17th December

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 as he said through his holy prophets of long ago,
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us[.’]
 (Luke 1:67-71)

Now able to speak, Zechariah continues to praise God. Like Mary, he is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies (v.67): firstly, about a Saviour figure (vv.68-75); and then about his newly-born son (vv.76-79). This section is also a song (a.k.a. the Benedictus), which is similarly poetic and infused with scriptural references and allusions. Zechariah is a priest, so it is appropriate that his first word is “praise” or “blessed” (v.68); but we have already seen that being filled the Holy Spirit and prophesying is not reserved solely for priests – as Elizabeth and Mary show, and as remains the case today!

Although he does not use any of the titles attributed to Jesus (e.g. Christ/Messiah, Saviour), Zechariah talks about some of the Messiah’s roles. God has always loved us, his people, but too often we have ignored him. It is appropriate that we need redeeming; in Jesus, God “has made a ransom for his people” (v.68). This figure is described as a “horn of salvation” symbolising strength; he has been raised up (v.69) and will later be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4). God’s thread of salvation history is remarkable. It had been planned that the Messiah would come from the line of David, and had been spoken about through the prophets (v.70). Here, salvation comes into the present with Jesus’ imminent arrival.

v.71 is particularly interesting and arresting. The language is very reminiscent of the Psalms (especially Psalm 106:10) which often talk of enemies and evil. The Messiah was misunderstood by some; he was not coming to crush the Romans, but to save us from our greatest enemies: sin and death. This was achieved on the cross. I often wonder how this language of enemies and people who hate us applies to me. Thankfully, I don’t have many people out to get me (apart from other running competitors!) and I hope you don’t either – although we should remember that, tragically, war continues to wage in some countries. I have come to think of it more as my own struggles, weaknesses, and fears. Ultimately, Christ has defeated them on the cross; but I know I need to keep turning to Him in the battles that are still being fought today, before Christ returns.

 

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