Summary: The old priest opens his mouth for God, and prophesies.
SONG OF ZACHARIAS
It is probable that Zacharias was elevated above purely personal petitions when he exercised his incense-burning office as priest in the Most Holy Place on the day that the angel Gabriel had appeared to him (Luke 1:9-11). The longings of the faithful remnant in Israel were wrapped up with the more private concern of Elizabeth’s childlessness, and the prayer which was answered was one which introduced John not as a son for the old couple, but as a messenger to go before the Lord. The subsequent joy of Zacharias would also be echoed in the rejoicing of others (Luke 1:14).
“What will this child be?” wondered the neighbours (Luke 1:66). The prophet of the Most High, the herald and forerunner of the Lord (Luke 1:76). The morning star which appears before the sun (Luke 1:78-79). The messenger to prepare the way for Jesus (Malachi 3:1).
Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke forth a message in the power and authority of God. The famous song is introduced as a prophecy (Luke 1:67). Our proclamation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has no efficacy without the overpowering influence of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The priest pronounced a benediction. Not indeed a blessing of the people, but “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel” (Luke 1:68). To proclaim God blessed is to acknowledge Him as the source of all blessings. The priest added nothing to God by these words, but magnified Him before the people.
At the forefront of the old prophet's mind was not first and foremost his own son, but the visitation of God to His people (Luke 1:68). When we pray, we hallow God's name first, and humbly acknowledge His goodness to His people. Even as a baby, John was already pointing away from himself to the One whom he came to proclaim!
God was visiting His people in the person of Jesus, in order to bring deliverance from the captivity of sin and death (Luke 1:68). This is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). The horn of salvation was at last budding in the house of David (Luke 1:69), and John appeared before Him as a priest carrying His lamp (Psalm 132:16-17).
The prophets all point to Christ (Luke 1:70). They were “holy”, set apart as God's ambassadors. They spoke of such things as salvation, mercy and covenant, and the fulfilling of the oath made to Abraham (Luke 1:71-73).
Our deliverance, like that of Israel out of Egypt, is into the service of God, “without fear” (Luke 1:74). Our salvation is a transference of allegiance from the tyranny of this world to our willing service of the loving Lord. We have a new master now who will lead us into holiness towards God, and a righteousness from God towards men (Luke 1:75). When we are right with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, we will do right things for God.
John's message was intended to bring knowledge of salvation to God's people (Luke 1:77). If we repent we have the remission of our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is only possible because of God's mercy in visiting us in the person of Jesus (Luke 1:78). He is the light in our darkness (Isaiah 9:2), who guides us into the path of peace (Luke 1:79). Thus the angels could sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
The song of Zacharias being ended, we do not hear of John again for nearly three decades. John was in the desolate places, in preparation for his unique ministry (Luke 1:80). We must not despise our own wilderness years, nor push ourselves forward by running ahead of God's plan in our own lives.