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“His Name Is John” (Part 2 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 12, 2022 3:00 am

“His Name Is John” (Part 2 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 12, 2022 3:00 am

The priest Zechariah was silenced by God throughout his wife’s pregnancy. When his speech returned, the first thing he said was so astonishing it got everyone talking! Explore Zechariah’s Song along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



Several months before Jesus was born, there was a priest named Zechariah. Zechariah was silenced by God during the time when his wife was pregnant. After naming his newborn son John, his speech returned and his words were so astonishing that it got everyone talking. We'll hear about Zechariah's song today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from Luke chapter 1, starting in verse 57.

Everybody apparently has an opinion on what's going on. And on the eighth day, when the time came according to the process of the law for the child to be circumcised, you will notice what it says. They were going to name him after his father Zechariah. Now, the question is, who was they? Because it clearly wasn't Elizabeth and Zechariah. So it seems it was everybody else. And they had all decided that since it was such a community event, and since they had all been looking forward to the arrival of this child, it was very appropriate that he should be named Zechariah also. Now, the response of Elizabeth is fairly clear.

No. So unable to get closure to their desire, they turned to the father, old silent Zech, you know. And he writes in such a way so as to leave no one in any doubt as to the name.

His name is John. And suddenly, in the same way that his unbelief had been responded to with dumbness, so now his obedience is responded to with the rediscovery of his voice. And so his voice returns, and he begins to speak. Notice verse 64, praising God. Praising God.

That in itself is not insignificant. Some of us, if we had been struck dumb for nine months, as soon as we opened our mouths, we would have already begun to talk about ourselves. And we would have been going on and on and on, letting everybody know how it was. No, he opens his mouth and he praises God. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever. With my mouth will I make known your faithfulness, your faithfulness. O Lord, open thou our lips, that our mouths might show forth your praise.

What comes out of our mouths is an indication of what's going on in our hearts. But for Zechariah, he has moved now from this once-in-a-lifetime event, which had been the genesis of his dumbness. You remember he had the privilege of burning incidents in the context that only happened to one of these individuals once in his lifetime. And he had now fast-forwarded through all of this.

He had gone back to it in his mind many times. He was there for the great day of his life. His wife would have been excited.

His community would have been pleased. The worshipers, we were told, were waiting outside, and they were praying. They were longing for him to come.

And he had finally appeared, and he was unable to speak. He had gone through the events of these months with his wife in seclusion, the conversation between herself and Mary, the birth of the child, the insistence on the name, now the rediscovery of his tongue, his sincere and enthusiastic praise. The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea, people were talking about all these things, and everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, What then is this child going to be? This was far more than just the news of the birth of a baby. And Zechariah contributes to it. Now, in verse 80, as the chapter closes, tells us of the physical and spiritual development of the child. And little more than that—indeed, we have a silence in terms of the formative years of John the Baptist's life. There is more than an even chance that he was orphaned at a fairly young age.

That would make sense. After all, his parents were very old when he was born. Therefore, in the normal run of things, they wouldn't live long enough to see him through all of his years. The chances are that he spent a fair amount of time on his own, and it was out of the desert that he finally came to cry, prepare the way of the Lord. But we won't get there until chapter 3. Well, that's the scene. It's fairly straightforward.

There was a discussion, there was a decision, and then there was a question, What then is this child going to be? Now, that brings us to the song, which essentially has two verses. The first verse goes from 68 to 75, and the second verse goes from 76 to 79. Elizabeth's exclamation back in verse 42 was on account of being filled with the Holy Spirit. And Luke tells us that it is by the same means that Zechariah is able to see and to say what follows.

It is impossible to understand verse 68 and following without verse 67. His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Now, in certain traditions, as we noted, the Song of Mary is known by the first word of the Latin translation magnificat. And so, in certain traditions, people will say, Let us say together the magnificat. In those same traditions, the Song of Zechariah is known by the first word in the Latin benedictus. And so they will also say, Let us say the benedictus. And those of you who were brought up in that tradition know you would say it together benedictus estu dominus deus Israelem.

And so on. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel. That's his first statement. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel. Now, his adoration, which is there in that straightforward statement, is grounded in the explanation which follows in the second part of the verse and indeed in the rest of this opening verse of the song. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel.

