Morning Sermon: Luke 1:67-80; Blessed Be The Lord God Of Israel


Given that this is the Sunday before Christmas I thought it would be good to break from our study in 1 Timothy to set our minds upon the events surrounding the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Our text for today is Luke 1:67-80. Here we find the prophecy of Zechariah, who was the father of John the Baptist. But before we go there, let me give you some background. 

As you may know, Zechariah uttered the prophecy of Luke 1:67-80 after being struck with muteness for about nine months. Zechariah was a priest. He saw a vision while serving the Lord in the temple. The angel Gabriel appeared to him saying in Luke 1:13, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son [remember, she was barren and they were advanced in age], and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:13–17, ESV). It was because Zechariah did not believe the report that the angel said,  “behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place…” (Luke 1:20, ESV).

So what does all of this have to do with the birth of Christ? Well, a great deal! One, we know that Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, would serve as the forerunner to Christ. He was the last and the greatest of the Old Covenant prophets who spoke of the coming of Christ. And he had the privilege to introduce Israel to their Messiah, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV). So the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus were intimately related. Two, here in the early chapters of Luke we learn that the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Jesus did not happen off in a dark corner somewhere, involving only Mary and Joseph, but that others were involved. Others like this priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were also visited by an angel and touched by the Almighty. What happened to them helped to confirm the story of the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Jesus. Three — and here is where I would like to focus our attention this morning — this story regarding Zechariah and the prophecy that he uttered when his son was born does help us to understand what the Old Covenant saints knew and what they were expecting concerning the coming Messiah.

Have you ever thought of this before? Have you wondered what the faithful who lived prior to the birth of Christ thought concerning the promised Messiah? They knew that he would come. But what did they know about him? What did they expect him to be?

When you and I think about Christ there is very little mystery. We see him with clarity, for he has come. We have the record of his life, his works, and his words. They are recorded for us in the four Gospels. But for those who lived prior to the birth of Christ, things weren’t so clear. They believed that the Messiah would come. They placed their faith in the promised Messiah, but they did not know what exactly he would be. 

To help us understand what it was like for them we may think of the second coming of Christ. Will Christ return, brothers and sisters? We say, “yes, he certainly will!” And what will happen when he returns? Well, we know some things. We know that he will raise the dead, judge those who are not in him, and bring his people safely home into the new heavens and earth. So we do know some things regarding the second coming. And we know that these things will surely happen! Why? Because God has given us his word. But there is also a great deal of mystery concerning the second coming. When will Christ return? We do not know for sure. How will he accomplish these things? It’s hard to say exactly. And what will our glorified life in the new heavens and earth be like? We have some idea based upon what the scriptures say, but it’s hard to imagine. And when will we know for sure — when will we see these things with perfect clarity? Answer: after Christ comes again. 

I think this is what it was like for God’s people who lived prior to the birth of Christ. They knew a lot about the Messiah who was to come, for they had the scriptures. They were sure that he would come, for God promised that he would. They knew enough about the Christ to place their faith in him. But the details remained a mystery. When would the Christ be born? What exactly would he be like? What would he say and do? It was impossible for them to know for sure.

Zechariah was a godly man who was living at the dawning of a new day. And not only was he alive at the time of the birth of Christ, but he found himself  intimately involved. He was at the epicenter of the accomplishment of our redemption. His own son, miraculously born to him in his old age, would be the forerunner. John would be that Elijah-like figure who would prepare the way for the Christ. 

Zechariah’s prophecy is very revealing, friends. It is like a window through which we can look to see what the Old Covenant saints knew and what they expected the Messiah to be according to the scriptures. Zechariah was a godly man. I trust that he knew the Old Testament very well. But I cannot help but think that he went to the scriptures to study them very closely after being visited by the angel in the temple and while being struck with mutnes for those many months. I would imagine that he devoured the scriptures to consider, anew and afresh, all that they had to say concerning the coming of the Messiah, which the angel Gabriel said was at hand. 

