Luke 1 Part 3

46. And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,

Miriam now speaks. She had come to her Godly cousin Elizabeth hoping that she might shelter her in view of her upcoming pregnancy. Yet she must have suffered from much anxiety as to how her arrival would be received by Elizabeth. She would receive little protection from even these Godly relatives if they did not believe her story, or if they were unwilling to receive her. Yet the Holy Spirit had anticipated her, and she was greeted with inspired words the moment she came into Zacharias and Elizabeth’s house. What a great relief this must have been to her, not only to know that Zacharias and Elizabeth were on her side, and would believe her and watch over her, but also that God Himself was working to clear her path before her, and was working powerfully to watch out for her in this very real time of need. No wonder she spoke with such words of joy and praise to the God she had risked everything to serve.

So Miriam speaks and, I believe, she too speaks by inspiration. Not only would the power of God come on her to produce the Lord Jesus, but it also worked through her to speak these wonderful words. This declaration by Mary is traditionally called the “magnificat,” and it is indeed a magnificent declaration of truth.

First, she proclaims that her soul magnifies the Lord. When soul is used in contrast with spirit, as it is here, it has to do with the emotional aspect of men, and the innermost feelings and desires of the heart. Mary thus proclaims that her very soul magnifies the Lord, both for His call upon her life, and His care for her even as she takes upon herself the burden of responsibility for what that call will mean. Now, she does not bear this heavy weight alone. God has given her this dear relative, who both knows and understands her call, and will share the burden with her. Yes, how thankful we can be in this world when God sends us dear believers like ourselves to comfort us and encourage us in bearing the weight that His call places upon us.

47. “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Having spoken of her soul, she now goes on to speak of her spirit. The spirit, when used in contrast to the soul, has to do with the mental aspect of men, and the innermost thoughts and beliefs of the heart. She might not comprehend all that God has promised to do through her, but she knows that God is working, and has blessed her indeed, and so her spirit rejoices in Him.

Notice that Miriam has a Savior. A sinless woman would need no Savior. Yet Mary, in spite of her faith, was still a sinful woman like all of us. Praise God, though, that she was a sinful woman with a Savior. And now, that Savior had taken her to Himself and made her the channel through which He would bless the world with His Son. What a great thing it is to have a Savior! I pray that every one of my readers knows that blessed state. We all need a Savior, and Jesus Christ is the Savior that we need.

48. “For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

Mary speaks not with her own words, but prophetically with the words of God. Again, the word “maidservant” here is doules, and means “slave.” Miriam considered herself to be a slave of God. Yet He had regarded her lowly estate. She was nothing important in Israel. Just a common maiden was she, and yet God had regarded her. Therefore, as she said, all generations would call her blessed. In this she was correct, for since that time, in spite of the over-glorification of Mary by some, all who believe have indeed counted her as the most blessed of women. This belief is through the things written of her in the Word of God, for there His generation too calls her blessed.

49. “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

Now Mary speaks words of praise to the One Who is mighty, Who had done these great things for her. Holy (that is, set apart from all others,) is His name (that is, His reputation and character.)

50. “And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.

Miriam had certainly experienced the mercy of God upon her, and so she speaks with conviction and knowledge regarding that mercy on those who fear Him. This mercy lasts from generation to generation. That is, it never comes to an end. Truly we still experience the great mercy of God today, as He pours forth His grace upon the world.

51. “He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

As Mary continues speaking, we can clearly see that her words have left the current situation behind, and now have moved on to speak of the future Kingdom of God. When that kingdom comes, God will show forth His arm of strength, and will scatter the proud ones who imagine empty things against Him in their hearts. Oh, how many who are thus proud surround us on every side today! We can all look forward with anticipation to the day when the Lord Himself will act to scatter these proud ones and show the world the folly of their ways.

52. “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.

When the kingdom comes, one of the great things that God will do will be to remove many of those who are mighty in this world from their thrones, that is, their seats of authority. Many a ruler in our day is undeserving of his seat in the eyes of God! But when God steps in and brings in His kingdom, He will remove all such, setting His Own governors in their places. Many of these will be those who were lowly and of little strength or significance in this world. Yet in God’s sight, they are just the kind of people He is looking for, and so He will exalt them to the thrones from which He removes the proud. Compare this to David, whom God took from tending sheep, one of the lowliest jobs in Israel, to set him as king over His people. This is how it will be, only many times over, when the Kingdom of God comes at last.

