Summary: Zechariah’s Song challenges us to expect God to work even in the middle of our present difficult circumstances. We do this by looking back at the actions of God, and then looking forward to the promises of God.
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We are working our way through a series which looks at the Advent Songs.
Today we are going to have a look at Zechariah’s Song. So that we can be reminded of the context of the song let’s start by reading Luke 1:57-66
(read just verse 57)
Hopefully you are all familiar with the earlier part of the story where Zechariah, a priest in his late 40’s, is praying in the temple for his wife Elisabeth, who is also an older woman, to have a baby. During the prayer the angel Gabriel appeared and said the prayer would be answered – but Zechariah didn’t believe so Zechariah was unable to hear or speak from that point on.
Now let’s read (read Luke 1:57-66).
In the first century the birth of a baby was huge event. In those days
Many babies never came to full term.
Many mothers died in child-birth.
Many towns were also quite small, so a new child in a village was always celebrated news as it didn’t happen so frequently.
In the case of Elisabeth the birth is even more celebrated. Physically she had been unable to have children and she was well past child-bearing age. But here she was with a baby in her arms. It is an incredible gift from God and neighbours and friends have gathered to celebrate.
It is the eighth day since the birth.
The time when a male child was circumcised.
And also the time when the name of the child was announced.
In those days names were passed on from one generation to the next. So, naturally, everyone assumes the name of the baby boy is Zechariah.
But that is not the case. This is what happened in the temple earlier.
The angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
Elisabeth knows the name of the child,
She tells the crowd – He is to be called John.
And … well since it was the man’s decision … and what would Elisabeth know anyway … the crowds ask Zechariah.
Zechariah writes clearly …. His name is John. Because this is the name God has chosen.
When God gives a name you know something important is happening.
In Genesis 17 God is talking to Abram.
Abram means – “exalted father”.
God has just told Abram about the covenant – one result will be that Abram will be the father of the nation.
Then God changes Abram’s name to Abraham which means “father of many”.
When Mary was told Joseph had in mind to divorce her quietly. An angel visited Joseph and told Joseph everything was above board.
Then the angel gave Joseph God’s name for the child.
Jesus – which means “the Lord saves”.
Saul becomes Paul.
Simon becomes Peter.
God gives many names – this child is also named.
John – which means God has been gracious.
God has been gracious!
Certainly God is gracious to Zechariah and Elisabeth.
In the first place they now have a child. In the older age of their lives God has given them the gift of an heir and removed the shame that … in those days … came when someone was unable to have children.
God has been gracious.
God has also been gracious to Zechariah who can now hear and speak.
Just as the angel said – when it was known that the child would be called John Zechariah’s sight and hearing were restored.
God’s promises, even in the times when we doubt, are still firm.
God has been gracious.
What is the response to all these gracious acts of God? Well there is a growing expectation that God is going to do something even more powerful.
The crowd are amazed … everyone is talking about it.
The crowd are thinking about the future … what is God going to do?
The crowd are being prepared … what is this child going to be?
Expectation is in the air because everyone realises that God is at work.
As all this expectation is hanging in the air God places a song on the heart of Zechariah.
Let’s keep reading Scripture to hear the words of the song. Luke 1:67-80.
This is a song about expectations. The expectation that, because God has worked faithfully in the past, God will continue to work faithfully into the future.
The focus in the past is specifically on the kingship of David.
David’s kingship began with a covenant promise. The promise that the house of David and his kingdom shall “endure for ever and the throne of David shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16).