Young Jesus at the Temple

Luke 2:41-52

Only Luke provides us any information about the boyhood of Jesus, and all of it is found in this section. Speculation about the reasons for this are useless and distracting. They lead us to go beyond what has been written in the Word. Instead, we need to think about what these words reveal about our Lord and Savior. The Bible is God’s message about his one and only Son (Luke 24:44; etc.) We mislead ourselves and others if we pursue speculative knowledge, which includes speculation about the “timeline of prophecy”. Don’t do it! Break the bad habit of taking pride in what you suppose the Spirit ought to have written rather than what is written. Neither do we need to speculate about why Luke included this event. Let’s content ourselves with reading and meditating on what has been written. So then, what should we learn?

Jesus was raised by believing, godly parents (2:41). The law covenant required all Israelite men to attend Passover, Pentecost, and Booths (cf. Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16). Israelite women did not have this burden put on them. It was a burden, because it required a long trip, usually on foot, from the towns of Israel. A man would have to leave his job and home during the festivals and the journeys to and from Jerusalem. This required faith in the Lord to protect his possessions and to provide for the journeys and the expenses involved in attending the festivals. We also see Mary at the festival. She was about twenty-eight at this point and already the mother of several of her other (at least) six children. This would involve a lot of work for Mary and Joseph to worship the Lord.

Jesus was growing in many ways (2:43, 51-52). At twelve years old, a boy could stay with the women and children or go with the men. Jesus chose the second option. He was in Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, and there was much for him to see with his human eyes. Since he knew he was God’s Anointed, he would want to see his city. Boys have a “joy of life” excitement in exploration. We do not know if his parents gave him any guidelines about reporting back to them. Again, it is easy to speculate according to how we want this event to look to prove some point we want to make. At the end of this section, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ obedience to his parents. He also mentions Jesus growth in knowledge. Beyond those boundaries we should not go.

Jesus went to the best place for him to be, to his Father’s house (2:43-47). There he interacted with trained Bible teachers. He listened to them and asked them questions. Since he was a boy, it was not fitting for him to teach, but when asked he gave insightful answers. Certainly, this shows his humility, for the One who is God’s wisdom knew far more than any of them. It also sheds light on his later interactions with such men. He had listened to what they taught. He had the opportunity to reason out how their views compared with the truth of what he was. But the key point is that he wanted to be where God was worshiped and to participate in it in every facet. Jesus was acknowledged as an exceptional youth.

Jesus conversed wisely with his parents (2:48-50). He listened humbly while his mother gave a typical motherly rebuke. He had done nothing wrong, and he kept his mouth from any discourteous replies. But he gave them a revelation that he knew who he was, and he expected that they ought to have thought about him, according to what the Father had already made known to them. He was the Son of the Most High, the Son of God (1:32, 35 NIV). They ought to have known that he would be at his Father’s house, the temple. This sets a pattern that we see in Jesus. He was not on a quest for self-knowledge. He is knowledge and wisdom, and he expects people to recognize his greatness. Do we? Do we function according to the truth of who and what Jesus is?

Grace and peace, David

Anna the Prophetess

Luke 2:36-40

In the opening chapters of the Gospel of Luke, he sets forth various themes that he will develop throughout the remainder of Luke and Acts. For example, we have already noticed a couple times his mention of the Holy Spirit and filling people. We will see others like prayer and sharing meals with people. Here, we encounter two others: the lifting up of women in the people of God, and their inclusion in prophetic ministry. I know that both of these have been controversial since the latter part of the last century. Hopefully, all of us will be receptive to what the Spirit of God says about these subjects in the Scriptures, regardless of our current opinions. (Now that might sound scary! What is Pastor Dave about to write?)

First, let’s understand the history of female prophets in the old covenant. Only five are mentioned: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and the wife of Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3). Except for Noadiah, God spoke through these women. She tried to hinder Nehemiah in the work God had given him. The Lord used the first three listed to provide guidance for his people.

