The Promised King
December 10, 2017 | Randy Smith
The Promised KingLuke 1:67-80
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
I read a story this week about an experiment conducted with monkeys. A number of them were placed in a large cage with a bunch of bananas tied to the roof out of their reach. Yet stretching from the bananas to the floor was a rope that the monkeys could easily climb.
However, just above the bananas was a water hose that would shoot the money off the rope if they tried to climb it. One after another, the monkeys tried and monkeys kept getting shot off the rope. Eventually they all gave up.
The experimenters pulled one monkey out and replaced it with one that was unfamiliar with the setting. Almost immediately, the new monkey started to climb the rope, but to the surprise of the experimenters the other monkeys pulled him off.
New monkeys were added, but this habit became so engrained in their minds that they would pull each other off the rope. Many of the monkeys that resisted others from climbing had never seen or experienced the water jets. A behavior had been learned that was simply accepted by the entire community.
Humans are not much different. Maybe we are worse. We avoid trying something new. We don't think for ourselves. We follow the crowd.
The Bible warns us of this. It says a whole society out there often referred to as "the world" will think differently than God. They will try to squeeze you in their mold, get you to believe what they believe, love what they love.
On Wednesday nights, in addition to our group prayer, we are learning and practicing specific answers that will assist us in being prepared to share our faith. Last week we looked at the world's belief that the Bible is not trustworthy. They claim the Bible is not the ultimate source of authority; moreover it's filled with contradictions.
These are the world's talking points. Most of the world is like the monkeys. They haven't tested the claims for themselves. They just follow the crowd and do and believe what others have told them. They work very hard to prevent people from the rope that leads to heaven.
This morning, as we conclude Luke chapter 1, we have a remarkable section of Scripture before us.
You'll remember last week we learned that John the Baptist was just born to Zacharias and Elizabeth. The father, Zacharias, had been unable to speak because he did not believe the words of the angel, Gabriel. Nine months later, God put him to the test again. When the people around him and tradition and his ego all said to name the child after him (verses 59 and 61), he affirmed God's command on a tablet and said, verse 63, "His name is John." Immediately, verse 64, he could speak again and the first words out of his mouth, verse 64, were praise to God.
Wouldn't it be nice if we knew what he said? Well, God preserved his words for us in the Bible in verses 68-79. Commonly called "The Benedictus" (that's from first word verse 68 in Latin) we'll simply refer to it as "Zacharias' Song." It is praise and prophecy and lesson of God's covenantal redeeming plans
This morning I would like to look at these amazing verses and show you how the Bible testifies to itself, contrary to the world's beliefs, that it is the Word of God. And specifically how the Bible written over a span of 1,500 years in three continents in three languages and by over forty authors, still has one unified theme and that theme is redemption through God's covenants fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The Davidic Covenant (verses 68-71)
The three points in your sermon outline are all centered around the three covenants of redemption mentioned in our text. Let's begin with the Davidic Covenant.
Zacharias, verse 67, "filled with the Holy Spirit begins to prophesy saying, verse 68, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people."
As I stated earlier, the theme of the Bible is redemption. It is kind of a lost term in our society today. When you hear the word, often what comes to mind is the ability to get another chance to atone for a mistake made in an athletic event.
Yet what Zacharias proclaims in verse 68 is that God visited His people (after being silent for 400 years) and has "accomplished redemption" for them. Redemption! This implies that we are lost, corrupt, alienated from God. This implies we are helpless and God needs to act. This implies going from enemies of God to objects of His affection.
In verse 69 we learn this redemption will be accomplished by God rising up "a horn of salvation." A horn when mentioned in the Bible is a symbolic term often used in reference to strength.
The horn mentioned here is said to be from the "house of David." Clearly this is not a reference to John the Baptist (as his parents were from the tribe of Levi). This speaks to Jesus Christ who was prophesized to come from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. Jesus is the "horn of salvation" sent to bring redemption and thus salvation to God's people.
Zacharias knew his Bible. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, he knew about this promised Messiah that would fulfill the covenant God made with King David. We read about that in verse 70, as "[God] spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets of old." This is a clear reference to 2 Samuel 7.
God to King David, "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me … but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul …" (2 Sam. 7:12-15).
This is the Davidic Covenant - a promise from God of a Messiah from David's line. It was an unconditional covenant. Clearly it was not fulfilled in David son, Solomon. Solomon didn't end well and the kingdom was divided after his reign. This was a future King, a King that would reign forever and establish an eternal kingdom for God based on righteousness, verse 71, dispersing God's enemies and rewarding His servants.
It's hard to say how much of this Zacharias really grasped. All he knew, and this is still a few months before the birth of Christ, is that his son John would somehow fit into the master plan of God. In verse 76 he called him "a prophet of the Most High," but he would be subjected to the One in verse 32 referred to as the "Son of the Most High" who would fulfill the David Covenant.
This is the David Covenant - God's reign. It will start off with Jesus ruling in the hearts of those who receive Him by faith. His is our Lord and we do as He says in recognizing His kingship over our lives. But one day He will reign for the whole world to see. One day He will judge the nations. And one day, "Every knee will bow…and…every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil. 2:10-11).
