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The Gospel of Luke: The Prophecy of Zacharias
Luke 1:67-80, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Romans 5:6-8, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Luke 3:7-8, Romans 12:2. Salvation and Redemption is Here!
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant— As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old— Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
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.”
Luke 1:67-80 NASB1995
With his speech restored, Zacharias wastes no time in speaking to the people that are gathered. This prophecy (or Benedictus, after the first word “blessed”) is remarkable in its depth. Zacharias is focused more on the upcoming birth of the Messiah than on his own long-awaited child, although he acknowledges at the end that John is the prophet of the Most High, going before the Lord. I looked for a good artwork for this devotional and settled on this stunning icon from the Orthodox Church in America of Zachariah (Zacharias), holding a scroll that reflects this message. Having toured a few Orthodox churches in places like Greece and Russia and Israel, the icon artworks are full of beauty and mystery.
The recurring themes in the incredibly important Benedictus are our salvation and redemption, through the covenants that God put in place in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the upcoming human life of the Messiah. I don’t recall EVER hearing a sermon on this prophecy, but it is full of God’s good words and this will be a bit longer than most of my devotionals. I also really like a Sermon by Steven Cole on this passage in Luke on Bible.org. The sermon identifies five themes of salvation that I plan to expand upon with my words:
Salvation comes to those who can see they are in a desperate state:
Many people today do not recognize that they sin, much less that they are in a desperate situation as far as their eternal souls are concerned. Belief is mocked, sin is paraded around as a thing of pride, and people happily sit in darkness not recognizing that they are in the dark and rapidly heading towards the abyss. The ruler of this world blinds the minds of the unbeliever. Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 4:
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NASB1995
When you confess your belief in Jesus as your Savior, the scales on your eyes drop away and you can now see the darkness and the despair around you that seemed like normality before, but you can also now see the Light of the Redeemer. You immediately recognize the many sins in your life that the Holy Spirit convicts you of, and your deliverance is assured as you confess and submit to your Redeemer. A problem in our world today for evangelizers is to get past the stubborn individuality and love of sin of those people sitting in the dark and get them to see that Light.
Salvation is God’s doing, not ours:
We cannot save ourselves. There is no slate of good deeds that can buy us a pass into Heaven. We are also not worthy of salvation. God determined that He would save us and made covenant promises to His people (and to the world) to that end. People that have their act together and are blind to the darkness that they occupy scoff at this notion and figure that they will make it on their own merits, because what kind of God is so unloving to not grant them a pass? They don’t believe in that God, anyway, but hey, let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best. But look around you: There are friends, family members, co-workers and many other people in your life that are heading to an eternal life apart from God, which is in the outer darkness. These people may give money to charities or volunteer at worthy causes or treat others with kindness and generosity. But humbling yourself before God, confessing your need for forgiveness of your sins and salvation in Jesus is the Golden Ticket. Paul says it best:
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:6-8 NASB1995
When you recognize your ungodliness, you are now turning onto the right and narrow path and away from the boulevard of despair.
Salvation comes through the Lord Jesus Christ:
Salvation does not come through doing Yoga classes and playing with healing crystals and following a strict diet and charting your horoscope. Salvation does not come through Allah and his prophet, Ramah, Krishna, Buddha, or any other gods or through Satan or through being a nature lover. Salvation is clearly and only through Jesus, as He stated unequivocally:
“Jesus *said to him [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
John 14:6 NASB1995
Peter reiterates this gold standard in Acts 4:
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 NASB1995
This is a stumbling block to many in our modern age. No one wants to believe that there is only one path to God our Father or that there is even a God. It was a stumbling block for me, seeing so many people that fervently believe in other “paths”. But God gives us chance after chance after chance after chance to get it right in His infinite mercy. Many mainstream “Christian” churches today love to extend their ecumenical blessings and partnerships to non-Christian faiths like Islam, saying that we are all branches of Abrahamic faiths. But if Islam is true, then Christianity is false (there is no getting around that stumbling block). It is a binary decision: you either believe in the Divinity of Jesus or you don’t. It is a big challenge for evangelists to reason with others for them to understand this condition of faith, so pray for discernment and the right words.
Salvation means the forgiveness of sins through God’s mercies:
The newly born son of Zacharias and Elizabeth will become the voice crying in the wilderness telling the people that they must seek forgiveness for their sins. It was hoped by the people that the Messiah would be a political leader, one who would free Israel from foreign powers and return a king to their nation. But salvation and forgiveness are never found in political systems, which are run by imperfect and sinful humans. Tracing your ancestry to Abraham will not help you with your repentance. John the Baptist says this to the people:
“So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”
Luke 3:7-8 NASB1995
Only God can forgive sins and provide perfect justice. Jesus, His Son, took on the sins of the world on the cross and has paid the ransom for our salvation. Zacharias predicts this in his Benedictus, spoken before Jesus was even born! We must believe in His propitiation and resurrection to be forgiven and have our eternal life with Him. I write these words now with no doubt and full-throated praise for the path that has been made. The Barb of 20-30 years ago would have been full of scorn and anger to see these words, but the Good Shepherd works miracles every day!
Salvation results in a changed life:
Truer words were never spoken. Truly believing and repenting results in a complete transformation of being. We now want to grow daily in holiness and glorify and serve the Lord gladly! We want to obey His commands and research His Word. We now want to get the message to others, so that they can share in the Good News. Some of my fruits of the spirit are still in the seedling phase, but I can sense the guidance of the Holy Spirit during every waking moment (and sometimes even in my dreams). The further you travel on the true narrow path, the less you see of that “other” path of worldliness and sin and temporary pleasure. It is more and more in shadow while you step more and more into the Light. God be praised! Turning to Paul once again in Romans 12:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 NASB1995
So we end Luke 1 with the knowledge that John grew strong each day, living in the deserts. What happened to Zacharias and Elizabeth? According to the Orthodox Church in America (same source as the Icon), this is what they Believe:
When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years old at Bethlehem and the surrounding area, hoping that the new-born Messiah would be among them.
Herod knew about John’s unusual birth and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up and concealed her and the infant from their pursuers.
In these tragic days Saint Zachariah was taking his turn at the services in the Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him between the temple and the altar (MT 23: 35). Elizabeth died forty days after her husband, and Saint John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.
An interesting theory and not implausible, in my opinion. The murder of the infants by Herod, for example, is explored in the Gospel story in Matthew, but that’s for another time.
My next devotional examines the GLORIOUS Birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-20. The final devotional from the early Gospel of Luke will be the story of Jesus being presented in the temple eight days after birth (Luke 2:21-38), with the prophecies of Simeon and Anna.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father - Praise you for Your plan of redemption and salvation, made known through Your Word and through Your beloved Son, Jesus. Thank you for the words of Zacharias, who sees the entire story coming to life with the birth of his son John. May I never be in darkness but always in the Light of your Salvation. In Jesus name, Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org