“Saved to Serve”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Luke 1.67
Please turn back in your Bibles to Luke 1. We will be investigating together the first half of Zechariah’s prophecy, his forth-telling in verses 67-75. This passage concerns the relationship between Zechariah’s son John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus and his work.
Keep in mind that our passage this morning occurs between two covenants. The new covenant, which we are in, was inaugurated in the life and ministry of Jesus and it culminated in his death and resurrection. The old covenant is the Mosaic covenant. God’s people in this context in Luke are still under the old covenant. And now with the birth of John the Baptist, we have the bridging of the old and new covenants.
Now if you will look with me at text, let’s notice the stylistic features. The Gospels, like the gospel of Luke, are narrative, they tell a story. And interspersed within a narrative are often other types of literature. Here, we have a quotation of what Zechariah said in his prophecy. Zechariah’s speech here is poetry. And one of the main features of old covenant poetry is synonymous parallelism, that certain words or phrases are synonymous with one another. Let’s notice some of the more obvious ones together:
V. 68: a similar thought to “visit” and “redeemed” is, verse 69, “salvation.” These are parallel.
v. 71 notice “enemies” in the first line and the “all those who hate us” in the second line.
V. 72, we’ll explain this in a moment, but “promised to our fathers” and “covenant” in the second line; as well as v. 73, ‘oath.’ These are similar concepts.
Up to this point in Luke’s gospel, we are told of two birth stories: one concerning the birth of John the Baptist and the other, the birth of Jesus Christ. Both births are miraculous. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, is a barren old woman. On the other hand, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the opposite. She is so young so as yet not to have known a man. And the interesting contrasts between the two stories continue throughout the first chapter. You may want to investigate those two contrasts: especially how the Angel Gabriel treats Zechariah versus how he treats Mary.
But in 1:11-25 of Luke, you can recall that, when Gabriel announced to Zechariah that he would have a son, Zechariah responds in disbelief and that as a result Zechariah would be unable to speak until the child is born.
Then, Luke shifts the story from Zechariah to Mary and the pronouncement of Jesus’ birth in 1:26-38. Elizabeth visits Mary and Mary offers her praise to God. Luke then shifts back to Zechariah in 1:57.
In v. 63, Zechariah affirms the prophecy of the angel, that the child’s name is indeed to be John. Then, Zechariah is miraculously re-enabled to speak, and some of the first words out of his mouth are found in our text this morning. So, it comes to no surprise that, given the miracles we have read, he is, in v. 67, filled or “controlled” by the Spirit, when he speaks the things he does here.
Well, what does he speak? Our text this morning shall be 1:68-75. But in verses 76-79, Zechariah proclaims the ministry of his son, John the Baptist. Notice his description in verse 76 in the second line that he, “shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.” So John the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus, he is the one who went “before the face of the Lord.” And it’s this Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would bring salvation to Israel. And so, in verses 68-75, in our text, Zechariah proclaims this very salvation. So our text is about salvation.
We’ve already noted a bit of the wording for salvation in vv.68-69. But notice that this salvation is a cause for praise in v. 68 when Zechariah pronounces the Lord God of Israel to be “blessed” because of the Lord’s redeeming his people.
In verses 70, 72, 73, this salvation was promised by God. It was, verse 70, spoken how? Through the holy prophets and verse 72, it was found in his holy covenant, a word for promise. Verse 73 describes this covenant as an oath, another word for a promise. So this salvation was promised by God.
And then in verses 74-75, we have the main personal benefit of this covenant. The main benefit that Zechariah focuses on is that, verse 74, he has granted to us, “that we being delivered [or saved] out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear” that is he has granted to us what? to serve him! To serve him…why? Why should we serve him? Because of the very fact that he has saved us!
So the focus of the passage is salvation, that it was promised, and that service naturally follows salvation; that the one who is delivered serves the one who delivers him. So the focus of the message this morning is on this topic then, “saved to serve.”
We are saved in order that we might serve. And this is in keeping with the little series that we have been doing while I have been speaking these few weeks, which is that the gospel motivates godliness. Here, in v. 74, because you have been delivered from your enemies, you should serve him.
So what we have in verses 68-71 then is…
Salvation: the cause for praise (1:68-71)
Then in vv.72-73 we have…
Salvation: the promise of God (1:72-73).
And finally, in 74-75…
Service: the purpose of salvation (1:74-75)
First then in 68-71, Zechariah praises God for bringing salvation.
Zechariah praises God for bringing salvation (1:68-71)
Zechariah “blesses” God (v.68a)
First of all, it says that Zechariah “blesses” God. This is an expression of praise for a particular benefit. Notice as well whom Zechariah is praising. He’s praising the Lord, the God of Israel. That Zechariah mentions that this God is “of Israel” serves as a reminder that we are in an old covenant context, this is the God of Israel whom Zechariah is praising.