53. “He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.

At that time the righteous who hunger will be fed, yet those who are wicked, regardless of their riches in this world, will be left with nothing. This will certainly be true regarding food, yet I think we should not limit it only to food. Consider the words of the Lord in Matthew 5:6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” Yes, these hungry too will be filled when the kingdom comes.

54. “He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy,

When that time comes, God will again help His people Israel, even as He did so many times in the past. In God’s secret dispensation, when all nations are equal and joint in His sight, Israel receives no more help than any other nation. Yet when the kingdom comes, they will again receive the privileged place, as God remembers the mercy He promised to show them.

55. “As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

We do not have to wonder what will be the mercy and help that God shows Israel in that future day. What form that help will take is set forth in detail for us in the Word of God, in all the promises and prophecies He gave to Israel’s fathers. In that day, they will receive those great blessings, even as He promised many times in the Scriptures.

God gave these promises to Abraham and to his seed forever. But the phrase in Greek for “forever” is eis ton aiona. Aiona is a noun, and so to translate it by an adverb like “ever” is not good or honest translating. In this case the word eis, which often means “into,” has the idea of “in respect to.” In other words, God gave these promises to Abraham and to his seed in respect to the coming eon of God. That eon is another name for the kingdom, when God will flow out to the world in power and glory to fulfill all the great promises He has made.

56. And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Miriam remained three months with her Godly relatives Zecharias and Elizabeth. As I indicated before, this would have been during her time of conception, so that her whereabouts during this time would be well known and beyond questioning. A young girl with no father could easily be accused of playing the harlot. No doubt many young girls in that desperate situation in Israel, facing the possibility of starvation, would resort to that most foul of means to alleviate the poverty they faced. Mary could well have been labeled as such, if she had remained at her own home. Yet that convenient label could not so easily be pinned on her when she was known to have been spending that time in the care of her priestly relatives.

Once the three months are over and her pregnancy is established, Miriam returns back to her own house. No doubt she went in the boldness of encouragement and support from her sympathetic relatives. Now, she is ready to face the scorn and ridicule, and whatever else may come upon her.

57. Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.

While Miriam’s pregnancy is still in its early stages, Elizabeth’s draws to its close. This would probably have been while Mary was still there. No doubt she was a help and support to her elderly relative during this blessed time. A pregnancy, even divinely given, was no doubt still difficult for one who was experiencing it for the first time, not to mention the fact that she was much older than most women who would ever go through such an experience. Not only so, but she had sequestered herself, for six months seeing only a husband who could not speak. Into the silence this would impose, the sweet young voice of Mary was no doubt a heaven-sent blessing to this faithful old women. Like a diligent daughter Mary must have helped her elderly relative through this miraculous time. Yet the completion of that time and the birth of the child probably precipitated her return home. She had done what she could for her beloved relative, and now she must face her own battle alone.

Now the angel’s promise to Zacharias is fulfilled, and a son is born to him and his wife in their old age. All that the Lord promised him has come true.

58. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.

Remember that Elizabeth had been sequestering herself. Now at last the secret of the Lord’s blessing was made known, and all her relatives and friends could rejoice in the work of God. The birth of a son, particularly the firstborn son, was always a time of great rejoicing for a family. Since the male child who would take the place of his father and carry on his inheritance before God was so important, the birth of the first son was in many ways considered the accomplishment of the purpose of a marriage. It was always a time for joy and gladness. How much more so when the proud parents were old, and had all but given up on the idea that this day would ever come!

59. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.

Now the eighth day comes, that most significant day in relationship to the birth of any male child in Israel when the circumcision was to take place and the outward sign of the covenant of God with Israel was to be confirmed. Thus the extended family, friends, and neighbors gather together for this important ceremony. It seems at this same time the important task of naming the child was to take place. To the crowd, it seems most fitting to name the child Zacharias after the name of his father. Was this not now Zacharias’ representative and heir, the little boy that the old priest had all but given up hope that he would ever have? What could be more fitting than that the blessed son finally given by God to Zacharias should be named after the father to whom he had brought such blessing and joy? This was their thought, but it was not God’s thought, and so it was not to be.