Why? Because he has come and has redeemed his people. What then is the basis for our praise? What is the basis for our worship? Well, it is the fact of God and his mighty deeds. And it is a reminder to us in passing of the nature of biblical worship, that it is the truth of God, who he is and what he's done, that is the foundation of all acceptable praise. And therefore, for those of us who are concerned about our hymnody, and that should be each of us, and who are concerned about our songs, that they would be psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the fundamental question should be, is there within these songs the theological underpinnings which would so stimulate our minds as to stir our hearts and unloose our tongues? We don't simply want to be standing making declaratory statements about how we're feeling or what we're doing.

I've said this to you before, but I believe it passionately. I was away last weekend and subjected to singing and singing and singing about how I was feeling, and it wasn't remotely like how I was feeling. People think that if you just sing it enough times, that's how you will be feeling.

Not necessarily. I was feeling bad to start, feeling a little worse after the third time, and feeling totally depressed by the time we got to the fifth attempt. I just wanted to praise you, lift my hands, and say I love you. When the point of fact, the truth is, I don't even want to be here. Some of you are up far too late, and you're already well gone. You're in the third stage of anesthesia already. You've developed an ability to get there with your eyes open, but you are long gone. You don't need somebody to try and hoop you up. You need some theology.

You need some foundation. I agree, because the Spirit of God takes the truth of God and drives it home to the people, and that's what energizes us. "'Tis what I know of thee, my Lord and God, that fills my heart with praise, my lips with song. And when I think that God has sung not spirit, and when I think sent him to die, I scarce can take that in. That on that cross my burdens, gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin? Then, then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great thou art.'"

See? Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because, because he has come and has redeemed his people. In verses 68 and 9 are a celebration of the redemption of God's people. And the word that is used there for redemption, lutrosis, is used only three times in the New Testament. The other time is in Luke chapter 2, verse 38, and the other occasion in Hebrews 9-12.

It is a very specific word which means the act of freeing by the payment of a ransom. And that, of course, is something that was etched into the mind of the people of Israel when they reflected on God's goodness to them, because they had been redeemed from the bondage of Egypt. Now, the principal meaning here is clearly spiritual and not political. You read a number of commentaries, and they are full of sort of political insurrection, thinking of it uniquely in terms of the people of Israel and the overturning of the domination of the Roman Empire and so on.

There is no question that the terminology has political overtones. But the context is spiritual, and we can always determine that by reading the context in the context. Look at verse 77. In 69 he's talking about salvation, 77 he's still talking about salvation. He's talking about giving his people the knowledge of salvation, how through the forgiveness of their sins. He's not talking about a political redemption.

He's not talking about something that is external. He is talking about that which is the crucial need of these people. And when God looked upon his people, their political situation was an entirely minor matter, compared with their spiritual need to be saved from the guilt and power of sin.

And let us not miss every opportunity to underpin that in our day. The political situation of God's people remains an entirely minor matter, compared to the issues of redemption. Calvary, says one commentator, does not merely creep into these verses, it holds the entire territory. Their salvation is accomplished by a Savior, verse 69. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us.

What does that mean? It's a picture. It's a metaphor. Just as the horn of an animal was indicative of its strength, representative of its strength, so the redeeming power of God that was promised to the house of David is to be concentrated in the strength of this Messiah-redeemer. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, pointing to the fact that he is speaking of Christ and not of John the Baptist, for John the Baptist did not come from the house and lineage of David as did Jesus. And you will notice verse 70, he says, and as he said through his holy prophets of long ago.

In other words, Zechariah is bringing a word of revelation by the direction of the Holy Spirit, but you will notice that it is in direct keeping with what the prophets have been saying all along. Peter underscores this in 1 Peter 1 verse 10. He says, concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you searched intently and with the greatest care to try and figure out who this was and when he would arrive. Don't jump off over little parenthetical statements like verse 70, because it is a statement of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.

As he said through his holy prophets long ago. Theologians remind us that when we think in terms of the Scriptures as given to us, God is the causa officiens, and the prophets and the Bible writers are the causa instrumentalities. That moved by the Spirit of God, men spoke in their own environment, in their own historical time, true to their own personality, addressing issues of their day, and as they did so, God was breathing out his very word. That it is not that the Bible is a collection of material into which God has breathed divinity, as it were, but that the very words that were written and spoken by these prophets were the very out-breathing of God himself. And Zechariah is saying just that. Now, salvation, he says, is from our enemies.

It's from the hand of all who hate us. And again, you will notice that this expression is made in earthly and in political terms. But the salvation which he accomplishes is to be understood in a spiritual sense. From the beginning of the Gospels, it's absolutely clear what Jesus is later going to declare, that his kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.

He says that on a number of occasions. For example, in John chapter 18 and in verse 36, Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. And Pilate says, You're a king then?