Second, Miriam and Deborah (cf. Judges 5:1) acted like “worship leaders” for Israel. One of the ideas of the action “to prophesy” is to praise God. You can see this in 1 Chronicles 25:1-3; cf. Numbers 11:25-26; 1 Samuel 10:10-11; 19:20-24. Picture Miriam leading the women in song and dance, after the Lord defeated Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea. It seems that Anna served as a prophetess in that sense. She was active in worship at the temple. What can we learn from Anna and her ministry for the Lord?

  • Though many of the ten northern tribes were scattered after the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians, some returned to Jerusalem, when the ten southern tribes returned from exile to Babylon. Anna was of the tribe of Asher (2:36). There has been too much assumed and made of “the lost tribes”. Scripture tells us little, and we do well to keep our opinions within the limits of what God has said.
  • Anna was very old (2:36-37). Depending how one translates the Greek, she was between 84 to 100 years old. She had been married for seven years, but from her early twenties she was a widow. She did not allow the sorrows of life to distract her from the worship and service of God. In fact, she the singleness of her widowhood as an opportunity to offer herself continually to worship. The Bible does not say that those who lose their spouses must remain single. The New Testament Scriptures counsel younger widows to remarry (1 Timothy 5:11-14.) Anna lived before that was written, so she was not in disobedience. She chose to give her life to prayer and fasting. She used her life for the glory of God and the good of others. In my second pastorate, a woman named Myrtle, who was blind and lived close to one hundred, was always praying for me. Thank you, Lord, for those who wrestle in prayer for others (Colossians 4:12)! The point is that though you are old, you can always pray. Don’t waste your life, even when you’re confined to a chair in a nursing care facility.
  • Anna’s praise on the day on the presentation of Jesus at the temple concerned Jesus (2:38). Very much in touch with God, she thanked God for the infant and spoke about him to all who looked forward for the redemption of Jerusalem, the city of God. Luke will later write in his Gospel about how that redemption was accomplished when the child had grown to manhood and died on a cross. Anna saw that the freedom of God’s people would be accomplished by Jesus.

Luke closes this section with a brief summary of Jesus’ years to the age of twelve. What did Jesus do? He grew, like any other normal child. The years of childhood are years to become strong physically. Parents are wise who carefully nurture the physical development of their children by a proper diet, healthy play times, giving them regular work to do as is fitting for their age, and making sure they have good rest in the evening hours. They are spiritually wise, if they fill their children’s heart with wisdom and pray for the grace of God to be upon them. Mary and Joseph had received a great gift: to raise the Lord’s Messiah, and they did a fine job for the glory of God. If you have young children entrusted to you, be sure to do the same.

Grace and peace, David

Building a Supernatural Focus

Recently, in our local assembly, we heard a message from 2 Kings 6 about the presence of God with his people. The idea was to live with an awareness of the supernatural during this year. God is with us, and we ought to act consistent with that reality. A couple days later, I was asked to lead our small group study. Usually, there are questions connected with the Sunday message. But since there were none, I developed what followers. Look at each of the points below as “feeder streams” into the large stream of our comprehension of the presence of Almighty God with us.

Since we have faith in the true and living God, the people of God ought to look at life from the perspective of living in the presence of the Almighty, Sovereign Lord. Christ with us by the Spirit is one of the core realities of being a member of the new covenant people. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). God is with us (Hebrews 13:5)!

How can we build a supernatural outlook more consistently into our way of life?