Sermon Text: Luke 1:67-80

Let us now turn to Luke 1:67 to consider what Zechariah said after his son was born, and when his tongue was loosed. Hear now the reading of God’s most holy word. “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 [speaking now to his son John], 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.’ And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” (Luke 1:67–80, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


These are beautiful words that Zechariah uttered. And these words were indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit, just as the text says: “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying…” But here is what I want you to see this morning. This prophecy of Zechariah is a window into the Old Testament. It is a window for those of us who live on the other side of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to look through so that we might clearly see Christ in the Old Testament, and know for certain that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah promised from so long ago. This prophecy of Zechariah is jammed packed with references to the Old Testament scriptures. It’s as if Zechariah had the d Old Testament scriptures concerning the first coming of Christ bottled up inside of him, and after months of muteness he, under the inspiration of the Spirit, let it all out. He could not wait to give glory to God for the salvation that was being accomplished in his day and before his very eyes. 

Let us now consider Zechariah’s prophecy in four parts.  


He Blessed The Lord God Of Israel

First of all, notice that this prophecy was in a fact a blessing directed towards the God of Israel. The first words are, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel…” (Luke 1:68, ESV). In other words, this prophecy is praise. Zechariah  was moved to give praise to Lord, the God of Israel. 

And why does he refer to the Lord as the God of Israel? Well, it will soon become clear. He is giving praise to God for the salvation that he has worked through the nation of Israel. For it was through Israel that the Christ was brought into the world. 

This is exactly what Paul was reflecting upon when he wrote in Romans 9, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:3–5, ESV). Zechariah blessed the Lord God of Israel because Israel was the conduit through which the Christ was brought into the world.

Remember how I said this prophecy of Zechariah’s is packed full of quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament? Well, even this blessing is not original to Zechariah, but is a quotation of scripture. 

It is interesting that these words, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel…”, or words very similar to these, are found at the end of books 1, 2, and 4 of the Psalms. You should know that the Psalms are divided up into five books. And I am saying that books 1, 2, and 4 conclude with words similar to the ones uttered by Zechariah. For example, listen to how Psalm 72, which is the last Psalm in book 2 of the Psalms,  concludes: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended” (Psalm 72:18–20, ESV). I think it is very significant that Zechariah uses this blessing formula which is found in the Psalms to give praise to God for the arrival of the Christ. It’s almost as if God is signalling to us through Zechariah’s prophesy that we should consider the life of Christ in light of the Psalms. In fact, that is exactly what is happening.When Zechariah blessed the Lord by quoting from Psalm 72:18, he urges us to go to the Psalms and to see Christ there. 

And this phrase, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel…”, or one similar to it,  is also found in 1 Kings 1:48, 1 Chronicals 29:10, and Ezra 7:27. Each of these passages have something to do with God’s work of redemption ultimately accomplished in Christ. But for the sake of time I will read only 1 Kings 1:48. This is that passage where King David identifies Solomon as the heir to his throne, saying at the conclusion, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted someone to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it” (1 Kings 1:48, ESV). Do you see what is going on here, brothers and sisters? There in 1 Kings 1:48 David blessed the Lord for his son Solomon. But here Zechariah uses the very same words to bless the Lord for the arrival of David’s greater son, Jesus the Christ.  

Here is what I would like for you to understand. When Zechariah, under the inspiration of the holy Spirit, said “blessed be the Lord God of Israel..”, not only was he blessing the Lord for the salvation that was being accomplished in his day, he was also directing our minds to all of those places in the Old Testament where that phrase is found, so that we might go there and consider what those passages have to teach us regarding the coming of the Messiah. His prophecy is like a window into the Old Testament. Through it we see how Zechariah understood the Psalms, and passages like 1 Kings 1, 1 Chronicles 29, and Ezra 7. He saw Christ there in the form of promise. And he knew that these prophecies concerning the Christ were being fulfilled before his eyes, and so he gave all glory to God. The rest of the prophecy will demonstrate this even more so. 


He Blessed God For Visiting And Redeeming His People

Secondly, notice that Zechariah blessed the Lord God of Israel for visiting and redeeming his people. Verse 68: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…” (Luke 1:68, ESV). 