And he says, Well, in one sense, you're absolutely right. Let me remind you that the concern of God from all of time is to redeem a people for himself. That from Abraham and through Isaac and Jacob and down through the lineage of time, out now onto the bursting forth of the Messiah on the stage of human history, God's concern is ultimately not with the political strictures of his people and certainly not of particular nations.

But many of us are so earthbound that we just can't fathom it. Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. The Republicans read that as a Democratic verse. The Democrats read it as a Republican verse. The capitalists read it as a Communist verse. The communists read it as a capitalist verse. The East reads it as a Western verse.

The West reads it as an Eastern verse. What is it a verse about? It is about the antagonism which is unleashed from hell against those who would name the name of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the enemies that we have are what?

Not flesh and blood. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, says Paul, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. In other words, the battle is a cosmic battle which has been engaged in in Calvary, and whenever the devil comes to tell us about our past, we should just tell him about his future. And whenever our hearts are bedeviled by fear and by disappointment, when our concerns become the concerns of those around us, we lift up our eyes and we realize that God brought about this salvation, showed mercy to our fathers, remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham. You remember the hymn? His oath, his covenant, his blood, support me in the whelming flood, when all around my soul gives way. He then is all my hope and stay on Christ, the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand. That's what Zechariah is singing about. Oh, blessed be the Lord and God of Israel, because you have intervened for those who are your own, and you have raised the horn of your salvation, and you have granted liberation to the captives, and sight to the blind, and healing to the diseased, and hope to the hopeless. And how is all this to come? In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let the fearful look around.

Let the pessimist look down. Let the Christian lift his eyes and look up. Why has God done all of this? Notice verse 74, to enable us to serve him. To enable us to serve him. That's the purpose of redemption. In order that we might serve him.

How? He tells us without fear. What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or peril, or nakedness, or the sword? What shall separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I'm convinced that none of these things can separate us. So we serve him without fear. We serve in holiness before God, and we serve in righteousness before our fellow men. And when do we do this? All of our days. All of our days.

Don't let anybody tell you that you're good for nothing, or that what you're doing is really not that good. In Christ, all of your days and all of your deeds are marked with the deepest significance. Because he has redeemed you, saved you, saved us, in order that we might serve him. How? Without fear, in holiness, and in righteousness. When?

All day, every day. In Zechariah's song, we have a solid example of what biblical praise and worship looks like. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg encouraging us to serve God without fear all day, every day. You can probably relate to the story about Elizabeth and Zechariah's naming of their son, especially if you're a parent. Alistair mentioned in his message that we're filled with wonder when our children are born, and we start asking questions like, what will their lives look like? Where will they live?

Who will they marry? These concerns are often at the heart of the prayers we pray for our children. So let me mention today on Truth for Life that on our website, you'll find a set of prayer books written specifically for parents. This is a collection of four books, each one containing dozens of prayers that address many of the burdens we had for our children from the first moment they're born throughout their entire lives. Each of the books includes prayers for children at different stages of life. For example, one book guides you on how to pray for infants and young children, another book for teens, there's a book with prayers for young adults, and one for how to pray for your fully grown adult children who may have children of their own. The collection is titled Prayers of a Parent, and the books will guide you to ask God for help with things like their homework, their friendships, how to handle technology, things like gender identity. There are also prayers for career issues, finances, navigating both singleness and marriage.

And maybe most importantly, you'll regularly be encouraged to pray for your child's spiritual growth throughout their life that they might live to serve Christ. All four books in the set are available for our price of $10. You'll find them online at slash gifts, and shipping in the US is free. We would be grateful if you're able to add a year-end donation to your order. And as our way of saying thanks for your financial support, we'll invite you to request a devotional book called Be Thou My Vision.

You can also ask for a copy of it when you make a one-time donation at slash donate, or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. Father, open our lips that our mouths may declare your praise. Father, forgive us our rambling tongues. Forgive us our preoccupation with that which is earthly and transient.

Forgive us our little interest in the affairs of the great plan of redemption. But thank you that you've lit a flame in many of our hearts. It may not be as bright as we feel it ought to be or shine as lastingly as we desire, but we thank you that it's lit. And we pray that you will fan it into a flame in these days. We recognize that the whole earth bows down and sings praise to your name. Grant, then, that we might do likewise. For Jesus' sake, amen. I'm Bob Lapine. What was the significance of John the Baptist's role in God's unfolding plan? How did he actually prepare the way for the Messiah? Listen tomorrow to find out. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-12 05:17:42 / 2022-12-12 05:25:58 / 8

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