  • Set our minds on heavenly matters. This is the idea of Paul’s “heavenly thesis statement”. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4 NIV). Add to this the spiritual investment advice that Jesus gave us (Matthew 6:19-21).
  • Invest time in prayer with our Father in heaven. Unlike the worldly-minded person that “spends time”, children of the heavenly Father ought to invest time. We should be in a continual conversation with our God. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2)
  • Live in the awareness that true Christianity is supernatural. It only happens as God is at work in us. Every part of the walk of faith requires God’s all-powerful activity in us. God made us alive when we were totally helpless, spiritually dead.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV). To experience God’s love in Christ requires the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV). Since we encounter spiritual opposition, we must rely on the Lord’s amazing power. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10 NASB)
  • Develop a walk in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV; cf. Galatians 5:15-26; John 15:5). Our way of life is joined to an ongoing experience of Jesus Christ as Lord. He is the one who rules over everything for our benefit. We live in his kingdom (Colossians 1:13). As we connect with him, his presence and power change us. If we lose connection, we lose the ability to grow and flourish.
  • Read the Bible as it is, a book through which God acts powerfully. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV). When we read the Bible, we must remember that it is the very word of God, the voice of the Lord God speaking to us. This word is used by the Spirit to change and to transform us (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23).
  • Remember that we live in relationship with God, who is supernatural. Our fellowship or sharing of life is a vital connection with the living God. What we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 CSB; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
  • Expect God to work in our lives and in our local assemblies. Listen to the apostle Paul describe his way of ministry. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:29 NIV). It all happened as Christ worked in and through him. This is the way ahead for our churches (Acts 2:47; 4:31; 9:31; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 5:5-7). We don’t need more or better programs, buildings, and church staff. We do need the presence and power of the Lord Christ acting in us.

So then, let’s take each of these and build them into our daily outlook and way of life. Taken together, they will help us build a supernatural focus this year.

Grace and peace, David

A Promise Fulfilled

Luke 2:25-35

For my eyes have seen your salvation (Luke 2:30 CSB).

Waiting can be difficult. How we all struggled with waiting when we were children! Most of us still struggle with waiting as adults. Think traffic snarls, doctor’s offices, and being seated at a popular restaurant on a busy weekend. Patience to wait for God’s time is a spiritual grace that comes from the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our text is about a man named Simeon who had to wait. We are not told how long he waited, but it is apparent that he waited for what God would do to bring comfort to Israel from the time he came to faith in God, and he was apparently old (2:29). God’s comfort to Israel had been prophesied seven hundred years before Simeon by Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1, 9-11). Since Simeon was righteous and devout (2:25), he waited for God to fulfill his word.

Besides the ancient promise from Isaiah, Simeon waited expectantly for another reason. The Holy Spirit was on Simeon and had told him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Remember that Christ means Messiah or “the Anointed One”.) The Promised Rescuer was about to appear. During the old covenant, the Spirit of God came on a person to enable them to do some task for the Lord. Simeon’s mission would be to say something significant about the Christ, which is the reason God assured him life until he would see him. In new covenant days, the Spirit lives in all God’s people constantly.

In some unexplained way, the Spirit directed Simeon to go into the temple courts at the very time Mary and Joseph obeyed the Lord about the required sacrifices regarding her son. Notice that their walk of obedient faith brought them to the place where they reached confirmation about the person and work of Jesus. It is important to be doing what the Lord wants us to do! For example, when we gather to pray, the Lord often uses the prayers of our brothers and sisters to refresh our spirits. So then, what did Joseph and Mary hear from the Lord through Simeon?

  • They heard an encouraging word that God keeps his promises (2:29). This was soon to be personally important, because this event happened before the terrorist Herod ordered the execution of the infants around Bethlehem. As the Lord God kept his promise to Simeon, so he would keep the promises about Jesus.
  • They heard confirmation that salvation would come through Jesus (2:30; cf. Matthew 1:21). They needed this, because it is hard to get one’s thoughts around the idea that a baby in arms would become the Savior of the world
  • They received insight into the Lord’s global vision (2:31-32). All spiritual blessing for all people from all nations would come through the Messiah, who was their baby (Ephesians 1:3). The great turning point in history had arrived when all people would be brought back together in Christ. Luke gradually builds on this concept through Luke and Acts.
  • Yet from a different angle, they learned that Jesus would bring division to humanity (2:33-35). Jesus would cause some to rise and others to fall in the people of Israel. When Christ began to announce who he was, many rejected his claims, while some bowed before him in faith. In this personal word to Mary, Simeon foretold the cost to her own soul. A sword would pierce it! Oh no! Horrors! This happened when she saw her son hanging on the tree, bearing the sins of his people whom he came to save. Up to this point, Mary had glorified God for the blessings connected with her son. Suddenly, she experienced the painful side of the story of God’s glory in Jesus.

