just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
(a) Servants of the word. Like the apostles who introduced themselves as bondservants of Jesus Christ (see entry for Rom 1:1), Luke saw himself as a servant of the word. This has led to confusion among some believers. Am I a son or servant of God?
Jesus, the Son of God, took the form of a bondservant (Php. 2:7). He was not confused about his identity, but he was servant-hearted (Mark 10:45). Jesus is the Son who serves.
Similarly, when the apostles identify themselves as servants of Christ or servants of the word, they are saying, “We are the sons of God who serve in the manner in which Christ served,” meaning they served others (2 Cor. 4:5). They did not serve to curry favor with God, but to reveal the Servant-king to people. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, so that I may win more” (1 Cor. 9:19).
It’s the same with us. Although we are free in Christ, we choose to serve in the name of Christ so that the orphans and slaves of this world might come to know their Father who loves them. Like Christ, we are the sons who serve.
Further reading: “Son, servant, or friend of God?”
(b) The word of God is revealed in the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19) or the word of the Christ (Rom. 10:17). It is revealed in the gospel of Jesus (Mark 1:1) and the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). See entry for Word of God.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Herod, king of Judea. Herod was Herod the Great (37–4BC) was the governor of Galilee before the Romans appointed him the king of Judea. He was one of the most ruthless and ambitious politicians in the Bible. See entry for Matt. 2:1.
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 will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
The throne. The angel Gabriel was the first New Testament figure to recognize Jesus as a king, and the magi were a close second (Matt. 2:2). Others who recognized Jesus as a king included the disciples (Luke 19:38), the palm-waving people of Jerusalem (John 12:13), Paul and Silas (Acts 17:7), and the seventh angel (Rev. 11:15).
During his earthly ministry, Jesus rarely referred to himself in such royal terms (Matt. 21:5, 25:34, Mark 15:2, Luke 22:29-30, 23:3, John 18:36-37).
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
(a) Holy is His name. God is the very definition of holy.
If we want to know what holiness means, we must look to God who is holy and whose name is holy. To say God is holy is to refer to the wholeness, fullness, beauty, and abundant life that overflows within the Godhead. God lacks nothing. He is unbroken, undamaged, unfallen, completely complete and entire within himself. He is the indivisible One, wholly self-sufficient, and the picture of perfection.
When the angels sing “Holy is the Lord,” they are not admiring God for his rule-keeping or sin avoidance; they are marveling at the transcendent totality of his perfection (Is. 6:3). To worship God in the beauty of his holiness is to be awestruck by the infinite sweep and scale of his sublimity. It is to become lost in the limitless landscape of his loveliness.
God the Father is Holy (Luke 1:49, John 17:11, Rev. 4:8) and so are God the Son (Mark 1:24, Acts 2:27, 3:14, 4:27, 30) and God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:4).
See entry for Holiness.
“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.
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant—
Salvation. The original word means deliverance or rescue. Jesus is the great Deliverer who rescues us from our enemies (Luke 1:71). See entry for Salvation.
Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES,
And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;
Salvation from our enemies. Our enemies include sin and the evils of the present age (Gal. 1:4). But our greatest enemy is death (1 Cor. 15:26). Jesus is the Savior who rescues our souls from death (Ps. 33:19, 116:8).
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).
Salvation often appears to us as the forgiveness of sins, but salvation is much more than forgiveness. The word which is commonly translated as save in the Bible (sozo), means to deliver, protect, heal, preserve, and make whole. It covers not only salvation, but healing, deliverance, and prosperity. God does not merely forgive us of our sins; he provides everything we need for health and wholeness today (Eph. 1:3, 2 Pet. 1:3). See entry for Salvation.
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.
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