18th December

72 [T]o show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
(Luke 1:72-75)

Zechariah continues to worship and prophesy about the function of this messianic figure (although not yet so called and incarnated!). While Christ rescued the Israelites and all from the enmity of sin and death (v.71), he is not violent; he is, above all, merciful (v.72). These verses speak of God’s mercy to Israel based on his promises. Two important notions are evoked here: covenant (v.72) and oath (v.73). We can see the covenant as God’s ongoing promise or alliance of mercy towards his people, and the oath as the specific promise that God made to Abraham (Genesis 22:16), but which still comes under the overall covenant.

The central idea of saving in this song returns (v.74), here, with the notion of rescue. God rescued Israel so that she might live “fearlessly”; and this applies to us on the other side of the cross also. In the Greek, the transition between verses 74 and 75 is not as smooth as usual[1] ­– often a sign of strong emotion, which would not be surprising here. There is, however, a wonderful juxtaposition of being rescued in order to serve and worship. Our service and worship flows from our status as rescued people. Yet, by God’s grace, not only are we rescued but we can serve in holiness and righteousness forever (v.75). Again, this language is reminiscent of the Psalms, especially Psalm 27, which talks about God being light and banishing fear (Psalm 27:1) and the psalmist’s desire to spend every day in God’s house serving and worshipping (Psalm 27:4). A fine life goal made possible by Christ.

[1] *Technical alert* I could be wrong; but I think there is an instance of anacoluthon (lit. not following) here. We might expect “to us” and “having been rescued” to be in the same case. It literally says: “to give to us … to serve him”. The writer perhaps reaches for another expression about rescue, but in the excitement, could have joined the clauses more stylistically. The main point: perhaps style gives way to emotion here!

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