Zechariah praises God because God brought salvation (1:69-71)
The words for salvation (1:68b-69a)
And he is praising God for a reason. Why are you praising the Lord, Zechariah? Zechariah answers with different words for salvation beginning in the second line of verse 68 with the word “for”. Zechariah is praising the Lord “for” or because he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up the horn of salvation for us.
So clearly, Zechariah is praising the Lord for his redemption, for his salvation. And, we can’t forget to keep in mind the historical context once again. Remember that Zechariah, at the end of v. 68, is praising the Lord for his redemption for his people and that people is the people of a particular nation, the nation of Israel. And knowing this will help us understand the original intent of Zachariah’s prophecy when we read phrases like we have in verses 71-73. Words like “enemies,” “fathers,” “covenant” “father Abraham”…what would an OC saint mean by such words?
The difficult one there would be “enemies” what did he mean by “enemies”? He meant real, physical enemies of the nation.
So Zechariah in v. 68 is praising the Lord for this visitation of his people. This act of “visiting” is not just somebody stopping by and saying hello and chatting it up. God can “visit” either as a gracious act or as an act of judgment. Here, clearly, the Lord has come to help, redemptively speaking. Like it says in Psalms 8:4 (KJV) What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? The Lord is mindful in a visiting … a caring sort of way toward his people.
The psalmist then is reflecting on God’s grace and favor to man. And in our passage, God has been gracious when it comes to redemption, as it says in v. 68. God has purchased the nation of Israel, setting aside a people for his own name.
And this visitation, this redemption is messianic, it’s all brought about by the coming of the Messiah. That’s the language that you have in 1:77-78, where we have this same word ‘visitation’ used again: Luke 1:77-78 (KJV) 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high [that’s a messianic term] whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us. So, the Messiah has come to redeem!
Zechariah also describes this salvation, not only as a visitation or redemption, but also as, verse 69, “a horn of salvation.” This horn is not talking about a horn as in the musical instrument, but likely here the illustration is the horn of an ox. In the ancient near East, warrior Kings would often compare themselves to a charging ox who delivers himself and his people from its enemies with his horns. That’s why David, the warrior King of Israel, can say in Psalms 18:1-2 (KJV) 1 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” That’s all warrior terminology.
David was trusting in the Lord for physical deliverance b/c of the physical promises the Lord has made concerning Israel’s enemies. The Lord alone was powerful enough to deliver David and the nation of Israel from their enemies. It was true then and it is for Zechariah as well in his prophecy in our text. The Lord, then, the warrior king of Israel, has raised up a horn of salvation, he is a powerful Savior.
So, this is Zechariah’s description of the salvation in vv.68-69:
Visitation, that’s messianic incarnation,
redemption, that’s a purchasing-kind of deliverance of his people.
and a horn of salvation, a powerful savior.
And for a nation, like the nation of Israel, this salvation would be both political or national, that is, for the nation of Israel as a whole, as well as spiritual, as we see in the purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry, if you would look at vv.77-78 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.
So this is Zechariah’s praise to God for the expectation of total deliverance, both nationally/politically as well as spiritually, through the remission of sins.
TRANS: Zechariah not only describes what this salvation is, but he also proclaims the promised lineage of salvation in 1:69-70
The promised lineage of salvation (1:69-70)
He says that this horn of salvation has been raised up for us “in the house of his servant David.” That is, Zechariah is attesting to the fact that Jesus’ ancestor is David. How did he know that? Because of Joseph? No, they weren’t likely married yet. Zechariah knew this b/c he knew Mary. He knew Mary was the only human involved in the birth of Jesus and he knew Mary’s lineage.
So this verse is interesting, not only because it ties Jesus to the messianic line through David, but also because it is only here that we know that Mary is also in the line of David. The genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 both go back to Joseph, not Mary.
So, God has raised up and a powerful Savior through Mary, who is in the lineage of David. We’ll see why that matters in a moment.
And beginning with verses 1:69-70, Zechariah brings in the theme of God’s promises. The Davidic covenant is in focus through vv. 69-71, especially as we’ll see in a minute, in the wording “saved from our enemies” as you have it in vv.71, 74.
This horn of salvation that God has raised up for us was predicted by the prophets from old time. Notice how it’s worded… verse 69… He raised up a horn of salvation …verse 70 just as he spoke… Who spoke? The Lord.
So the Lord is the one here who predicted the coming of the Messiah. He did this by putting his words in the mouth of the prophets. Verse 70, the Lord “spake by the mouth of the prophets.”