We can take this lesson of the example of naming a son after his father to heart. This was a practice of the time, even as it sometimes is today, and yet we can see how this would give us the greatest possible trouble, at times, figuring out some of the lineages in the Word. A son named after his father might be fine while they are alive and together, when the elder and the younger is clearly evident, as is their relationship. Yet in a genealogical record millennia later, such a thing can be most confusing. The Bible will sometimes use alternate names to help us out, but this still is the cause of more than one difficulty.

60. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”

This was the command of the angel to Zacharias, as we saw in verse 13. Since Zacharias still could not speak, he had no doubt communicated this to his wife in writing. Now, we see the faith of this daughter of Aaron, as she faithfully insists that the command of the Lord be carried out.

61. But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”

It is clear that there were names that were traditional within families. The family of Zacharias had such traditional names, and John was not one of them. Thus, the friends and relatives oppose the name that Elizabeth insists the child must be given.

How often do friends and relatives discourage the faithful believer from doing what he knows he has been commanded to do by God! The customs and dictates of tradition are ever held by such as being far superior to the command that the saint knows he has received from the mouth of the Lord. How many have been turned aside from faithful obedience to the task they were given by the discouraging words of their relatives and friends who know not the path of submission and loyal service to God? Let us ever be careful that the opinions and insistence of relatives and friends does not distract us from the path we have been given to follow by our Lord and Savior.

62. So they made signs to his father–what he would have him called.

Finding they could not dissuade Elizabeth, and yet not trusting her judgment, they turn to the child’s father. Surely they must have supposed that the cooler head of the venerable priest would prevail.

63. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled.

Here we can see what by this time Zacharias had worked out as a method for communicating without his voice. He would use a writing tablet to make his thoughts known. With his wife, he probably had little difficulty in communicating regarding most day-to-day events. Now, however, he needs his writing tablet to make his mind known.

Perhaps Zacharias had not been present when the argument with Elizabeth had taken place. At any rate, it seems that the relatives expected him to give a different answer from the one they had received from Elizabeth. Thus they are amazed when he declares the same thing as the mother. The child’s name, beyond all question, is John.

64. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.

The answer of Zacharias showed forth the belief that had been so lacking in his response to the angel Gabriel. Zacharias has learned from his experience, and has become a man of faith. And that faith immediately causes the curse the angel had pronounced upon him to be removed. His mouth is open and his tongue is loosed. In the same way our faith removes the curse of sin that has been placed upon us. Faith sets us free, even as it did Zacharias.

The first words out of Zacharias’ mouth are praise to God. Indeed, this is always the proper response of faith. Our deliverance sets us free to praise.

65. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea.

The miraculous character of these events could not but be understood at this point by all those who observed them. Their neighbors were filled with awe at this, and these actions of God caused much discussion, speculation, and, no doubt, anticipation among them. Indeed, this discussion spread all throughout the hill country of Judea.

66. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.

John was a very well known and much considered child among all his neighbors, who kept these things in their hearts and considered them as time went by. They doubtless had their eyes on John, and were expecting great things of him. Who was this child, and what was the role God had so clearly marked him out to fill? No doubt thoughts that this might be the long-awaited Messiah came to their minds. No wonder people were so eager to hear the words of John when he began his ministry.

67. Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

This probably takes us back to the words of praise mentioned in verse 64. His wife Elizabeth had shown faith and spoken the words of God. In response, Miriam had replied and spoken the things God inspired in her heart. Now, after displaying faith of his own, it becomes Zacharias’ turn to speak the words of God by holy spirit. Again, the articles do not appear in Greek here, the phrase being pneumatos hagiou, and so the power of the Spirit, not His Person, is meant. Zacharias spoke here by the power of God. His words, therefore, were inspired.

68. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,

Zacharias, speaking at the very start of these events, speaks of them as if they were already fulfilled, and the visitation and redemption of the people of Israel completed. The birth of John was the first great step towards this coming to pass, and Zacharias rejoices in all that would follow after.

69. “And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,

In his words, Zacharias does not exalt his own son, although he was an amazing man indeed. Rather, he blesses the son he knows Miriam is carrying, calling Him the horn (or strength) of salvation that has been raised up in the house of His servant David.

This is the first occurrence of this word for “horn,” keras, in the New Testament. Since an animal’s horns are his weapons and the source of much of his power, the horn is used symbolically for strength and authority. In Revelation, both Christ and the beast are represented as having horns. Christ’s horns symbolize the seven Spirits of God, and the beast’s horns, the ten rulers that arise in the time of the great tribulation and revolt. In this case, it is the strength of salvation that Zacharias assigns to the Lord Jesus Christ, that much more significant Child that he knew would soon be born.

