Week commencing 3 March 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Luke 1:57-80 – that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part II.
Our Term 1 series is: “Luke – you can be certain…” Here is the outline:
|03 Feb||How?||Luke 1:1-4|
|10 Feb||…that John the Baptist was a gift from God||Luke 1:5-25|
|17 Feb||…that Jesus was miraculously conceived||Luke 1:26-38|
|24 Feb||…that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part I||Luke 1:39-56|
|03 Mar||A pause to the series as we welcome Bishop Chris Edwards|
|10 Mar||…that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part II||Luke 1:57-80|
|17 Mar||…that a Saviour was born who is both Messiah and Lord||Luke 2:1-21|
|24 Mar||…that Jesus brought God’s salvation||Luke 2:22-40|
|31 Mar||…that Jesus grew in wisdom and favour||Luke 2:41-52|
|07 Mar||…that John preached a baptism of repentance||Luke 3:1-20|
|14 Apr||…that Jesus was God’s Son whom he loved||
DAY 1: Read Luke 1:57-66
As the angel had prophesied, Elizabeth’s child was a boy. We see a beautiful picture as neighbours and relatives share Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s joy.
But did you notice what their joy was about? Their focus was not on the baby! No, it was because they heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy. The theme of mercy flows right through this chapter. Mary was aware of God’s mercy to her. As one in a lowly estate, she had been blessed with God’s favour. She had sung in v50 that God’s mercy extends to those who fear him and in v54, God remembered to be merciful to Israel. How often do you stop with friends and family to share sheer joy over God’s mercy? Remember – they are new every morning! (See Lamentations 3:22-23.)
Note that Zechariah firmly resists the wishes of his family that he should call his son after his own name, though that was clearly the custom. He clings firmly to the name “John”, by which the angel Gabriel had commanded he be called. Note that when he writes, he uses the present tense: “His name is John”. Zechariah is indicating that the boy has in fact already been named; by God himself! JC Ryle says that this “shows that his nine months’ dumbness had not been inflicted on him in vain. He is no longer faithless but believing. He now believes every word that Gabriel had spoken to him…” The Lord had used this time of discipline to shape and transform Zechariah and draw him closer to himself in trust and surrender.
We cannot conclude that every affliction we experience is from God. However, the Lord disciples those whom he loves, and we can be sure that God is at work through everything that happens in life to make us more like Jesus.
Once Zechariah announces the boy’s name, he is immediately able to speak again! His first words? The praise of God – perhaps the very words we read in vv67ff.
The neighbours were talking – and filled with awe. News spread, as did the speculation about the significance of the birth of this child, as people were deeply aware that his birth was a work of God.
Now, we haven’t just seen the birth of a child to an old couple who had been without children! But we have just read of it today!
Are you filled with awe? Sadly, over time, due to our familiarity with these accounts, our awe-metre seems to be depleted! We need to stop and read and reflect again what we have seen in Luke 1 so far and join Zechariah and Elizabeth and their neighbours and not only be filled with awe, but share that awe with one another in our church family and with those outside our church family!
DAY 2: Read Luke 1:67-75
Zechariah’s joy overflows in an inspired song known as the Benedictus (from its opening word in the Latin).
Note first, that Zechariah in v67 is said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to understand therefore, that his words are actually words of prophecy. God is at work in and through him to speak to us about the impact and significance of John’s birth and all that it means.
We must see the deep significance in what he is saying: the fulfillment of the oldest promise of the Old Testament – the promise of a Saviour – has arrived in the birth of the one who would prepare that Saviour’s way! With the assurance the Holy Spirit working in him, Zechariah knows that his son’s birth signifies the beginning of God’s saving work in the world: he has come to his people and redeemed them. So certain are these things, that prophetically, Zechariah can use the past tense! Zechariah knows and proclaims that God has raised up a horn of salvation – a symbol of strength. In fulfilment of prophetic words of long ago, God has brought salvation from our enemies – supremely – salvation from the evil one! This is the moment that true and sincere Old Testament believers had long awaited! They clung to God to be good for his promises, and now Zechariah sees that God is delivering! God is fulfilling promises made right back to Abraham, so that rescued from our enemies, we may serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. In the birth of his son John the Baptist and the near approach of the Messiah, Zechariah saw this moment was close at hand.
Friends take careful note from what and for what we have been saved. From anything that would keep up us from God and for the unfettered service of God in holiness and righteousness. Yes, it is true, that we still await the final consummation of this kingdom, but right now – today – we have been rescued so that we may serve God wholeheartedly and unreservedly. Does that describe your life today?
DAY 3: Read Luke 1:76-80
Zechariah ends his hymn of praise by addressing his infant son John. He foretells that he will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him and give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. What a beautiful way of describing salvation! It comes through the forgiveness of sins which the Saviour will make possible through his death and resurrection. All this is because of the tender mercy of our God v78. There is that word again! By that mercy, we will be brought from darkness into light, from death to life and from despair to peace! See how this concept corresponds to Acts 26:15-18 and v23 of the same chapter. See also Colossians 1:13, and Isaiah 9:1-2.
Are you responding in Zechariah-like joy and praise as you realise what God has done for you? You have been brought to a knowledge of salvation – which is through the forgiveness of sins. God’s tender mercy has been shown to you who were once in darkness and in the shadow of death, but now live in light and peace! Dwell on these truths and proclaim with Zechariah – Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them!
DAY 4: Read back over Zechariah’s song – Luke 1:68-79
Let us end our reading notes this week “by examining what we know of three glorious privileges we see in Zechariah’s song of praise.
“Do we know anything of pardon?
“Have we turned from darkness to light?
“Have we tasted peace with God?
“These, after all, are the realities of Christianity. These are the things, without which church-membership and sacraments save no one’s soul…..
“Mercy and grace have provided them.
“Mercy and grace will give them to all who call on Christ’s name.” JC Ryle.
What great treasures are ours through Jesus! What great love God has for us! Revel in God’s mercy today!
Resources: Luke, Leon Morris in the Tyndale series, JC Ryle commentary on Luke and Michael Wilcock in BST series