They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.
(a) Righteous in the sight of God. Before the cross, no one could be made righteous. The gift of righteousness had not been given and the “one act of righteousness” had not be done (Rom. 5:18). This is why Old Testament saints such as Abraham were credited with righteousness on account of their faith in God (see entry for Rom. 4:3).
(b) Walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. Zacharias and Elizabeth were model Jews who kept the law, but did this make them righteous before God? Although the Bible speaks of the righteousness found in the law (Rom. 10:4-5, Php. 3:6, 9), no one was ever justified by keeping the law (Gal. 3:11). To say that they were righteous because they kept the law is like saying Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21).
Zacharias and Elizabeth were counted righteous for the same reason that other pre-cross believers were counted righteous – on account of their faith in God. Although Zacharias was not as quick to believe the good news announced by the angel (Luke 1:18), the God who sees the end of all things knew that he would come right.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
(a) He has given help. Life is too big for any of us to handle, but the good news is that God is our very great Helper (Deu. 33:26, John 14:16). “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Ps. 63:7).
Further reading: “Who’s your Helper?”
(b) His mercy. To a nation burdened with the heavy yoke of law, the cry for mercy was never far away. The law makes us acutely aware of our shortcomings and needs. Mercy is God’s help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).
Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
(a) Great mercy. Just as God has great grace (see entry for Jas. 4:6), he has great mercy (1 Pet. 1:3). God is both rich in grace (Eph. 1:7, 2:7), and mercy (Eph. 2:4). His great mercy testifies to his great love for us (Eph. 2:4).
(b) Mercy is showing compassion towards those in need. See entry for Mercy.
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
(a) Knowledge of salvation comes when we know the Savior who sets us free from sin. As the angel said, Jesus “will save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:21). We are saved and set free when we realize our sins have been completely and eternally forgiven in accordance with the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7).
(b) Forgiveness. The original word (aphesis) for forgiveness is a noun that is sometimes translated as remission and means a letting go or dismissal (see entry for Luke 24:47).
On the night he rose from the dead, Jesus told the disciples to preach the remission of sins or the good news of unconditional forgiveness (Luke 24:47). Because of his great love, God chooses to remember your sins no more (Heb. 8:12, 10:17), and he is no longer holding your sins and trespasses against you (2 Cor. 5:19). However, you will never experience his forgiveness unless you receive it by faith. Only in Christ do we have the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14).
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
Tender mercy. Mercy is one facet of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16). Mercy is how grace appears to the needy.
Just as we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:5), we are saved by mercy (Tit. 3:5). Just as we are forgiven by grace (Eph. 1:7), we are forgiven by mercy (Matt. 18:33, Luke 1:77, Heb. 8:12). See entry for Mercy.
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.