70. “As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,

The Lord had spoken of this horn of salvation by the mouth of His set-apart prophets. These prophets do go far back into history, but the translation “who have been since the world began” is merely fanciful. The Greek is ap aionos, and means “from the flow.” These prophets are not those false prophets who spoke words out of their own hearts. Rather, the prophets who spoke these things are the ones who were moved to speak from the flow of truth that comes from God. Moving along with this flow, they spoke this truth regarding the One Who would come from the house of David, even as Zacharias was doing now.

71. “That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us,

Again this prophecy speaks of the ultimate victory of Christ and the fulfillment of His promises to Israel by bringing in the Kingdom. They are at last to be saved from their enemies and the power of all who hate them. And it is most clearly revealed that this salvation is to come by the raising up of Jesus Christ, which was even then moving forward within the womb of Mary.

72. “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,

These words were most fitting at an occasion like a circumcision, where both the mercy God had shown to their fathers and the holy covenant He had made with them were being remembered and commemorated. Again, this will all take place through Jesus Christ, the One soon to be born to Miriam.

73. “The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

Through the Lord, the oath which God swore to Abraham would also be fulfilled.

74. “To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear,

Many who call themselves “Christians” today, through their neglectful ignorance of the Scriptures, think it their duty before God to count themselves as enemies to the nation of Israel. Yet it is not God’s desire to deliver Israel into the hands of their enemies, but rather to save them from them. Then, with all threats removed, they will be able to serve Him without anything to interfere.

75. “In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

Though the kingdom of God is what delivers them from their enemies, it is only through the death of Christ to take away their sins that they could live before God in holiness and righteousness all their days. The cross had to come first before there could ever be a kingdom!

76. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,

Having spoken of the greater son of Miriam, Zacharias through inspiration now speaks of his own son, and the things that John would accomplish. He, first of all, would be called the prophet of the highest. The word “called” here is derived from the Greek word kaleo, which many insist means “to invite or bid.” While it does mean that in some of its occurrences, it is mere fancy to suppose that it means that in all of them. John would not be invited or bidden the prophet of the Highest. Rather, that is what he would be designated or positioned as being.

John would go before the face of the Lord, that horn of salvation of Whom Zacharias had up until this verse been speaking, to prepare His ways. That is just what we will see him doing in the chapters to come.

77. “To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins,

More of the purpose of John’s ministry is stated. He would prepare the ways of the Lord by giving His people knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins and the forgiving of the penalty cited against them. In other words, he gave the people the knowledge of God’s salvation that they needed to receive the offer of forgiveness through the blood of Christ when it was made to them.

78. “Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;

This salvation would be procured on account of the tender mercy of their God. Yes, without God’s mercy, there would be no hope of salvation for any of us.

Then, Zacharias announces the glad tidings of their visitation by the Dayspring from on high. This word for Dayspring, anatole, is translated “east” in every other occurrence than this one in the New Testament. It literally means “dayspring,” but is used elsewhere of the east, as being the place from which the sun rises and the day springs. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it was used several times with this idea of something that springs forth, even of a branch, since it springs from the tree. Here, it speaks of the One Who is the true Dayspring, from Whom all light comes.

79. “To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This is now the reason for the Dayspring’s visit, not for John’s ministry. He has come to give light, as every dayspring should. This is not a light like that of the sun, however, but rather is a light of truth to those who sit in darkness under the shadow cast by death. What a picturesque, and yet what a true, depiction of all of us as we live in this world! Yet to those in this darkness He gives the light that can guide their feet into the way of peace. Peace is not merely the cessation of war, which many call peace today. Rather, it is a true union with God, a union into which we can only be guided by the light of the Son.

80. So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

It seems that, as he grew, God took John from his home into the harsh climate of the desert in order to prepare him for the work He had for him. We do not read of his father and mother again. They were old, and perhaps had passed off the scene before his manifestation took place. We certainly read nothing about them at his death, as we would have expected had they still been alive.

As his mother was sequestered before his birth, John too is now sequestered in the desert until the time for his work has come. Thus he, too, is hidden away from the eyes of the common people in Israel until the time to reveal God’s power through him has come. This lonely life in the desert must have been very difficult for one born as the favored son of a priest. Yet often hardships are the tools the Lord uses to prepare His chosen ministers for the work He has for them.