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ZECHARIAH'S SONG

Luke 1:57-1:80
Key Verse: 1:69

In the last lesson we studied Mary’s song. That was a young girl’s song. The song of Mary showed who God is: He is mighty, holy, humble, merciful and faithful. Today’s passage includes Zechariah’s song. This is an old man's song. And it excellently shows who Jesus is.

First, the obedience of Elizabeth and Zechariah (59-68). When it was time for Elizabeth to have a her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. It is not easy to share others' joy or sorrow because of the jealousy or indifference of sinful mankind. But Elizabeth' neighbours and relatives were indeed a beautiful community as they shared her joy.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah. It was a special day because of the circumcision and naming of the child. They had no doubt that the child were to be named little Zech. or Zechariah Jr. This was according to Jewish tradition, which was a backbone for them. It was really a joyful and meaningful occasion. Then something broke this joyful atmosphere. Suddenly the mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John." What an unexpected and strong objection! It was a tradition-shaking moment. So in their bewilderment they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name." They could not easily accept the child's totally new name given by the mother. So they wanted to hear the father's opinion. They made signs to him, thinking that he was deaf also. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." At this they were all astonished.

Here we learn the obedience of Elizabeth and Zechariah. As Elizabeth was a woman in a patriarchic society, it must have been difficult for her to express such a strong and particular objection. Nevertheless, she spoke up without any hesitation or compromise because she had to obey God's direction. The direction had been given through the angel Gabriel almost 1 year before. But both Elizabeth and Zechariah kept it in their hearts and obeyed it absolutely. When they had to obey God, they were not able to satisfy the neighours' expectation, nor to please them. In addition, it would not be easy for them to name their child John, because with that name the child was not likely to be welcomed and accepted in the legalistic and traditional Jewish society. Yet, they believed in God and obeyed God. And also in order to obey God they overcame their human desire to possess the child and continue their family line. For this they had to circumcise their hearts to dedicate their son to God.

When they obeyed God, something wonderful happened. Immediately Zechariah's mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbours were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were all talking about these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" If God worked powerfully through the parents, the focus of which was their son, how much more God would work through the child? Now they had more and more expectation for the work of God to be done, particularly through the child. They were sure that the Lord's hand was with him. May we really learn to obey God and see that God works mightily through his obedient men and women.

Second, Jesus, the horn of salvation and the rising sun (69-80). Look at verse 67. “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.’” Luke referred to Zechariah as "his father Zechariah", rather than simply "Zechariah". Zechariah was the father of the child who was born and named John. The child was his son. And his neighbours’ concern was the child. But surprisingly the main figure of Zechariah’s song was not his son, but God’s Son. This song is known as The Benedictus from its opening word in Latin. He praised God that "he has come and has redeemed his people.” The baby Jesus was not yet born, still in the womb. But from God’s perspective the Son of God at last arrived and visited his people. It was the fulfillment of God’s promise given to his people generation after generation. His coming meant redeeming his people, as he had redeemed the Israelites from the 400 years of bondage in Egypt.

Then Zecharaiah said, “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through the holy prophets of long ago).” This description makes Zechariah’s song unique and excellent. In his prophetic insight he introduced Jesus as a horn of salvation. We are not familiar with the term "horn." In the New Testament the word horn is used only in Revelation. But in the Old Testament it is often used with the meaning of strength or glory. For example, in Hannah’s song it is written, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high…He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” There were also the terms of “the horns of a wild ox or the wild oxen” (Dt 33:17; Ps 22:21), “the horns of all the wicked and the horns of the righteousness” (Ps 75:10), “every horn of Israel” (La 2:3), “the horn of your foes” (La 2:17), “horns of iron”, and “horns of nations” (Ze 1:21). And Psalm 132” 17 says, “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one.” And Ezekiel 29:21 says, "On that day I will make a horn grow for the house of the Israel." In this case "horn" refers to the Messiah promised to come.

