Sermon: Zechariah’s Song of Thanksgiving (Luke 1:67-79)

Zechariah’s Song of Thanksgiving

As we turn our minds to the Thanksgiving Holiday this coming Thursday, it often causes us to think about and give thanks to God for the things that matter most.  Much like reminding ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas, we must remind ourselves of the real meaning of Thanksgiving.  It’s much more than eating turkey and watching football…it’s about giving thanks.  During this holiday, many families give thanks for family members and God’s provision.  This is a great thing to do as we realize God’s sovereign hand in our lives.  We thank Him for the wonderful blessings that came our way from His hand.

In our text this morning, we’re given a wonderful example by Zechariah about what thanksgiving is all about.  Giving thanks is crucial for the believer.  We would do well to notice the three main things he is thankful for.  I truly believe that our lives would be so much more rich and meaningful if we too could consistently give God thanks for these three things as well…

These three things are so great that mere proclaiming them is not enough, they must be sung.  So Zechariah gives us the third song in Luke 1.

The first thing he gives thanks for is the fact that God has redeemed His people.  Secondly, he thanks God for the fulfillment of past promises.  Finally, he thanks God as he anticipates the fulfillment of future promises.  All these are acts of God.  So, we too thank God for His gracious work among us, His people.

Luke 1:67-79 (ESV)

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

[68] “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

[69] and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of his servant David,

[70] as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

[71] that we should be saved from our enemies

and from the hand of all who hate us;

[72] to show the mercy promised to our fathers

and to remember his holy covenant,

[73] the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us

[74] that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

might serve him without fear,

[75] in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

[76] And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

[77] to give knowledge of salvation to his people

in the forgiveness of their sins,

[78] because of the tender mercy of our God,

whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

[79] to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

1. God has Redeemed His People (1:67-69)

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

[68] “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

[69] and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of his servant David,

Luke makes the point at the beginning of this section that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Like Elizabeth, when she heard Mary’s greeting and the baby leaped in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophecy that Mary was not just her cousin but the most blessed among women because she was carrying the Messiah.  Now, it’s Zechariah’s turn to praise God prophetically.  His tongue is loosed and he is praising God.  This is the third song of praise recorded for us in the Gospel of Luke and we’re still in the first chapter.  That should tell us something.

There is something about singing praises that lifts the soul and is a stronger proclamation than simply speaking words.  Throughout the history of the church, the church has met corporately and part of the corporate worship service is singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

One thing about our church is that we are a people who sing out.  We are a body who seems to love to sing.  Partially because God is working in our hearts and partially because the songs we select reflect sound biblical truth.

What would an elderly priest filled with the Holy Spirit sing about?

[68] “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

We see the true nature of Christian worship and it is thanksgiving for the mighty acts of God.  We worship because God has been involved with us and has worked on our behalf.

I believe that the songs and hymns we sing reflect this principle.  We praise God because of His mighty acts of redemption.  That’s been the history of the hymns of the church.

Many times I’ve had to sing praise songs that are focused on me or on people.

I feel so good because I’m here…

HOW GREAT THOU ART

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

(Chorus )
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Not only does Zechariah sing, but he is also doing something even more profound, he is prophesying.  It says in the text that he is prophesying.  This word has really a dual meaning.  Most of the time it means to speak forth God’s Word, the Word of Prophecy.  But here, Luke seems to have the second view in mind which is foretelling.  Zechariah is singing about redemption through the Messiah who hasn’t been born yet.  Remember, John is eight days old and we know that when the angel told Mary that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit that Elizabeth was six months pregnant.  So, Jesus’ birth is about six months away.

Zechariah speaks as if it has already happened…

[68] “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

[69] and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of his servant David,

All this is past tense.  What Zechariah is saying is that when God says He’s going to do something it is as good as done.  He learned this through experience.  He learned this from God’s school of life training in faith.  He learned this the hard way.  There is nothing Zechariah doubts now.  When God says it, he believes.

Do you have that kind of faith?  I really believe the older you get, as a Christian, the stronger your faith becomes.  Like Zechariah, we too sometimes must go through God’s school of training.  Zechariah has learned faith through training.

God has redeemed and God has raised up just like Zechariah said.  He’s done all these things through Jesus Christ our Lord.