We must listen to all God’s message, not simply what pleases us. In the unpleasant parts, God is also acting for his glory and our good. Don’t try to soften the “rough edges” of the gospel. They also reveal the glory and goodness of the Lord to those who will humbly listen in faith.

Grace and peace, David

He Came Under the Law

Luke 2:21-24

God reveals himself and his redemptive purposes in his word. He does this for his glory and our joy! His message concerns his dearly loved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is formed according to what God did, does, and will do through him. It declares from its earliest pages “he will come,” and then “he has come” and “he will come again”. Various themes assist in the telling of this message, such as the kingdom, the seed, and the covenants. In our text we ought to see how the Christ or Anointed One came. He came under the law, meaning the old or law covenant, made by God with his people Israel. Listen to Paul’s statement. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV).

Why do you and I need to know this? We can begin by saying we must understand how God tells the story of his glory to us. It helps us as we read parts of the Scriptures like this text, because we can wonder, “Why does the Spirit of God use four verses of the Bible on this stuff?” I think I can safely say that no one ever was told to memorize these verses in Sunday School, Bible study, or a discipleship program. It provides part of the background for understanding what Christ did for us and the newness of life we are called to walk in. It also provides a rare glimpse into the infancy of the Redeemer. Let’s observe a few things of his earliest days.

His parents walked obediently according to the old covenant. He was circumcised and presented to the Lord as the law required. They presented an offering required by the law. Remember that the covenant given at Sinai functioned as the people brought offerings to the priests at the tabernacle or temple. This was their worship. Since the new covenant has one finished sacrifice offered by Jesus the great high priest, our worship is in him. We come to God through Christ, but Mary, Joseph and Jesus approached the living God through sacrifices like this. So then, they were obedient worshipers, just as we should be.

They, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, kept the word of the Lord that came to them through the angel Gabriel. They named their son Jesus (Luke 1:31). This shows their faith that God had indeed spoken to them. We have received the New Testament Scriptures through the apostles and prophets of the Lord. When we read the Bible, we read what the Lord has said. We are to keep what the Spirit has caused to be written for us with the same spirit of faith. In other words, when we pick up God’s book, let us reverence God for what he says to us, and let us respond with faith.

Jesus was born to poor parents. We learn this from the offering that Mary brought for her cleansing after the birth of a son. But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean (Leviticus 12:8 NIV). The earthly parents of the Messiah could not afford a lamb. So, the Lamb of God was presented to God Most High with a pair of doves or pigeons! It was all they could give, but they gave what pleased the Lord. In the same way, God only expects us to give according to the manner that God has prospered us (1 Corinthians 16:2). God does not burden us beyond our abilities. In fact, he sent his Son from heaven’s riches to earthly poverty to make us rich in him. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV). Rejoice in the God who gives generously to make us forever rich!

Grace and peace, David

The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown

Luke 2:1-20

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:11 NIV).

The Christmas story is really part of a larger story—the story of God’s glory. The point of the Christmas story is not that a baby lies in a manger and angels and shepherds welcomed his birth. We’ve had tens of billions of babies born on this planet. So why celebrate this one’s birth? It is because of the greater story of God’s glory in which he is the central and crucial character.

The cradle – “has been born” – Here is a great mystery of our faith: God himself took on true humanity. He entered our race. What does it all mean?

It shows the great mercy of his eternal purpose. After the rebellion of Adam and Eve, God could justly have cast off our race. He owed us nothing but to carry out the threat he promised for disobedience to one command. He could have dealt in only strict justice with our race, as he did with the devil and his angels who disobeyed, because no way of salvation was provided for angels. However, God chose a surprising way to bring eternal honor to his name. He decided to spare our race, more than that, to become one with us, in order to rescue us from sin, condemnation, and death. When Christ was born, it showed that God’s eternal purpose was in the process of fulfillment. The promise of Christ’s coming had been passed down through countless generations, but suddenly in the cradle, it is no longer simply a promise.

