Sunday, December 11, 2005

Observe & investigate - Lk. 1:67-80

Observations

1. Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit (1:67) and enabled to prophesy just like his wife, Elizabeth (1:41f).

2. Just as Mary spoke in her song (1:51-55) of things yet future as if they were matters already present or past, so also does Zechariah speak in his song (1:68-75).

3. Zechariah's song (1:68-79) stresses God's work in redeeming (vs.68), raising (vs.69), saving (vs.71), showing mercy (vs.72), remembering (vs.72), rescuing (vs.74) and enabling (vs.74). This is similar to the stress in Mary's song (1:46-55) of God's work in performing mighty deeds (vs.51), scattering (vs.51), bringing down (vs.52), lifting up (vs.52), filling (vs.53), sending away (vs.53), helping (vs.54) and remembering (vs.54).

4. Mary and Zechariah's songs, among other things, speak specifically of God remembering (vs.48,54,72), being holy (vs.49,72), giving mercy (vs.50,72,78) and exercising his strength (vs.51,69).

5. Mary's song speaks of how God's "mercy extends to those who fear him" (vs.50) while Zechariah's song speaks of how God "enables us to serve him without fear" (vs.74).

6. Both Mary's song (vs.55) and Zechariah's song (vs.73) mention Abraham by name and the communication of matters to the fathers (vs.55b,70a).


Investigation

"Zechariah's joy overflows in an inspired song (known as the Benedictus from its opening word in the Latin). It may be divided into four strophes: thanksgiving for the Messiah (vs.68-70), the great deliverance (vs.71-75), the place of John (vs.76-77) and the Messianic salvation (vs.78-79)." (Morris, 79)

"As the Magnificat is modelled on the psalms, so the Benedictus is modelled on the prophecies . . ." (Plummer, 38-39)

vs.69 - "The horn is a common Old Testament metaphor for strength, so that a horn of salvation really means 'a mighty Savior.' God is so described in Psalm 18:2, and it is quite in keeping with Luke's theology to transfer the description to Jesus." (Caird, 58)

vs.69 - "'Salvation' occurs here for the first time in the Lucan Gospel." (Fitzmyer, 383)

vs.72-73 - "God acts 'to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father, Abraham.' The story will return to this theme again and again. Speeches in Acts will rehearse prophecies and promises God has now fulfilled. . . . From beginning to end Luke's history is about God's faithfulness to promises made to the Israelites." (Juel, 22)

vs.77 ["the forgiveness of their sins"] - "This is the first time that this Lucan phrase . . . turns up in this Gospel." (Fitzmyer, 386)

vs.78 - "The salvation which in vs.68 was described as a present fact is now represented as a promise still to be fulfilled." (Caird, 59)

vs.79 - "'The way of peace' is the way that leads to peace, especially peace between God and His people (Ps.29:11; 85:9; 119:165; Jer. 14:13). It was one of the many blessings which the Messiah was to bring (Lk.2:14; 10:5; 24:36)." (Plummer, 44)

vs.80 ["strong in spirit"] - "Or possibly, 'in the Spirit,' since the Holy Spirit has been mentioned in his regard in vs.15,41,67." (Fitzmyer, 388)

"Zechariah's own story, of nine month's of silence suddenly broken at the naming of the child, is a reflection on a smaller scale of what was going on in the Israel of his day. Prophecy, many believed, has been silent for a long time. Now it was going to burst out again, to lead many back to a true allegiance to their God. What had begun as a kind of punishment for Zechariah's lack of faith now turns into a sort of sign, a sign that God is doing a new thing." (Wright, 19)