2. God has Fulfilled Old Promises (1:70-75)

[70] as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

[71] that we should be saved from our enemies

and from the hand of all who hate us;

[72] to show the mercy promised to our fathers

and to remember his holy covenant,

[73] the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us

[74] that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

might serve him without fear,

[75] in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Zechariah sings because God has worked and kept His promises.  These promises were made many years ago, so long ago, in fact, that I’m sure there were those who had all but forgotten them.  But not God, He remembers all His promises and they all come to pass when the time is right.

Among all the OT promises God had made, Zechariah mentions one in particular.

to remember his holy covenant,

[73] the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us

[74] that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

might serve him without fear,

[75] in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Who are these enemies Zechariah declares that the Lord has defeated and we should not fear any longer?  Satan and his principalities are unleashed against us, we should not fear because he is a defeated foe and like a rabid dog who is chained we do not fear him any longer.

God has kept His Word…

I want us to turn back to Genesis 22:15-18

Genesis 22:15-18 (ESV)

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven  [16] and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, [17] I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, [18] and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Zechariah remembers that God made an oath to Abraham and promised that the New Covenant would happen.  Man’s sin was not going to nullify this covenant.  Remember what the covenant was?  I will be their God and they will be My people!

God swore to Abraham in an oath that He would bind Himself to see this promise through.  To bring this promise about would cost God His only Son Jesus Christ.  To bring this about, He would have to accomplish both parts Himself.  He would fulfill His half of the agreement by being our God and He would also, through Jesus Christ, create for Himself a redeemed people who would be His people.

God fulfills His part and Jesus came and lived a sinless life, fulfilling our part.  Jesus kept the covenant for us.  God has raised up a Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Peter 1:10-12 (ESV)

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,  [11] inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  [12] It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

The past promises of God concerning the covenant are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  But that’s not all Zechariah sings about.

Why has God done this?  We might serve him without fear, Our salvation that was planned before the ages began is a salvation to service.  He has done everything so that we might serve Him for His glory.

3. The Fulfillment of New Promises (1:76-79)

[76] And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

[77] to give knowledge of salvation to his people

in the forgiveness of their sins,

[78] because of the tender mercy of our God,

whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

[79] to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Here, through the empowering of the Spirit of God, Zechariah sings about what God will do.

It’s as if this is the second verse of his hymn and he takes the child from his mother’s arms and lifts him up toward heaven and begins singing prophecy concerning this child.  Elizabeth is reminding him not to hold the child up too high…

He exclaims that this child, John the Baptist, will be and do great things.

He would become a prophet of God because he would do great things for God.

-John the Baptist would go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

My wife and I were in DC a couple of years ago.  As we drove downtown along came a policeman who was stopping traffic and getting everyone to move to the side of the street.  It wasn’t a few minutes that a long caravan of black limos came racing down the street.  The policeman was preparing the way for a dignitary or our president we couldn’t tell for sure who it was.

Isaiah 40:3-4 (ESV)

A voice cries:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

[4] Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

John the Baptist would give knowledge of salvation to his people

in the forgiveness of their sins,

This was John’s role.  His preaching was getting everyone ready for the Messiah.

His message was repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. What Zechariah declares through the power of the Spirit is that the knowledge of salvation comes to those whose sins are forgiven.  For those who have not experienced the forgiveness of sin do not have a knowledge of salvation.  That’s why there are some folks who are very intelligent and may know some facts about the Bible or about God but will not truly know salvation because they’ve never experienced it for themselves.

Do you have a true knowledge of salvation?

-John the Baptist would give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

In all these different ways, he was preparing a straight highway for Jesus to travel.

Zechariah sang about all these amazing events before they happened.

God has visited His people and redeemed us.

He has kept all His past promises.

We also live in the day when what was future promises for Zechariah are past promises for us and we’ve seen those fulfilled perfectly. We seen the birth life and death of the Messiah, King Jesus.

Are you living your life in the realm of fulfilled promises?  Like Zechariah, we must believe the promises of God so strongly that we even believe and live our lives by faith that even the promises that are unfulfilled are as good as done.

Jesus’ second coming…Our resurrection…Jesus descending…Our heavenly dwelling…all these are as good as done, they just haven’t happened yet.

Our task is to believe these future promises so strongly that we live our lives in there shadow.  They are coming and we must be ready.

May we join Zechariah in his Song of Thanksgiving

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: