6:2)
And there is a purpose why God saves us. First of all, he does so because God loves us with an undying love. God’s love for his children will always be the same yesterday, today and forever. But there is more. Let’s read verses 74 and 75. “…to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” God saves us that we might restore our purpose of life in God, which is to serve him. All people were created by God for a special purpose. No person was created to only go to school, work, eat and then just die. Instead, God created us in his image as noble creatures that we might live our lives for the glory of God. Jesus rescues us so we can serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.
Third, Zechariah praised God because he gave the knowledge of salvation. Let’s read verse 77. “…to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” Why is repentance a necessary companion to faith? Repentance is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. Without repentance there can be no forgiveness. When we repent of our sins, “Lord, forgive me of my sins”, it’s like putting our dirty clothes in the washing machine to be cleaned. Likewise, when we repent of our sins, God cleanses all our sins away. Repentance is also a way of life. A life of repentance prepares the heart for the dwelling of Christ our Lord. Our sins estrange us and alienate us from our Loving Father God. But repentance brings us near to him. Therefore we must listen to God’s life-giving words day by day and maintain a life of repentance. Then we can grow in the knowledge of salvation. And when we grow in the knowledge of salvation through daily repentance and cleansing from sin, we too can praise God. We all need this knowledge of salvation in order to grow in a life of faith and to effectively serve God’s purpose in our lives.
Fourth, Zechariah praised God because he is the rising sun. Let’s read verses 78 and 79a. “…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death…” Before Jesus came, all people in this world were living in darkness. We had no hope. We had no life nor life direction. In darkness, we despaired and only struggled to survive in this hopeless and perishing world. But when Jesus came, he brought with him life to our hearts. He gives us his hope and vision. He gives us peace. He gives us eyes to see God and his kingdom. He gives us faith to live according to his word. And he gives us meaning. He gives us mission in our life. Jesus, the light of God restores dignity to our lives and makes us the children of God. Jesus is surely the rising sun. For this reason Zechariah sang a song of praise. For this reason we also must sing praises to God. Praise Jesus, the rising sun, who gives light to our eyes and light to our feet to walk in this life by faith. And to serve him and his flock through prayer, the word of God, and the love of God.
Praise Jesus who is the horn of salvation who came to visit us, to serve us, to rescue us, to die for us and who is with us forever. May God give us a song of praise for our Lord Jesus this Christmas. And may we have a new decision to serve and love our Lord Jesus this new year.