It shows that God will do good for mankind. Think of this: The great God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, taking on human flesh. Who would imagine that the majestic God would stoop so low? This is not the way of this world. Oh, the so-called great ones might visit a humble village and chat for a few moments with the common people. They love the photo ops. Perhaps they might even provide a few gifts to alleviate their suffering. But they do not wish to live among them, to share their heartaches and sufferings. No, they hurry off to satisfy their pleasures. But when the Son of God was in the cradle, his appearance proved that he was deeply interested; in fact, he came to share in our sufferings. He came to live among a people suffering under the curse, laboring for their bread, feeling hunger and thirst, sorrow and pain. God committed himself to set his people free. As he lies in the cradle wrapped in strips of cloth, he senses the struggles of what it means to be human in all our helplessness. The Mighty God must be carried and fed, so that one day he can feed us with the bread of life and carry away our sins and sorrows. Smell the odors of the stable, touch the rough sawn wood of the manger, hear the cries of the newborn infant, and see the wonder of the God who would do what was needed to save.

Allow this story to grip your heart with its true power. In the fullness of time, God sent his Son. The keeping of this promise testifies that he will keep all his promises. His identification with us proves that he is determined to work what is good for us.

The cross – “Savior” – The story of Christmas is far more than the cradle. In all parts of it the long shadow of the cross should be seen. The Son of God newly clothed in true humanity is not there for a cute picture of newborn sweetness.

The title “Savior” reminds us of the wretchedness and ruin of humanity. He had to come to rescue us from our ungodliness and unrighteousness. All of us are part of a race determined to suppress the knowledge of God. We do not want to think of our responsibility to God—that we must give account to him for what we have done. We do not want to think about our duty to live for God and to declare his greatness. We want no part of his close involvement in our lives. We want to live our lives “my way” at all costs. Our chief goal is to be happy by gratifying our pleasures. We will walk over anyone who dares to get in our way. The more we have; the more we want. Simply think about those who have much, like the sad accounts of pro athletes that cannot stop with what they have, but foolishly reach for more. But do not look down on them, because haven’t you taken advantage of others for your benefit? We are ungodly and unrighteous creatures.

The Savior had to come to rescue us from our helplessness. We try everything to rescue ourselves from the mess we’re in. We try politics, religion, philosophy, psychology, medicine, work, pleasure, intoxicating substances, and yet find no help. Instead, we become poorer and more frustrated and empty. Here is what humanity is like. Picture the poor gambling addict hopelessly playing slot machines hoping to hit a big payoff. Look at the next man, playing the slot machine of politics. He puts his all into it, and the problem just becomes worse. Another drains her fourth glass of wine trying to feel beautiful and accepted when she feels wasted. Yes, we all need a Savior, because we all speed recklessly toward the hospital, the nursing home, the funeral home, and to the most serious of them all—the throne of God’s judgment.

But the good news is that the Son of God came to save! The rescue came by sacrificial love. Jesus died on the cross in the place of sinners to pay the full penalty that we owed for our ungodliness and unrighteousness. The wages of sin is death, and so he died, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. The rescue came by undeserved, sacrificial love. Jesus did not die for good people but for those who were his enemies, for those who despised him, for those who couldn’t care less about him. No one seeks after God; instead, the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

The story of Christmas is the message of salvation from ruin, condemnation and eternal punishment. In place of that terrible trio, Christ freely gives joy, righteousness, and eternal life to all who turn from their rebellious, ungodly ways and rely solely and wholly on him. My friend, have you received the best gift of all? Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Timothy 1:15 NIV).

The crown ­– “the Lord” – It is amazing that the baby born that first Christmas, who was lying in a manger was the Savior of the world. But he is more than Savior; he is Lord of all!

