Three Great Reasons for Praise
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 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. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 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. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”
Zacharias was not a prophet; but his song was a prophecy. It stands before us as one of the most instructive prophesies ever given. He was not a musician; but his prophecy was a song, one of the greatest hymns ever written. What qualified him to write this song and give this prophecy? Luke tells us in verse 67. — “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied.”
God not only forgave the old man for his unbelief, he poured out his grace upon him in an extraordinary manner by filling him with the Holy Ghost. To be filled with the Holy Ghost is to be controlled by the Spirit. Every believer ought to seek, always, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, ruled by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit filled life is not an emotional frenzy of senseless religion. The Spirit filled life is a life of wisdom, “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). It is a life of thanksgiving and praise, “giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). And it is a life of voluntary submission, submitting my will and my life to Christ and his people, “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21).
But there is another sense in which a man is filled with the Holy Ghost. Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost in the sense that he was given a special unction, a special anointing to deliver the Word of God. He was divinely inspired. That is what every God called preacher wants and seeks. He wants, more than words can express, to preach to those who hear him as a man filled with the Holy Ghost, — to deliver a message directly from God to eternity bound sinners, for the praise, honor and glory of God alone! It will be your mercy to pray that God will grant that to his servant every time you go to the house of God for worship. In these last words of Luke 1 we have a message directly from God to his people, for our good and his glory.
The grace of God toward Zacharias in this passage is as instructive as it is remarkable. The Lord graciously removed the affliction he had brought upon himself by unbelief, though he had done nothing to merit such mercy, or even to seek it. Let us never fail to remember that God’s grace does not wait upon us. Grace comes before we seek it; and we can never deserve it. It flows to chosen sinners from God’s free, sovereign love for us in Christ.
Because of his unbelief, the Lord had made the old priest a deaf-mute for nine months. Now, the Lord graciously took away his reproach, opened his mouth, loosed his tongue, and unstopped his ears. What will this old man say? What will he talk about? — Miracles? No. — His experiences? No. — The angelic visit? No. Zacharias spoke not as a man, but as a prophet. He spoke for God. So he passed by all those things which tickle men’s ears and spoke about God, his grace, his Son, his redemption, his salvation and his praise!
The passage before us contains the very first words spoken by Zacharias after the Lord loosed his tongue. He had been a deaf mute for nine long months. But now, after the birth of his son, John the Baptist, the old servant of God speaks to God in a song of praise; and his song of praise to God was, to his newborn son and to all future generations, a song of instruction. Moreover, his song of praise and instruction was a prophecy concerning both the person and work of Christ and the ministry of John the Baptist.
“No sooner is his tongue untied, but the Lord loosens both heart and tongue to speak the Lord's praise; and to proclaim the Lord's mercy. And how doth he praise the Lord? Do not fail to observe, it is, as the God of Israel: Israel's God in covenant. All, and every part of redemption is, to perform the mercy, promised. Yes! For the Lord's Christ is the mercy promised: the first born in the womb of mercy; the whole of mercy; yea, mercy itself in the full; for there is no mercy, but in Christ. Everything which can be called mercy must have Christ in it, or it is no mercy, be it what it may. It must have its very nature from Christ; its sweetness from Christ, its value from Christ, and its everlasting continuance from Christ. And hence Zacharias harps upon this sweet string; that it was to perform the mercy promised, and to fulfil Jehovah's covenant and oath, in all the blessings of Christ, for evermore.”
God our Savior
This old man, filled with the Holy Ghost, gave praise to God for three specific reasons; and every believer has great reason to give praise to God for these three things: God our Savior (v. 68), God’s great salvation (vv. 69-75), and God’s chosen servant (vv. 76-80).
Zacharias’ first word of thanksgiving and praise is about God our Savior. — “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people” (v. 67). Let us ever be quick with praise and thanksgiving to the great God, our Savior. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!” We must never forget to thank God for his blessings; but we ought to thank and praise him first and foremost for his Being! “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!” The entire first chapter of Ephesians is taken up with blessing God our Savior, the great, glorious, triune God. There the Apostle Paul was inspired to write out words of praise, ascribing blessedness and glory to God the Father who planned salvation for us, to God the Son who purchased salvation for us, and to God the Holy Spirit who performs salvation in us. — “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake” (Psalm 115:1). Let us ever give praise to our God because he is God. — “Bless the Lord, O my soul. All that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).
