Before his prophecy, Zacharias had been serving as a priest and his lot fell to burn incense in the temple. Meanwhile an angel appeared to his wife Elizabeth, who was of a great age and declared that she would have a son. This son would prepare the way of the Lord and he would be called John. When Zacharias enquired how that would happen, Gabriel stated that he would be mute until those things were fulfilled.
On the eighth day, their son was to be circumcised and they would have called him Zacharias. Nonetheless Elizabeth insisted that he be named John even though none of his relatives had that name. They asked John and tried to communicate by making signs. Have you ever tried to communicate by making signs abroad when your phrasebook vocabulary has run out? Zacharias made use of a tablet confirming he should be called John and immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue became loosed and he praised God. Others were afraid at what had occurred, yet were intrigued by what kind of child John would be.
It is remarkable how many events, prophecies and subplots converge at this point. Zacharias’ silence had been broken and for four hundred years there had been a longer silence at the end of the Old Testament and in expectation of the Messiah. Mary recognised that the Lord had spoken to her fathers and Zacharias knew that God had spoken by the mouth of the prophets. They both understood the oath of Abraham fulfilled through His seed, as Mary had recognised the Saviour and Zacharias saw the Redeemer and Deliverer.
Their names are of interest here too. John means ‘God is gracious’, Elizabeth means ‘oath’ and ‘Zacharias’, ‘God remembers’. God had been gracious and had not forgotten His people, had kept His oath and John would prepare the way for the Messiah.
Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit which means he was controlled, guided, and led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures which are God-breathed and guided Zacharias to prophesy. Normally Zacharias would have proclaimed the Aaronic blessing though on this special occasion after his tongue was loosed his next words comprise a wonderful benediction.
God raised a horn of salvation in the house of His servant David. Biblically speaking a horn is a metaphor of strength or power associated with animals with great strength in their horns and ascribed to individuals. If you get the chance to go on safari and see the horns of the great herbivores on the plains this will become evident quickly. But horns were also used to contain oil for anointing kings. David and Solomon were both anointed with a horn of anointing oil (1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Kings 1:39). The horn of salvation referred to Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour who would bring salvation. Jesus was from the line of David and his greater Son whose kingdom would endure forever.
God had spoken through His holy prophets. The words of a holy prophet come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:15-22), as opposed to false prophets. Prophecy about John the Baptist is interwoven with the Messiah for whom he would prepare the way for. Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 point us towards John’s preparatory ministry and interestingly Josephus not only references the Lord Jesus but John the Baptist as well.
As well as the precision of prophecy, let us consider the blessing of the tender mercy of God. How many times in the gospels do we read of our Lord acting out of tender compassion? Knowing the God of tender mercies is a consolation and a reassurance that cannot be calculated. When you pray to the Lord remember His character and His faithfulness.
The sunrise would visit them. Have you been visited by the sunrise lately? This may appear a strange expression in the western hemisphere! Some versions state ‘Dayspring’ or light from on high’, ‘sunrise’ or ‘rising sun’. This is a Messianic reference. Think of the timeless carol ‘Hark the herald angels sing’ with the lines ‘Light and life to all He brings-Risen with healing in His wings’. The Messiah came and visited His people. Messiah is the ‘Dayspring’, “Hail the Sun of righteousness” (c.f. Malachi 4:2).
The Apostle Peter linked the Malachi 4:2 prophecy with the Messiah. He speaks of Jesus as the Morning Star rising in our hearts as a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). At the end of Scripture our Lord said in Revelation 22:16b, “I am the Bright Morning Star”. The morning star is normally the first star that you see when you wake up. If you have sleeping issues and feel troubled in the night go and gaze for a little while at the morning star and let that remind you of our Saviour, the Sun of Righteousness, the Dayspring, the light from on high who has visited His people.
Light was given to those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79). Judas the Galilean had led a revolt against the Romans and there was much bloodshed, and two of his two sons, Jacob and Simon were crucified. The people needed comforting in Galilee and the text of Isaiah 9:1-7 was in view here. Jesus was born around the time of the feast of Tabernacles and during Tabernacles giant menorahs were lit in the temple court. The light had come and visited them. Later at the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus the Messiah proclaimed, “I am the light of the world (John 8:12)”. He came and dwelt with His people.
‘The light of the world’ was also ‘the resurrection and the life’ and although the Lord Jesus had a miraculous birth, He was a man born to die. But death could not hold Him, and God raised Him from the dead. Luke tells us that when He was crucified, a great darkness covered all the earth. But the light shone through the darkness and Jesus is the light of lights.
Our Lord was “Born to raise the sons of earth-born to give them second birth”. Born so that we might live and live life in all its fulness and serve Him without fear. But we must die to self, confess our sins, turn to Him for forgiveness, trust in Him and follow Him as our Lord and Saviour.
It may be a long way geographically to Galilee though everyone is in darkness until God gives them the ability to see spiritually. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. We must let our light shine to glorify Him. He guides us through the Bible and by His Spirit since His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Have you seen the light?
Jon Taylor 4th December 2020