Zechariah spoke of "a horn of salvation." "Salvation" is one of the most important words in the whole Bible and can be a clear theme of the Bible. Luke used this word very meaningfully, and most often out of all four gospels: “my eyes have seen your salvation…” (2:30), “…all mankind will see God’s salvation” (3:6), and “…Today salvation has come to this house…” (19:9). The horn of salvation is a very important message in Luke's gospel.

In the Old Testament David confessed in 2 Samuel 22:3 and Psalm 18:2, “The LORD is rock…and the horn of my salvation.” This was because God saved him from his strong enemies in many battles. When we think about the history of Israel, they were harassed and oppressed by neighbouring countries time and again. They were helpless and miserable. But whenever they cried to God, God sent a deliverer. Now they were under the rule of Roman Empire. They needed salvation from such a powerful oppression. They needed salvation from their enemies and from the hand of all who hated them. In this sense Zechariah's song of praise that God has raised up a horn of salvation could be understood.

However, “horn of salvation” can be best understood when we consider the horn of Satan. In Revelation, Satan is depicted as a beast or dragon that has seven heads and ten horns (12:13; 13:1; 17:3,7). In power and wisdom Satan is without equal in this world. Any one who is impaled by the horn of Satan becomes critical throughout his or her life. It was so from the first mankind, Adam and Eve. Satan attacked Eve through planting doubt about God’s love and word in her. When Eve did not resist him but listened to his word of lying, she was impaled. Then she became sick in her heart; her whole view of God was suddenly changed. God was not the God of love to her any more. God was like a dictator to her, while Satan looked like the one who truly cared for her. Then she sinned overtly by eating the forbidden fruit in a moment. Afterward she became a servant of Satan and made Adam stumble. Both fell from the kingdom of God to the kingdom of Satan by disobeying God and obeying Satan. Living in Satan’s dungeon is all about man’s misery. Apostle Paul described the condition of those who were impaled by Satan and live in Satan’s dungeon. They degrade their bodies with one another. They exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. Women exchange natural relations for unnatural ones. Men also abandon natural relations with women and commit indecent acts with other men. They do not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. So they have a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done. They are God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil. They disobey their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. Sin is the bait of Satan. Sin seems to be sweet and enjoyable, but behind it there is Satan. Modern technology, especially internet, makes it much easier to enjoy sin. So, many young people become victims of the disguise of Satan. According to Revelation Satan leads the whole world astray (Rev 12:9). Satan is the real enemy of mankind and the very one who hates us. But no human being can overpower the horn of Satan.

Then what a grace it is that God has raised up a horn of salvation for us! When Jesus was about to begin his public ministry, he was tempted by the devil. But Jesus overcame the devil’s temptation by the written words of God. He said to the tempter, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread along’’, “‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’ and “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Lk 4:4,8,12). In place where the first man Adam lost the battle, Jesus won it on our behalf. Then finally Jesus died for man’s sin and rose again from the dead, and thus he crushed the head of Satan. At the name of Jesus Satan trembles and becomes helpless and powerless. Anyone who accepts Jesus and put faith and trust in him has salvation from the horn of Satan and begins the life of victory over the power of Satan. One young man was in deep despair. After graduation from university he could not find any hope for his life. He felt that whatever he did would fail. His view of himself was very negative and his view of the world was cynical. Life was utterly meaningless to him. He did not know the meaning of his existence. As a result he could not eat properly, and sometimes had no strength even to get out of bed. In fact he was deeply impaled by the horn of Satan. But God led him to begin Bible study through his friend. Amazingly, when he heard the gospel of Jesus’ death for his sins and Jesus’ resurrection and accepted the good news Jesus into his heart, the power of Satan was defeated in him and his deadened spirit was made alive. He began to smile and to eat vigorously. In Jesus he began to have joy of life and meaning and purpose in life. He also began to pray in the name of Jesus, the name over Satan’s power. Thank and praise God for Jesus, the horn of salvation.