God’s Great Salvation
After ascribing all praise, honor and glory to God, Zacharias offers thanksgiving and praise for God’s great salvation. That which fills a man’s mouth when he is filled with the Spirit is God’s salvation (vv. 69-75).
What a description we have here of God’s salvation! In verse 69 we are told that God has “raised up an horn of salvation.” Those words tell us four things about salvation: (1.) It is God’s work. – God raised up this horn of salvation. (2.) It is an exalted salvation – “raised up.” (3.) It is a powerful, omnipotent salvation. — The horn is a symbol of power. (4.) It is a bountiful salvation – “a horn,” a cornucopia, “of salvation.”
God’s salvation is for a specific people. It was never God’s intention or purpose to save all men. He did not send his Son to save all men. God’s salvation is for his elect, the house of David, the Israel of God.
In verse 70 we see that this great salvation of which we speak is a Bible salvation, spoken of by all the prophets, – “As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began.”
God’s salvation is a very old salvation. This was not some new thing, which Christ came to do, and John came to preach. God’s salvation was spoken of, ordained and accomplished by the triune God in eternity (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9). And faithful men have spoken about God’s great salvation since the beginning of time. Adam told his sons about it. Enoch proclaimed it. Noah preached it. Job declared it. And it was spoken of by all the prophets of God. God’s prophets have always spoken about just one thing – God’s salvation. And they still do.
Salvation is the complete deliverance of our souls from all our enemies into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. — “That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us” (v. 71).
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Salvation is an act and work of God’s covenant mercy. It is the performance of “the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham” (vv. 72-73). Salvation is the performance of God’s mercy, God’s covenant and God’s oath (Hebrews 6:16-20).
A God wrought salvation causes sinners to become the willing servants of God forever. “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” (vv. 74-75). The Lord our God has saved us that we might serve him. Do you see that? Those who are saved by God serve God without fear, in true holiness and righteousness, the holiness and righteousness of Christ that he has made ours by his grace, walking before him in his immediate presence all the days of our lives. What a blessed privilege that is!
God’s Chosen Servant
Zacharias offered praise and thanksgiving to God for God himself. Then he gave thanks to God for his great salvation. In verses 76-80 Zacharias expresses praise and thanksgiving for the gift of his chosen servant.
“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 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. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”
Faithful, gospel preachers are the gifts of Christ to his church in this world. It is by these chosen men, specifically called and gifted for the work of the gospel, that God speaks to, ministers to, calls, converts, edifies, comforts, corrects, feeds and cares for chosen sinners in this world (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Gospel preachers do not seek, or want praise from men. Faithful men seek and crave the praise of God alone. We must never make idols out of God’s servants, treating them as priests, mediators, or lords over our souls. Yet, God’s servants are not to be despised and treated as useless things. Both the welfare of your own soul and the happiness and peace of God’s church is greatly determined by the love and respect God’s people show for and to those who preach the gospel to them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
Here, in Luke 1:76-80 we see an old, old man talking about his own son; but talking about his son not as his son, but as God’s messenger to men. That Zacharias said here concerning John the Baptist is specifically a prophecy concerning that great man and his extraordinary ministry. However, it is also a declaration of every faithful gospel preacher’s work in this world.
The gospel preacher is the servant of the most high God, whose business it is to prepare the way of the Lord (v. 76; Isaiah 40:3-4). Those men who are God’s servants are sent with a specific message to declare, by which they prepare the way of the Lord (vv. 77-79). It is every preacher’s business and responsibility, his only business and responsibility, “To give knowledge of salvation.” He cannot give salvation; but he must give the knowledge of it. And there is no knowledge of salvation apart from the preaching of the gospel.
The salvation we proclaim is not a general salvation hoped for, but the salvation of “his people” accomplished. The only way salvation can come to sinners is “by the remission of their sins.” The source and cause of this salvation by the remission of sins is “the tender mercy of our God!” The only way this salvation could ever be accomplished is by the incarnation, life, and death of Christ as our Substitute, – “Whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” It is the preacher’s business “to give light to them that sit in darkness.” By the preaching of the gospel, God’s servants “guide our feet into the way of peace.”
For every chosen preacher, God has appointed “the day of his showing to Israel” (v. 80). If a man is chosen of God for this great and glorious work, he will not need to wave his own flag and toot his own horn. God knows where he is. At the time appointed, God will show his people who he is. — “And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).
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