And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:67-79 (ESV)
John Calvin writes:
The lesson for us here is that, when we profit by the gospel’s teaching, instead of languishing in the shadow of death we come to the light of life, which will lead us to the kingdom of heaven. For in the gospel we have a faultless guide, as Christ Himself declares: “I am the light of the world. Whoever comes after Me will not walk in darkness. So we should thrill with wonder when we see how richly God has blessed us with His grace, now that He has visited us in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are further encouraged to call upon Him with confidence, knowing that He will guide us in life and in death, and will not allow us to perish in our awful misery. It is true that sometimes we may stumble and fall, but our good God will hold us with a strong hand, provided we covet the blessing which is set before us here.
Notice that Zechariah says in his song that ‘the dawn has visited us from on high.’ Why does he put it like that? Because he wants to rule out, yet again, anything of worth we might seek in ourselves or in those around us. Our instinct is always to laud our own qualities and to belittle God’s mercy, so that He does not get exclusive credit for our salvation! Ways have therefore been devised of putting us in a state of readiness. The idea of free will, also, has been proposed, in order to help us promote ourselves by claiming that God’s grace does not do everything, but that we need to cooperate with efforts of our own. That is how Satan bewitches unbelievers so that they waste their time on trifles. What a fraud it is when men contrive to draw near to God in their own righteousness, hoping to minimize their guilt!
This is the reason why Zechariah declares that the ‘rising sun has visited us from on high.’ It is to stop us inventing a confused and messy mixture made up in large part of our own merits. Everything comes to us from above, which is why Scripture says ‘Mercy looked down from heaven, and was joined with peace [Calvin is paraphrasing Psalm 85:11].’ So let us learn to rest only on God’s goodness where our salvation is concerned, and to put all else behind us.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 2
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.