The Davidic Covenant, Jesus as the horn of power, the eternal King who would defeat sin and Satan and the grave to be our Redeemer and Savior.
The Abrahamic Covenant (verses 72-75)
If the David Covenant speaks of the powerful reign of the Messiah, the second covenant we see speaks of the merciful reign of the Messiah.
Look at verse 72 and 73. "To show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father."
And what was the oath that God swore to Abraham? Genesis 12, "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, And from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3).
Genesis 12, Genesis 17, Genesis 22, the Abrahamic Covenant is that salvation is being declared righteous with God not on the basis of our works, but rather our faith. The Abrahamic Covenant is a theme carried throughout the pages of the Bible. "The righteous will live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4).
It repeated by Paul in Romans 1. How about this verse in Galatians 3? "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH'" (Gal. 3:11).
This is salvation not by works, which results in condemnation, but salvation by grace through faith in Christ that stems from God's mercy (verse 72). It is trust in His promises and results in complete justification before God.
In the Spirit, Zacharias looked forward and saw the One from the loins of Abraham and from the loins of David to be the true Promised Christ, the true seed of Abraham that would redeem God's people and, verse 74, rescue them from the hand of their enemies.
Jesus Christ will purchase for God the nations promised to Abraham as He brings the ultimate rescue, the Second Exodus, as He delivers people from their slavery to sin. Jesus will make salvation possible by receiving the wrath and judgment in the sinner's place. Justice will be accomplished on Him, the work of righteousness will be done through Him so God will be able to accept people solely on the basis of faith. Through their faith in Christ, they will be declared righteous and able to, verse 74, "Serve God without fear."
We'll get to the New Covenant in a minute, but did you notice how this account bypasses perhaps one the most famous Old Testament Covenants? The Mosaic Covenant! Unlike the two we looked at, that Covenant was conditional. Deuteronomy 8:1, "All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do." Did Israel do them? No, they didn't!
They failed on two accounts. They messed-up the message of salvation which was always faith alone. Listen to Galatians 3, "The Law [the Mosaic Covenant], which came four hundred and thirty years later [after the Abrahamic Covenant], does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise [that salvation is by faith alone]. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise" (Gal. 3:17-18). They used the Law as a rope to climb up to heaven. And they messed up the relationship God wants with His children which is one of obedience to His commandments, not to get saved, but to give proof that we really are saved and really love God.
When we try to earn God's favor by our works, we will live in a perpetual state of fear always wondering if we did enough. Rather full confidence in the works of Christ allows us to, verses 74 and 75, "Serve [God] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days." Saved through Christ. Declared righteous. Empowered to obey God and grow in righteousness.
The New Covenant (verses 76-79)
And that takes us to our final point and the greatest of all of God's Covenants - The New Covenant. It was spoken of back in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31.
In the latter we read, "'Behold, days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the LORD. 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the LORD, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the LORD, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more'" (Jer. 31:31-34).
What a tremendous bridge Zacharias gives us from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
Verse 76, "And you, child [addressing his own son John], will be called the prophet [John himself] of the Most High [that being Jesus Christ]; for you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS [John was a forerunner for the Lord Jesus Christ. This was already promised in verse 17]."
Verse 77, John's mission, "To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins [through Christ]."
This my friends, is the heart of the New Covenant. As one commentator said, "The unilateral, irrevocable, unchangeable, eternal promise by God that He will save sinners by forgiving their transgressions and regenerating them from the inside to love Him and obey Him" (John MacArthur). All that was promised to Israel - peace, resurrection, salvation, forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit, knowledge of God, a new heart, fellowship with God - has arrived and has been purchased through the blood of Christ.
Why? Verse 78, "Because of the tender mercy of our God." How?
Verse 78, "The Sunrise from on high will visit us." To do what? Verse 79, "TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Verses 78 and 79 are direct references to the Old Testament promises. Malachi 4:2. "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings." Isaiah 60:1, "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you." Isaiah 9:2, "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them." Those verses from Isaiah 9, written over 500 years before Christ, continue the promise. "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this" (Isa. 9:6-7).
And what we see here as we close Luke 1 is that He will. And when we open Luke 2 next week we will see that He did.
So they tell me the Bible is only man-made book that is filled with fables and contradictions. My friends, no human could have predicted this or written this.
Verse 80 concluded with a summary of John's life. "And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel."
If there is one thing we know of John the Baptist, he wasn't one to follow the crowd like the monkeys or like the world. Verse 17 said he would be one "in the spirit and power of Elijah." He lived a solidary life, but moreover, he was a prophetic voice of the Lord that called people to repentance. He lived for God and upheld His righteous ways. Up until this time, Jesus said of John, "I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John" (Lk. 7:28).
And John would demonstrate that by his devotion to Jesus Christ. Soon his ministry as the forerunner would begin. It wasn't about his glory, but it was about the mission of every Christian to see Jesus Christ glorified in us.
He said, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie… I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent ahead of Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn. 1:26-27; 3:28-30).
John prepared the people for Jesus. And the conclusion of chapter 1 prepares us for Jesus when we start, as God permits, chapter 2 next week.