We need Jesus, the horn of salvation from first to last, from the beginning of our life of belief to the end of our life in this world. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “…Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” For those who do not believe in Jesus, the devil does not need to prowl around them. The devil and the unbelievers are friends. But those who believe in Jesus, the devil prowl around them like a roaring lion to devour. The devil and believers are not friends but foes. They are in enmity. When we know this spiritual reality, we humbly depend on Jesus, the horn of salvation. Last Monday I heard an unexpected thing: that the car of Peter Qiang's parents was stolen from a mall parking lot. And last Wednesday Sara was severely burned in her work place. I newly realize that Satan is prowling around to discourage his people, especially at Christmas time. In our family when we saw Sara’ burned thighs and legs and feet, our hearts were pained. But we thanked God and asked God for his help. At first we tried to do what we could do. We thought of buying an ointment at a drugstore, and then going to the nearby walking clinic. But Sara said that because of the pain she could not move. Then it came to our minds that we should call 911. In less than 2 minutes, EMS came. They said that it was good we called 911 because it was 2nd degree burn. I asked the paramedic workers if they would take her to the general hospital which is very close from our condo. But they told that they would take her to Sunnybrook, since that hospital housed the specialized burn centre for Ontario. I gladly agreed. When I went there, all things were ready to help Sara. At the moment I realized that the best facility is there, but the service would not be provided if we had not come here. We had to get the information and we had to call 911 and come here. In the similar way, God raised up the horn of salvation for us, but we should come to him and rely on him. Unless we come to him and depend on him, his power cannot be in effect. We can rely on the horn of salvation, as much as we are sensitive to the reality of the horn of Satan. God’s flock of sheep cannot be sensitive to Satan’s work, so shepherds should be alert and pray. Jesus said in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” As we studied in Acts, at the farewell with the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul could foresee Satan’s attack and said to them, “I know that after I leave, salvage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth…” (Acts 20:29,30) So Paul urged them to watch over themselves and God’s flock of sheep. Of course, they had to depend on Jesus, the horn of salvation in the spiritual warfare. When we sense Satan’s unceasing evil scheme to destroy God's ministry, we can humbly and earnestly depend on the horn of salvation and pray. Those parents who see how difficult it is to raise godly children in the secular humanistic education system can pray earnestly and constantly for the protection of their children and their sound spiritual growth in Jesus. In the last chapter of Romans Paul wrote, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…all nations might believe and obey him” (Ro 16:20, 26). What an assurance of victory. May we have such assurance of victory through Jesus, the horn of salvation.

Zechariah’s song continues, “to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 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.” That God raised up a horn of salvation is God’s mercy according to his covenant promise. And the ultimate purpose is to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. This is what we really want from the bottom of our hearts. There is no retirement in the service of God.

Now then Zechariah talks about his child. Look at verses 76,77. “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of their sins.” Zechariah was happy that his son would be the forerunner of God's Son, the Messiah. He spoke about his son in but two verses, and then goes back to the theme of Jesus. He did not even complete the sentence about his son. He says, “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, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Here Zechariah depicts Jesus as the rising sun. It is obvious that without the sun the world is in darkness. It is undeniable that the shadow of death shrouds all people. Nelson Mandela, a great man, who died at the age of 95 on last Thursday was not an exception. It is true that all mankind are living in darkness and in the shadow of death. But Jesus is the rising sun that shines the dark world of sin and death. In Luke’s description at the time of Jesus’ death, darkness came over the whole land, for the sun stopped shining (Lk 23:44). But on the third day at dawn he rose again after sunrise (Mk 16:2). Indeed Jesus is the rising sun. According to Matthew’s gospel at the coming of Jesus, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of shadow of death a light has dawned” (Mt 4:16). Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The rising Jesus dispels the power of darkness and the elements of death.

Malachi 4:2 says, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will raise with healing in its wings.” Sara needs healing from her burn injury. In the same way we need healing from fatalism, negative thinking and fear so that we can be full of hope and vision and joy and peace in him.

We thank and praise God for Jesus, who is the horn of salvation and the rising sun. May we put our absolute faith in him and obey him so that his power and light may work in and through us.

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