He is Lord because of what he accomplished. Jesus earned his lordship by his death and resurrection (Romans 14:9-10). By his death he became Lord over death, exhausting and finishing its power. He conquered on the cross, defeating all his enemies. He now holds the keys of hell and death. He is in charge of all who die. All the dead will appear before him one great day (Revelation 20:11-15). By his life he became Lord of life, rising from the dead and being alive forever. He holds the right to give life to whom he will (John 5:21). If you feel death working in you and desperately need life, there is only one direction to turn. Run to Jesus, the Lord of the living and the dead.

He is Lord because of God’s appointment. God the Father accepted his sacrifice, raised him from the dead, and exalted him to the throne, where he now sits at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. God has made him both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36). All things are now in Christ’s power and authority (Matthew 28:18). He does as he pleases with the world and those who live in it. Our duty is to trust and to obey him always.

Do you deeply agree with Christ’s lordship, or are you still in rebellion against him? How is the Christ the Lord ruling your life now? What changes is he continually making in you?

Grace and peace, David

Zechariah’s Prophecy

Luke 1:67-80

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied (Luke 1:67 CSB).

God has given his word to people like us in an understandable form. The Spirit of the Lord guided the biblical writers to express God’s message, not as random sound bites, but through word structures that make it easier for us to comprehend and to recall. For example, the Spirit tells stories, uses songs, and develops themes in “teaching patterns”. In this “prophetic song” of Zechariah, the Spirit led him to speak through a pattern: A-B-C-D-E-F-E-D-C-B-A. Let’s look at this together.

The bookends of this pattern are the A sections (1:68a; 1:80). The pattern in this case is completed by Luke’s comment. Zechariah praised the God of Israel in his prophecy for what the Lord was doing to accomplish his plan for his people. Luke completes the thought by stating that John, the son of Zechariah, came to Israel. God cared for his people by sending the forerunner of the Messiah to them. He prepared the people to meet their Lord. This was an act of God’s mercy.

Next inside the bookend pairs as the B sections (1:68b; 1:78-79). They talk about two visits of God to his people. Zechariah saw the first as a done deal, although its accomplishment would take thirty plus years. The day of redemption had arrived; God had come to set his people free. There would be a new and better exodus (cf. Luke 9:31 – the word translated departure by NIV, ESV, and CSB is exodus in Greek) through Jesus the Messiah. Zechariah also saw another visit, which would bring light to the people (Matthew 4:14-17; Ephesians 4:13-14; 1 Peter 2:9).

Moving further inside are the C sections (1:69; 1:77). They announce the great news of salvation! First, Zechariah thinks of the son who would soon be born to Elizabeth’s relative, Mary. The Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) would come through the line of David, since Mary was descended from David. John would talk about salvation, not through an earthly monarch, but through the forgiveness of sins (1:77; cf. John 1:29).

Next, we find the D sections (1:70; 1:76). They are linked together by the idea of prophets. God gave his word to Israel through his holy prophets hundreds of years before Zechariah lived. But now, John would be the prophet foretold by Isaiah to prepare the way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Moving closer to the core are the E sections (1:71; 1:74). In both, Zechariah praises God for the rescue that God will give his people from their enemies. Since the earliest days, humanity has been divided into two groups: the righteous and the unrighteous. Cain’s murder of Abel was the first act to make this division clear. Zechariah sees an end to the hatred, so that the godly might serve God without fear in his presence.

Finally, we come to the core, the F section (1:72-73). Why was God doing all this? It was because of his holy covenant. God had made a promise to Abraham and his seed, and he confirmed his promise with an oath (Hebrews 6:13-20). As God mercifully remembered his people at the time of the first exodus (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7, 9, 16), so in Zechariah’s time, he remembered his sworn oath, and he sent his son to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Luke will pick up the idea of a covenant again (Luke 22:20). The next time we read of a covenant, it will be about a new covenant, as the Seed of the woman and of Abraham points to his final sacrifice for the people of God. This new covenant guarantees the writing of God’s laws on our hearts, union with God as his people, the certain knowledge of God, and the full forgiveness of the sins of his people by God (Hebrews 8:10-12). In Christ, we have all these spiritual blessings. God indeed is merciful to us!

Grace and peace, David