Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Background Psalm 37 is written by King David in his older years. He has been through a lot. In David’s life journey, he went from unseen shepherd boy to giant-slayer to man-on-the-run to King of Israel, appointed by God himself. We are blessed today because under inspiration of the Holy Spirit David recorded many of his thoughts and experiences related to God throughout his journey.
We can imagine a Grandpa saying, “Sonny, come here. I have a few things to teach you about life. I have been doing this life thing for a while. I have made some mistakes but learned a lot and I want you to benefit from my wisdom”. This Psalm and others like it have been used by the Jewish people to teach the faith and encourage the people since Bible times.
Psalm 37 joins a group of other Psalms classified as Wisdom Psalms Didactic (teaching) Psalms. In Hebrew, they are called the hokmah. They often sound like the Proverbs as they use the same language. Their primary purpose is to teach foundational life lessons to the hearer.
David here wants to teach us how to live a holy life, pleasing to God and fruitful in light of living in a world of wickedness and dealing with the assaults of evil.
So what is David teaching us in this Psalm?
To Delight in the Lord
Delight here means to take great pleasure in. It is written as a command. The Hebrew root includes the meaning of “pamper or refresh oneself; “ (Brannan, R. (Ed.). (2020). Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.)
We hear a lot in our culture about how we as women are to pamper and refresh ourselves. The Lord showed me long ago that one of the most refreshing, pampering ways I can spend my time is in sitting with him in prayer or Bible study. I need more of those times in my life!
My Question for reflection- you can make it yours too- do we take as great pleasure in spending time with God, getting to know him, listening to him as we do:
A luxurious, unrushed hot shower
A scrumptious, gourmet, well-prepared meal
A drink of cool water on a hot day
Spending time in nature
Going to a spa to get a manicure or pedicure
I had to seriously ask myself these questions. I came up with the answer. No, I don’t. Not enough. Yes, sometimes I have that experience when I get up extra early and spend what seems like a lot of time just listening to God, researching rabbit trails, taking my time, not feeling rushed. But I realized it was not nearly enough. God was calling me to focus more on this idea of delighting in him.
How can I delight in an unseen God as much as I delight in these things that bombard my senses with such good experiences? How can I delight in a God who is Spirit while I am sitting here in a very physical house on a very physical planet? I had to go in search of this answer.
Using my tried and true foundational triad for my life as a Christian- Prayer, Bible Study and fellowship, I searched and researched.
I learned something very profound.
In my delight, I am to desire GOD with all my heart. And when I desire God with al my heart, take great pleasure in him, find my refreshment in him, God will answer my desire and give me more of himself. He will increase my delight in him the more I want of him! He will give me more of HIM the more I want of him.
Once my focus of delight is on the Lord, all my other desires will flow from my fellowship with my Lord and Savior. I will only want that which he wants. God will give me all the desires of my heart, first and foremost his very presence, when I focus my delight in him.
Once I realized this answer, that my greatest delight should be in God himself, the next question I had was, “Is this even possible?”
No. It is impossible to delight in and desire God as much as I long for luxurious, pampering physical experiences. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. God will complete this work he began in us. We will grow from glory to glory (“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).)
How will this happen? Through prayer and petition, God gives us to “will and to do for his good pleasure.”
We must often remind ourselves of God’s presence in our lives. Be like David, excited and confident that the Lord’s presence is with us.
Take time to delight in God. Spend unrushed time with him. When you delight is someone, find pleasure in them, it’s hard to leave their presence. Be intentional in taking time to meditate on and sit with this amazing concept that the Creator of all things, the Holy One, delights in your presence.
Seek him and call on him because that is what he desires of you.
Remember what God has done- for you, for his people throughout history, for those you know
Remember who God is- creator, protector, provider, judge
Give him praise and thanks
Testify of his goodness
So before we ask God to give us the desires of our hearts as it concerns our writing, let’s ask him to help us desire HIM more than anything. Once we do that, the prayers we have, our desires regarding our writing, will be pleasing to God and he will be pleased to answer them.
When we make God first, we avoid the idols of happiness.
“Whatsoever we make necessary for our contentment, we make lord of our happiness.”
Alexander Maclaren, expository preacher, 1826-1910
Prayer God, help us to delight in you more than anything else. Help us to spend time intentionally delighting in you even as we attend the Writer’s Retreat this weekend. Show us what it means to truly delight in you. Give us the will to want to delight in you. Align our desires with yours as we seek to serve you and live out the calling on our lives you have revealed to us. Amen.
Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Luke 2:36-40 NKJV
Anna was a devoted servant of God. Widowed early in life, Anna dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. When Jesus was bought into the temple, her life of piety was interrupted. No longer were her religious actions on hope of the long-awaited Messiah. The Messiah was there, in the flesh, in the temple with her! Her hope was rewarded. God was praised. The presence of the Messiah was met with her gratitude to God. Like other true believers, she could not be silent about her Savior. The Good news had to be shared!
Throughout the Bible, women had a role in proclaiming the truth of God. God chose in the biblical narrative, to mention women as well as men who went in boldness to tell others about God and speak his word to others. These women are sometimes called “prophetesses”, a female version of a prophet.
