We begin this new month in our messages with God’s Word in Luke 1, where Zacharias sings a song. But that song that he sings is also a wonderful prophecy by the Holy Spirit. We read in verses 68-79.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David: As He spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life…. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Perhaps you are wondering why I am taking this song of Zacharias at the birth of his son John and the coming birth of Jesus Christ and speaking on it here in the month of September. Do we not only do that at Christmas? Well, this month I want to continue our study of God’s covenant of grace by considering New Testament passages. In this passage we find that the covenant is realized, that God’s prophecy of a coming King and kingdom is fulfilled. God visits His people. Since the days of David, the people understood that the Messiah would come out of the royal line. After their captivity in Babylon, there was no descendant of David to bear that rule. Yet that line was preserved. There was a poor girl in the little town of Nazareth, and from that young lady, a virgin, there would be a birth. And Zacharias believed it.
Oh, Zacharias, it was so difficult for you to believe that your old wife would have a child. But, when Zacharias asked for a sign, he was told that he would not be able to speak. He was taught in the birth of John that God does the impossible. And so also the Messiah would come—to a virgin. With God, nothing is impossible.
Zacharias in his song, and later Mary in her song, speak of God’s performing the mercy promised to our fathers and of His remembering His covenant (v. 72). There is mercy promised to the fathers; God remembers His covenant. Zacharias’ mouth is opened and immediately he begins to speak or to sing—what? We read in verse 64: “praising God.” Should we not also?
Zacharias praises God because God has visited His people. What is this visit? How does God visit His people? Why has He visited His people?
Zacharias sings, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people” (v. 68). What is this visit of God? It is not a short, little stay like when I go down and visit my son and his family for a couple of days. It is not a casual drop-in appearance saying, “Hi, how are you?” And it certainly is not a visit made because He needs something from us, like when I go to my brother to borrow one of his tools. The Greek word translated “to visit” means literally “to look after, to carefully scrutinize the situation.” We find this idea of a visit in verse 68 and in verse 78. In verse 78 we read: “Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” So this visit of God is a visit of grace, grace to His people who are so undeserving. They have trampled under their feet His covenant. They have violated the works that they should have done, the obligations. It is a visit with a purpose. It is a visit to sinners to enable them to serve the Lord without fear (we read that in verse 74) and to serve the Lord in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life (we read that in verse 75). It is a visit to give God’s people salvation. So, the idea here in our text is that God visits His people to care for them.
God does visit His sinful people many times in judgment, punishing them, chastising them, in their sins. How often God used the wicked nations around them to accomplish this. God would bring suffering to His people, sometimes for some twenty years. God brought suffering to them in order to work sorrow in their hearts for their sins. Only when there was sorrow for their sins would He bring them salvation. This was in the era of the Judges, where there is that vicious cycle, over and over: sin, suffering, finally sorrow for sin, and then deliverance.
But the visiting in our passage is not a visit of judgment but a visit of grace. As God came and visited Adam and Eve after their fall into sin, giving them the promise of redemption through the seed of the woman; as God visited Noah to save him and his family by the flood waters; as God visited Abraham with the promise of a great seed that would dwell in the land; as God visited David promising him a throne that would endure forever. Over and over God would visit His people through the prophets, bringing God’s Word, bringing forth the promise, the promise being more and more clear and developed. Then there was the total silence of over four hundred years. What darkness after the last prophecy of Malachi! What terrible darkness. There was no word from the Lord. God’s people fell into apostasy, the apostasy of a works righteousness, and into materialism. And they were hoping for a political deliverance from the Roman rule. They wondered: Has God forgotten His promise to save? Has God forgotten His covenant, a relationship of fellowship that God established through His elect people through Jesus Christ? And, my friends, the answer was No! God visits to redeem His people from their sins. God cares for His people. He sees their spiritual bondage and their great need and He visits to redeem them.
That word “redemption” has the idea of saving at a great cost. God rescues, as Boaz redeemed Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, by paying for her whole land. Notice with me that Zacharias speaks of something that has already taken place. He says, “He hath visited and redeemed his people” (v. 68). Not merely, He will. No, He hath visited and redeemed His people! How? Zacharias knows that God has done the impossible. Not only by giving him and his wife in their old age a son, but Zacharias knows also, from Mary’s visit to Elisabeth, that the virgin Mary, from the line of David, is pregnant. She is carrying a child, not from ‘knowing’ a man, but because the Holy Spirit came upon her. She is carrying the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior. He is the One that was promised now for four thousand years, the One who would crush the head of Satan, the One who would sit on a throne and rule His people in grace. The Lord is going to redeem His people from their bondage to sin and to Satan and to death. How does the Lord visit? What a special and wonderful visit it was. He comes in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the divine One who takes on our human nature.
Why? Why does God’s Son do this? In order to stand in your and my place. In order to be our substitute. In order to take our sin and guilt upon Himself and to suffer and die for those sins. Immediately, with Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb, our sin and our guilt were laid upon Him. His whole life would be to suffer God’s wrath for us sinners and to die our death so that we might have life, life more abundantly.