This is the language of the Exodus. When Zechariah used the terms “visited” and “redeemed” it was to draw our minds to the Exodus event. We are to remember how God “visited” and “redeemed” Israel from bondage. When Moses first came into Egypt, after being called by God in the burning bush to accomplish redemption for the Hebrews, he and Arron met with the elders of Israel to tell them of the word they had received from the Lord. And the scriptures tell us how the elders of Israel responded. They “believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Exodus 4:31, ESV). 

At the time of the Exodus Moses visited his people and he redeemed them from Egyptian bondage. But Zechariah was not blessing God for what he did through Moses at the Exodus! Instead, he was blessing God for the marvelous thing that he was doing in his day. Zechariah understood that God was “visiting” his people again, and accomplishing a far greater act of redemption through the Christ who was in Mary’s womb, of whom his son was to be the forerunner. Zechariah blessed the God of Israel for “visiting” his people. He understood that God was accomplishing redemption, not through Moses, but through the Messiah. And the Messiah came to redeem his people, not from Egypt, but from Satan’s kingdom, from the bondage of sin, and from death.  

The Exodus event was a foretaste and a picture of the greater act of deliverance that Christ would accomplish. And the prophets of the Old Testament spoke of this greater act of redemption to be accomplished by a Redeemer greater than Moses. Consider Isaiah 59:20, which  says, “‘And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 59:20, ESV). God’s people who lived under the Old Covenant — Zechariah being one of them — looked forward to the arrival of this Redeemer. And here in Luke 1:68 Zechariah declares that the redeemer has come — he was in the womb of the virgin Mary — and so he gave thanks to God for visiting and redeeming his people.


He Blessed God For Providing Salvation In The Line Of David

Thirdly, Zechariah blessed God for providing salvation in the line of David. Look at verse 69. There Zechariah declares that God has “raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David…” (Luke 1:69, ESV). 

Who is this David that Zechariah refers to? Well, it is King David, the greatest of Israel’s kings. David was the king that God made a covenant with. You can read all about that covenant in 2 Samuel 7. In brief, God promised to give David a son and to establish his kingdom forever, as 2 Samuel 7:13 says, “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13, ESV). 

This promise was immediately fulfilled through David’s son, Solomon. Solomon would have the throne after David. And Solomon was the one to construct the temple, or house, of the Lord. But this promise made to David was obviously bigger than Solomon, for Solomon’s kingdom would come to end. Instead, the promise made to David regarding an everlasting kingdom and a son who would reign forever and ever was really about the Christ. Zechariah knew this. And that is why he gave glory to God regarding the news that Messiah was at hand, 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…” (Luke 1:68–71, ESV).

As I have said, Zechariah’s prophecy is packed full of Old Testament allusions and quotations. It’s as if every little word and phrase is meant to send us back into the Old Testament to see Christ there in the form of prophecies and promises, types and shadows.   

The phrase “horn of salvation” does this. The horn is a symbol of power and strength. And when Zechariah gives praise to God for raising up a horn of salvation, he is thanking God for his provision of a strong king who would rescue his people and judge all his enemies. And the phrase “horn of salvation” does remind us of certain prophecies that pointed forward to the arrival of a strong and anointed king who would do this very thing.    

Consider the prayer of Hannah after she gave up her son Samuel to the Lord’s service. She said, among other things, “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Samuel 2:10, ESV). It is interesting that Hannah uttered these words before there was ever a king in Israel. In fact, it would be her son Samuel who would anoint David as king years later. And in her prayer she rejoiced in the salvation of the Lord and said that God would “exalt the horn of his anointed”.  It is marvelous to consider the faith of Hannah. Her prayer would be fulfilled, in part, with the anointing of king David. But it would be fulfilled fully and finally in Christ, who is the Messiah, that is, the Lord’s anointed one. When Zechariah blessed God for raising “up a horn of salvation” he was indicating that this prophecy of Hannah was being fulfilled in his day. The Messiah, or Anointed One, was at hand. His horn was being exalted for our salvation. 

