THE DIVINE VISITATION EVOKES AWE, AMAZEMENT AND HEARTFELT REJOICING
The momentous intervention of God into human affairs (especially after such a long period of prophetic silence) should cause awe, amazement, and rejoicing. The events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist and the coming of the Messiah (who will bring ultimate life and lasting peace) are anything but ordinary and typical. But what we easily forget is that God’s intervention in our own lives to draw us to Himself in saving faith is no less an awe-inspiring wonder of His mercy and grace. God’s visitation in our experience could also be described in the graphic language of the rising of the Sun star as we are rescued out of the domain of darkness to serve Him in holiness and righteousness.
THE DIVINE VISITATION EVOKES AWE, AMAZEMENT AND HEARTFELT REJOICING
I. (:57-66) BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST – GOD INTERVENING IN HUMAN HISTORY
A. (:57-58) Reaction to the Birth of John the Baptist
1. (:57) Birth of John the Baptist
“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son.”
2. (:58) Reaction of Neighbors and Relatives = Rejoicing
“And her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.”
Created quite a stir among their friends and neighbors
B. (:59-63) Reaction to the Naming of John the Baptist – Family Feud
1. (:59-63a) Naming of John the Baptist
“And it came about that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. 60 And his mother answered and said, ‘No indeed; but he shall be called John.’ 61 And they said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.’ 62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63 And he asked for a tablet, and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John.’”
G. Campbell Morgan: In the Hebrew economy, the boy was named on the day of circumcision. These kinsfolk taking for granted, as was so often the case, that he would be called by his father’s name.
Liefeld: The present tense in the statement “his name is John” has the ring of deliberate emphasis.
SermonWriter.com: They motion to Zechariah, as if he is deaf as well as mute. We have no evidence that he is deaf aside from this verse. People often assume that a mute person cannot hear, which is often but not always the case. That seems to be what is happening here.
2. (:63b) Reaction to the Naming of John the Baptist = Astonishment
“And they were all astonished.”
C. (:64-66) Reaction to the Restoration of Speech to Zacharias
1. (:64) Restoration of Speech to Zacharias
“And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.”
Zacharias forgiven and given a second chance; no longer doubting the promises of God; benefited from the Lord’s discipline in his life
2. (:65-66) Reaction to the Restoration of Speech of Zacharias = Awe and Amazement
“And fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all who heard them kept them in mind, saying, ‘What then will this child turn out to be?’ For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.”
Ralph Wilson: The phrase “were talking about” (NIV) or “were noised abroad” (KJV) is the Greek verb dialaleo, “discuss, exchange opinions or viewpoints.” The verb is in the imperfect sense, suggesting that the discussion continued on for some time and didn’t die down right away.
II. (:67-79) BENEDICTUS OF ZACHARIAS – COVENANT PROMISES ABOUT TO BE FULFILLED BY THE DIVINE VISITATION
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:”
Ralph Wilson: The idea of being filled by the Spirit in order to speak by the Holy Spirit is found in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 34:9; Micah 3:8; cf. Numbers 11:25; 2 Samuel 23:2; Joel 2:28; etc.) as well as the New (Luke 1:15, 41, 67 and Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9).
A. (:68-71) Praise for Salvation Via the Promised Davidic Messiah
1. (:68-69a) Redemption / Salvation
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us”
“horn of salvation” – Often refers to strength and power and military victory
2. (:69b) Davidic King
“In the house of David His servant—“
3. (:70) Promised by OT Prophets
“As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—“
4. (:71) Rescue From Enemies
“Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us;”
B. (:72-75) Praise for God’s Mercy and Faithfulness to Deliver His People to Serve Him
1. (:72a) Mercy
“To show mercy toward our fathers,”
G. Campbell Morgan: All through, the song is celebrating the name. John means the grace of God, and that is what Zacharias was celebrating in this wonderful song-prophecy. . . His name was Zacharias, which means, God will remember. His wife’s name was Elisabeth, which means, the oath of God. . . The theme of the Benedictus is the Episcopacy of God . . . “For He hath visited” . . . Oversight . . . the celebration of God’s government in grace. . . the vision of God that leads to the action of God.
Zacharias is praising the merciful acts of God leading to the salvation of His covenant people
2. (:72b-73) Faithfulness to the Covenant
“And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,”
Liefeld: chiastic structure of the Benedictus – God’s faithfulness to his covenant occupies a central position theologically in the Benedictus.
3. (:74a) Deliverance from Enemies
“To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,”
4. (:74b-75) Service in Holiness and Righteousness
“Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”
Thabiti Anyabwile: God saves so that we might worship. Freedom is a good goal, but it’s not the ultimate goal. The freedom God seems most interested in is the freedom to worship him. Just as Zechariah worshiped God when God mercifully opened Zechariah’s mouth and ears, so all Israel is to praise and glorify God for the salvation he brings.
C. (:76-79) Praise for the Special Role of John the Baptist to Prepare the Way for the Light of Life and Prince of Peace
1. (:76-77) Special Role of John the Baptist
a. (:76a) Prophet
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;”
b. (:76b) Forerunner
“For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;”
c. (:77) Preacher with Message of Repentance from Sin
“To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,”
Geldenhuys: John’s task as forerunner of Christ will be to bring people to the right attitude through the power of God. This attitude will mainly consist in this, that men will be brought to a realization and confession of sin and will long and hunger for the Messiah-Redeemer. Thus John will proclaim to his people the arrival of redemption, a redemption which does not consist in external political liberation (at least in the first instance) but in forgiveness of sins.. . . This preparation was most necessary because the people as a whole (with few exceptions) at that time had an altogether wrong opinion concerning the redemption to be brought about by the Messiah. They regarded the expected Messiah as a worldly ruler whose great task would be to free the people from the yoke of Rome. . . Therefore it was necessary that John, the forerunner of Christ, should summon the people to a realization of guilt and to a confession sins, should make as many of them as possible see that the real redemption needed by them was deliverance from the power of their spiritual enemies – sin and the forces of darkness, so that they might escape from the wrath of God.
Liefeld: The role of John . . . derives its significance and greatness from God’s purpose and, even more, from the greatness of the Person served.
2. (:78-79) Special Role of the Messiah
a. (:78) Source of This Messiah = Mercy of God
“Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,”
Geldenhuys: The original metaphor here refers to a party of travelers who, before reaching their destination, have been overtaken by the darkness of a pitch-black night and are now sitting terrified and powerless and expect any moment to be overwhelmed and killed by wild beasts or enemies. But all at once a bright light appears to show them the way, so that they reach their destination safely where they enjoy rest and peace.
Mal. 4:2 — the sun of righteousness
2 Pet. 1:19 — the day star
Rev. 22:16 — the bright and morning star
b. (:79) Function of This Messiah
1) Light of Life
“To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,”
2) Prince of Peace
“To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
(:80) POSTSCRIPT – DEVELOPMENT OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
“And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”
Wiersbe: Instead of enjoying a comfortable life as a priest, John lived in the wilderness, disciplining himself physically and spiritually, waiting for the day when God would send him out to prepare Israel for the arrival of the Messiah.
SermonWriter.com: The people of Israel have a special relationship to the wilderness (a desert wilderness rather than a forest wilderness). It was in the wilderness that God tested the people and it was in the wilderness that they rebelled. It was in the wilderness that God saved them again and again, and the wilderness was the crucible where they became a nation. The wilderness was a place where people sinned—and where they also repented to restore their relationship with God.