What is that life? Fellowship with God in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Zacharias’ son, John the Baptist, was given in order to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. John the Baptist would preach the need for repentance and faith. John the Baptist would (according to Luke 1:77) “give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins.” We would be delivered out of the hand of our enemies (v. 74). What enemies are they that we are delivered from? No, it was not the Romans. That was the political salvation that many were looking for in Judea. But the enemies that we are delivered from are Satan, a sinful world, and our own sinful flesh—that old man of sin that dwells within each one of us. And we are delivered from the last enemy: death. As we read in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This was the promise of God prophesied by His holy prophets since the world began. That prophecy is now fulfilled. What a visit of grace! What a special visit in the Person of His own Son. That is why the name of God’s Son is Immanuel. That name Immanuel means “God with us.” That is what the covenant is all about! God is with us. God is with us now in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, bodily, with His disciples and among the Jews in His life on the earth. But, you say, Jesus is gone to heaven. Yes. But He is still with us by His Word and Spirit. Do you remember how He said to His disciples that He would come unto them by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit? What fellowship we have with God! How? In Jesus Christ.
Knowing Jesus Christ, we know God our Father. Jesus said in John 14: “From henceforth ye know him and have seen him; he that hath seen me, hath seen the Father. I am in the Father and the Father in me.” We have fellowship and friendship with God in our Lord Jesus Christ. Redeemed by His blood (and we will look at that in a future broadcast), we are delivered from the power of sin within us. And, one day in heaven, there will be no more temptations, sin, suffering, or death. God hath visited us.
How has He visited us? Listen to the name that God gives to His Son in Zacharias’ song. First of all, we read: “God hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (v. 69). The idea of a horn is prevalent in Scripture. There were the horns of a ram; there were the horns of a wild animal; there were the horns of an ox—horns that would defend and protect. Jesus Christ was that horn of salvation. There are horns that pierce and ram the enemies that seek our destruction. The horn symbolizes power, a destructive power. Jesus, by knocking out and scattering the enemy, is the horn of salvation.
Notice from our text that that horn is in the house of David His servant. This pictures His humanity. Jesus was born of a woman in the line of David. David was a man of war who defeated Israel’s enemies and brought peace to God’s people. David was the one to whom the promise was given that his seed would sit upon the throne forever. Now, think for a moment about that. David sat on his throne for only forty years. Solomon sat on the throne for only forty years. Manasseh was on the throne for only fifty-five. And at the very time when this promise comes to Zacharias, there is no king on the throne at all. Jesus Christ alone, in His coming, would bring salvation to His people. He would establish His everlasting kingdom. And on His throne, He reigns forever. He is now on His throne in heaven. His enemies are made a footstool. One day He will be on His throne in the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus our King, by His substitutionary suffering, destroyed the power of Satan, destroyed the power of sin, destroyed the power of death. Indeed, He is a horn of salvation. Jesus saves His people—all those who were given to Him by His Father before the foundations of the earth.
But God has visited His people not only in a horn of salvation, He is also called the “dayspring from on high” (v. 78). Those words, “from on high,” point out His divinity. Of the purpose of God in visiting His people with the dayspring from on high, we read in verse 79: “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” What a description that is of our Savior! Again, this is how God visits His people in order to help and save them.
Is not the sunrise a beautiful thing? There is that long darkness of night. And, in summertime, about 6 a.m., the sun begins to rise in the east with beautiful colors. It comes with its power to give light and heat. The prophet Malachi, an earlier prophet, prophesied that the Sun of righteousness would rise with healing in his wings. So Jesus, the dayspring from on high, gives light to those who sit in darkness and in death’s shadow.
Darkness and death’s shadow indicate a condition of danger, of fear, of hopelessness, God’s people pining away with no human help in sight. Darkness in Scripture refers to delusion, blindness of mind and heart, utter depravity, despondency, hopelessness. Light, in contrast, refers to sight, to knowledge, to life, and even to laughter and joy. Jesus, by His presence, by His teaching, by His deeds of mercy and power would fill the hearts of all of His followers with the joy of salvation! No longer would they be pining away in gloom and despair and in sin and death. The daystar, by shining, guides our feet. And how we need that, for, as Isaiah put it, we have all “gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Jesus guides our way in peace.
What is that peace? It is, first of all, reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ. Our sins are blotted out. We are made righteous by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are justified. Second of all, Jesus guides our way in peace, in the forgiveness of our sins. What comfort. What assurance it gives us. With our sins forgiven, we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters. Do you understand better now why we have described the covenant as the relation of friendship and fellowship that God establishes with His elect people in Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14). Jesus says, “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” So, what is the covenant? God establishes a relationship of friendship between Himself and His elect people. How? In Jesus Christ. God has visited His people in grace.
Why has He visited His people in grace? We are given the reason in Luke 1:72: “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.” Now do you see why I included this prophecy of Zacharias in my series of messages on the covenant of grace? God’s covenant is an everlasting covenant that cannot be broken. He is the husband of His people. It is a gracious covenant with God’s elect. We do not deserve it. It is an unconditional covenant, so that, while we violate our obligations time and time again, God is faithful, and He remembers His covenant. What wonderful grace and mercy. What mercy God shows. He sees our great need as sinners. We cannot save ourselves. He comes down to save. He lifts us out of our sins and into fellowship with Himself. Mercy was promised, mercy is given. God gave His only begotten Son.
God’s covenant is sure because He has sworn it with an oath. He wants us to know, to have confidence. His covenant is an everlasting covenant. We are delivered out of the hand of our enemies so that we might serve Him without fear and might serve Him with holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. That means, friends, that we are saved in order to serve Him. Obedience is part of our salvation. It is the fruit of our being redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Are you, by God’s grace, living for Him, walking and talking with Him, obeying? For Jesus is not only your Savior, He is your Lord. He is God with us.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy covenant established with us and our children through the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.