And let also consider Psalm 132:11-18. In this Psalm of Ascents we read, “The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.’ For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread. Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy. There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.’” (Psalm 132:11–18, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, Zechariah blessed the Lord because he knew that this prophecy was being fulfilled before his very eyes. He was witnessing the fulfilment of the promise of God, which says, “I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.”


He Blessed God For Keeping The Promises He Made To Abraham

Fourthly, and lastly, Zechariah blessed God for keeping the promises that he had made to Abraham. In verse 72 we read: “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.” (Luke 1:72–75, ESV)

This is marvelous. Do you see how familiar Zechariah was with the Old Testament scriptures? Do you see how clearly he saw the Christ in them? He knew that what God was doing in his day was in fulfilment to the promises made to David, and to Moses, and to father Abraham before them.   

It was not long ago that we finished our study through the book of Genesis, and so I will not rehearse for you in detail the promises made to Abraham. You can read about them in Genesis 12 and following. But do remember that God promised to bless the nations through Abraham. He promised to give Abraham a son. And though Isaiac was born to him in his old age, he was not the son who would bless the nations. No, it would be the Messiah who would do that, Christ Jesus our Lord, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Heart the word of the Lord spoken to Abraham in  as Genesis 22:16-18: “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:16–18, ESV).

It was this promise made to Abraham that echoed down the corridors of the history of redemption being amplified in the days of Moses and in the days of David being finally fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Zechariah saw the dawning of that day and he blessed the Lord the God of Israel. He knew that the Redeemer was at hand, who would  deliver us “from the hand of our enemies”, so that we “might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” His own son would be the prophet who would prepare the way for the Lord, and in this he rejoiced. 



I think you can now why I have said that the prophecy of Zechariah is a window into the Old Testament. Through it we may look and see there in the form of promise. 

And Zechariah’s prophecy does also help us to know what the Old Covenant saints knew concerning the coming Savior. Now, I am not claiming that all of God’s people who lived before the birth of Christ understood what Zechariah understood. After all, he lived at the very end of the Old Covenant era. And he did receive a very special revelation — he was visited by the angel Gabriel. And after being visited by the angel he had months to search the scriptures (or at the very least to reflect on the scriptures he already knew) while he was mute. It may very well be that Zechariah, being moved along by the Holy Spirit, had an unusually clear understanding of Christ from the scriptures. Nevertheless, we do see what the Old Testament saints had access to. They knew that the God of Israel would visit and redeem his people, that he would raise up a Savior in the line of David, and a Son from Abraham’s offspring. And this Son would deliver us “from the hand of our enemies, [so that we] might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Let me ask you, by way of conclusion, do you know the Old Testament scriptures? And do you see Christ there as Zechariah did? Yes, we live under the New Covenant. And we have the New Testament scriptures, which are indeed a great blessing. But it is vitally important that we read and understand the Old Testament. Christ came in fulfilment to promises made long ago. If we wish to understand why Christ came, and what he came to accomplish, to the Old Testament scriptures we must go! With a new year right around the corner it is a good time for me to remind you of the Bible reading plan that we make available on the home page of our website. That reading plan will take you through the Psalms twice, the rest of the Old Testament once, and the New Testament twice. It is a lot of reading, but it is good for us to be exposed to the scriptures broadly. 

Secondly, let me ask you, do you rejoice at the thought of Christ’s first coming and the accomplishment of our redemption as Zechariah did in his day? Granted, Zechariah was at the epicenter of things. His experiences were unusual and awesome. When he considered the marvelous things that the Lord was accomplishing in his day he exploded with praise. You and I should do the same. Yes, we are 2,000 years removed from the accomplishment of our redemption. And yes, we see Christ most clearly. No longer is the accomplishment of our salvation in him a mystery to us. Nevertheless, we ought to come to worship each Lord’s Day eager to bless “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…”

Thirdly I ask, are you living now in the freedom he has earned for you. Why did Christ come? Why did he redeem us? According to Zechariah, it was so that we might “might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” Brothers and sisters, God has redeemed us in Christ — he has freed us from bondage to sin and Satan — so that we might serve him; so that we might walk before him in holiness and righteousness all our days. 

Friends, our God is merciful and kind. What a gift he has given us in Christ the Lord!

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