So just like we saw in 1 Peter 1, this salvation, the coming of the Messiah, was predicted hundreds of years before the event. And you remember last time, Peter used this to boost our confidence, our faith, in the salvation that we have and then from that, Peter argued that we ought to be holy just as the Lord is holy. And Zechariah does the exact same thing, as we’ll see later.
TRANS: So, Zechariah has given the terminology for salvation, the lineage by which this salvation was to come, the line of David, and now he elaborates further on this salvation in v. 71
The salvation itself (1:71)
First here, recall that in v. 69, Zechariah mentions the house of David. Remember that this is significant because we are talking about the Davidic covenant and what God has promised to do for his people through His covenant with David.
And verse 71 gives the detail about the Davidic covenant that Zechariah wants to focus on; it has to do with salvation and notice how it’s put, its salvation from our enemies. Zechariah is using this phrase in v. 71 and tying it to the Davidic covenant in v.69 when he mentions the house of David. So, it would read this way vv69-7169 And hath raised up an horn of salvation….[skip to v. 71…he has raised up that horn…why?] 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
So, you can see he’s tying together the Davidic covenant with the phrase ‘salvation from our enemies’ and the question is why? Why does Zechariah do that?
To answer that question, let’s investigate the key passage of the Davidic covenant in the Old Testament, which is in 2 Samuel 7. Please keep a finger here and turn over there with me, 2 Samuel 7. As you turn, keep in mind you are turning back 1000 years before the time of Christ, 3,000 years ago. The context of God’s covenant with David is one in which God has given rest to Israel from all her enemies. As we read the passage, note the references to enemies. In this covenant, we read about the Messiah. The Messiah is clearly seen in the word “forever.” And then, in 2 Samuel 7:8 we read about Nathan the prophet and how the Lord told him to prophesy to David, saying in v. 8 …
2 Samuel 7:8-16 (KJV) 8 Now therefore so shalt thou [Nathan] say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: 9 And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. 10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, 11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee…that’s Solomon…, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever [that’s Messiah]. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son [both]. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men [Solomon]: 15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee [both]. 16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever [Messiah].
So how could God establish David’s throne forever? Through Messiah.
So, the enemies in view here from which God’s people, the people of Israel, were saved are physical enemies. This is the national salvation.
APP: And under the new covenant, we are not without enemies. Satan, the world system, sin, but especially our own selves. Ourselves are our worst enemies. We contain within ourselves the ability to kill murder lie and deceive cheat and steal we kill others with our attitude of anger, under our tongues is the poison of snakes and in our hearts are the doubts of discouragement and the faithlessness of fear.
And with the coming of Jesus, through God’s faithfulness to the covenant of David thousands of years ago, he has brought us salvation. We have complete salvation from our own selves and from our enemies of Satan and the world and sin. Do you see the grand scope of God’s great salvation how it was prophesied and predicted hundreds of years ago, but now in these last days God has delivered on his promise and has brought forth for us his own son to deliver us from our enemies!
God brought salvation to show his covenant faithfulness to Abraham (1:72-73)
In all of this, back in Luke 1, verse 72-73, we also see God brought salvation to show his covenant faithfulness, not only to David, but also to Abraham. God did this in order to perform the mercy promised to the fathers, the patriarchs. The word mercy here is the word that translates that great Hebrew word that has the idea of covenant faithfulness or covenant love. And that’s what Zechariah is getting at here. And the synonymous parallelism bears that out when he says, verse 72, to perform his mercy, i.e., his covenant faithfulness to our fathers and to, and it’s the same thought in the next phrase, to remember his holy covenant. Both phrases have the same idea: it’s that God has been faithful to keep his promises.
These promises God has kept, these promises that he made to the fathers, the patriarchs, Abraham Isaac and Jacob. And in verse 73, Zechariah elaborates further on the covenant under consideration that this is the covenant that he promised to the patriarch Abraham. So what we have here is Zechariah introducing to us now to a second covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, God’s promises to Abraham.
God brought salvation to grant that we serve (1:74-75)
But interestingly, we also see here a recalling of the Davidic covenant. We again see the key phrase of the Davidic covenant “we being delivered from our enemies” in verse 74. That he would grant to us….what? He grants to us to serve him without fear, that’s what he grants. And he grants that because we have been delivered from our enemies.
And Zechariah further describes the Abrahamic covenant. Just like the key phrase for the Davidic covenant in our text is “deliverance from enemies”, the key phrase for the Abrahamic covenant is serving God without fear in verse 74. So Zechariah is elaborating on both of God’s promises to Abraham and to David at the same time in verse 74.
