I really love my primary care doctor, not that I see him that often. We’re about the same age and we seem to have hit off a nice, jovial friendship. He really is a chatty fellow. You never feel like you’re being rushed along so that he can get to the next patient. The problem with this is that he was probably this same affable fellow with the three or four patients prior to me. Therefore, I’m always deep into extra innings of waiting for him to show up. First is the long time in the outside waiting room. Then you get your name called with an escort into an examination room (giving you hope). After a while, the door opens, but it is just a clerical person reviewing your information. Some time later the door opens again, but this time it is a nurse who is just getting some vital readings and that sort of thing. Finally, after a long, long time, the doctor himself arrives. But he’s so nice that he makes it worth the wait (even though I’m calling back to the office to postpone my appointments).
That is nutshell of what it was like for the godly people in Israel during the intertestamental period as they anticipated the coming of the Messiah. His coming had been foretold over many centuries. The “door would crack open” from time to time as other prophetic voices and religious leaders would come upon the scene. Though helpful and encouraging, none proved to be the long-promised Messiah.
In the meantime, there was national sickness and suffering. The political situation was really, really bad. The Holy Land was dominated by oft-despotic and cruel gentile rulers. Faith said, “Wait for it; wait for it; he is coming.” But that was difficult to do.
As a priest, Zechariah was one who had high hopes and Old Testament-based expectations of a Messiah. He surely was a voice within the nation to call the people toward sustaining hope in the depths of darkness. And now, unexpectedly, of all people, he was filled with the Spirit and given insight as to the fulfillment of this work of God. It was indeed about to happen, and his son was to be an integral part of the public preparation and presentation of God’s work.
With his voice now returned, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and breaks into prophetic praise. There are at least 15 allusions to OT prophecies and statements in this passage.
The first paragraph speaks of the horn (an allusion to strength) that is being raised up in the coming of the Messiah to the family of David. This would mean both spiritual salvation for God’s people, as well as national salvation from the enemies and oppressors of Israel.
The second paragraph anticipates the role that John would play. He would go before the Lord Jesus to prepare the hearts of the people for his coming, pointing to Christ as the One to follow. It would truly be like light in the darkness … like the doctor finally arriving!
A final sentence from Luke in verse 80 speaks of the way John spent time in the wilderness for his own preparation for the part he would play. Though this seems a bit weird to us, in that time it would remind the people of the great prophet Elijah – one who was said to, in some form, return before the day of the Lord and the coming of Messiah.
Just because the Messiah in Israel did not come as quickly as many anticipated did not mean that God was delayed in His plans and schedule. We may wonder why Jesus seems to linger and not return as promised to mend our broken world. Beyond that, much of our lives are spent in waiting for God to do this or that work in or through us. But God is always on schedule. We can never look back and say that God failed to show up. We can trust Him and trust His schedule – to fulfill His work of the ages, and to do His complete work in and through us.
Luke 1:67 – His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.