Since we already discussed the deliverance from enemies, we will investigate briefly this “service without fear.” Let’s talk about how fear relates to the Abrahamic covenant.
Fearlessness is in keeping with the Abraham covenant because in Genesis 15 we read that when the Lord further revealed his covenant to Abraham, the Lord told him, “Do not be afraid.” And this is 1000 years before David, some 4,000 years ago now! There was a reason the Lord had to say “Do not fear.” Abraham was a fearful man.
His fear led him to more and more sin. For example, his fear led him to lie in order to save his own life. He was afraid about a famine in the land that God gave to him and so he, out of fear, decided to leave God’s promised place of blessing in order to take refuge in Egypt. Abraham was a fearful man even though God promised him great things!
And now, the Lord making his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, is obligated to say to Abraham, in 15:1 “Don’t be afraid!” So, fear is closely related to the Abrahamic covenant because of the character of the person with whom God made the covenant.
Now, secondly, in v. 74, let’s discuss service and how it relates to the Abraham covenant, this serving God without fear. In many different portions of Scripture, Abraham is called the servant of God. For example, recalling the exodus and God providing water in the desert, the psalmist writes Psalms 105:41-42 (KJV) 41 He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. 42 For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant.
So, the Abrahamic covenant was a covenant relating to fearless service. Abraham was a fearful servant, but God didn’t want him to be afraid, “Fear not” he says to Abraham. And it’s a covenant relating to service, b/c Abraham was God’s chosen servant.
And this salvation is a salvation with a purpose, that we might serve. And that service to him is a gift! Notice how it’s put, v. 74, that he would “grant” to us. This granting means that it is a gift. He is granting to us, end of verse 74, “that we might serve him without fear.” And we can serve him without fear because of the fact that we have been “delivered from the hand of our enemies.”
Freedom of service: Because we are saved from enemies, we can serve without fear.
So Zechariah is proclaiming the gift of salvation that we experience in Jesus. It is a salvation for a purpose and that purpose for this gift of salvation is that we would fearlessly serve.
If you have been delivered from your enemies, you have the freedom of the richness of the glories of Christ. You have eternal salvation from Satan, that roaring lion who walks about seeking whom he may devour. You no longer have to fear the wrath of God. What can separate you from the love of Christ; what can make God’s promises to you of none effect? We ought to have such boldness in our God that we would serve him without fear.
We do not have to be afraid of man nor do we have to respect mere human opinion on a particular matter. If you want a picture of what it looks like to serve fearlessly take a look at the apostle Paul or any of the early disciples in the book of Acts. Even the laypeople were persecuted for their witness for Christ and as they fled no matter where they went they would fearlessly proclaim the name of Jesus and his resurrection. Be a bold witness for Christ.
TRANS: This is the freedom of service to him. But we also, because we are saved from our enemies, we can v. 75, serve him in holiness and righteousness before him. This is our purity of service.
Purity of service: Because we are saved from enemies, we can serve in holiness and righteousness before him
Zechariah, a high priest in the Temple, would serve in the presence of God in the Temple. And now, because we are all priests before God in the new covenant, we can serve the Lord clothed in the holiness and righteousness we have in Christ.
TRANS: Not just a gift to serve without fear or in holiness for a brief time, no no, it’s all our days, v.75! Here we have the timing of service.
Timing of service: Because we are saved from enemies, we can serve all our days
So, because we’re saved from our enemies, we can serve all our days on this earth. Folks, this is a gift! It’s been granted!
From all of eternity…God, who made the stars and the heavens all the systems of every galaxy, has planned this out! In time, he made Abraham 4,000 years ago and David he made 3,000 years ago; called them out and made his covenant promises to them. And these covenant promises are not all the way fulfilled yet even! We still have God’s promise of the land of Israel coming yet in the millennial kingdom where we will reign for 1000 years with Christ!
So this was planned out from eternity past by an all great and all-powerful God who made the heavens and the earth and he made you! And he brought Christ and sent him into your heart and you received him as your Savior and now, he has delivered you from your enemies of sin, satan, and the world!
And given the grand eternal scope of God’s plan and how he has chosen you, of all people of the Earth. He has chosen you and given you a gift. He has given you the gift of service to him that you would serve him now because you have been delivered from your enemies so that you would serve him without fear. And that you would serve him in holiness and righteousness that is not your own that you have in Christ. And that you could do this for your entire life. This is a gift from God…how are you utilizing this gift? How are you using it? Are you using the gift to the fullness that has so designed? You have been saved from eternal enemies. But you have been saved to serve. You want to know what it means to serve, you can ask Pastor Bart and he’ll be glad to help you with that!
Let’s bow for prayer.