Why is Luke including Anna here in his Gospel? Because his major theme is that God sent Jesus to earth that ALL might be saved.(Luke 2:10) In a culture that generally did not hold women in high regard, Luke wanted to show that God is different. He wants to be sure that the reader understands that women as well as men will be part of the Kingdom of God. In fact, Luke’s Gospel tells us more about women than any others. Later in the book of Acts, also written by Luke, we learn of other women who prophesy. (Acts 2:19)
Anna was a mighty woman of God. She was a watchful woman and used the spiritual disciplines of fasting and praying to keep her mind and heart focused on God. As a long-term widow, Anna could have wallowed in self-pity. But she did not. Instead, she devoted herself to pleasing God and waiting for him to fulfill his promises. Anna was a woman of faith and God rewarded her with the greatest gift of all.
Luke wants us to know that in the birth of Jesus, God is fulfilling his covenant promises of the Old Testament. This fills Anna with gratitude and joy so much that she must share the Good News with others.
In the midst of all your activities this Christmas season, find time to tell others about Jesus.
And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:38
Lord, Help me to spread the Good News about Jesus this Christmas season. Amen.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Luke 2:30-35 NKJV
The Song of a Prophet
This song of Simeon is the fourth of four songs or canticles found in the beginning of Luke. We have read songs by Zechariah, Mary and the angels. Now we read Simeon’s song of praise. These canticles have since antiquity been named after the first word or words, also known as the incipit of the song, in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. This ancient translation was completed in 400 A.D. by biblical scholar Jerome. The first words of Simeon’s song in Latin (verse 29) are “Nunc dimittis” meaning “Now you dismiss.” Simeon is saying that God is now releasing him from earthly life because he met the Lord’s anointed, the Christ, baby Jesus.
Who Is This Jesus?
In today’s reading, we see Simeon continuing his song. Simeon prophetically tells us the identity of Jesus.
The blessed baby is:
Salvation for all people
Light to the Gentiles
The glory of Israel
Mary and Joseph are amazed at this continuing revelation of the identity of their new baby. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the angels and now Simeon revealed the truth of who this baby is and what he came to accomplish.
Blessing and Hard Truths
Then Simeon blessed the Holy Child and his family. Instead of leaving after the blessing, Simeon turns his attention to Mary. She is likely feeling the joy and warmth of the old prophets’ blessing when he turns to speak to her directly. I imagine he addressed her with a slight heaviness in his heart as God, through the Holy Spirit, showed him that difficult times are ahead for Mary and Jesus. Simeon faithfully gives the hard message that:
Jesus will cause both the fall and rise of many in Israel. Some will accept Jesus and rise to everlasting life while others who reject him will stumble and break. (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:32)
Jesus will be spoken against. In just a couple of years, Herod will be the first to oppose Jesus when he makes the command to kill all the babies in an attempt to get rid of Jesus whom he feels threatened by. At the end of his life, Jesus will be spoken against by the Jewish religious leaders. From beginning to end, Jesus faced opposition at Simeon prophesied.
Mary will be hurt by what happens to her son. The word for sword used here refers to a very large, broad sword. The verb construction reflect an action that occurs continuously or repeatedly. We see in Mary’s life that she is a mother who watched her son endure much opposition throughout his ministry.
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:32
Lord, Thank you for Jesus, our salvation, the light of the world, through whom we see the glory of God. Thank you for the example of these godly parents who sought to do your will in the resining of their child from his infancy. Thank you for the prophecies about Jesus so that we might believe and know with certainty why we believe and who we believe in. Amen.
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;
Luke 2:25-29 NKJV
Portrait of a Prophet
This is not a good time for Israel. Like in their time of bondage in Egypt, God seems to have forgotten them. He doesn’t seem to see their suffering at the hand of the oppressive Romans. Or if he sees, God seems not to care. Where is the promised salvation? Will Messiah ever come?
No Angels Needed
Simeon remembers. He has been waiting in joyful hope. A devoted Jew, he was blessed by a revelation from the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel”, would come to God’s people in his lifetime. Yes, he was old, old enough to die a natural death. Yet he knew he would not die before Messiah came to rescue his people. So he waited. Probably, he looked for a royal procession or armies led by a successful general to fulfill the prophecy. No angel had to come and proclaim hope to him. The Holy Spirit already spoke to him.
The Spirit Stays
The same Spirit who gave Simeon the revelation about the coming of Christ now directs Simeon to the temple. Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with baby Jesus to find Simeon waiting for them. Simeon, still filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of the revelation he was given.
Blessing and Honor Given
Simeon reacted to the presence of Jesus, promise fulfilled, in the only way he could, by thanking and praising God. God was true to his word! How sweet it is to wait patiently for the Lord, confident that he will come through, and have his promises fulfilled! Simeon recognized how privileged he was to hold the Savior in his arms. He must have felt such peace and joy!
he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
Luke 2:28 NKJV
Have you accepted Jesus and blessed God for his wonderful gift?
Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. You sent your only Son to earth to be our Consolation, our Savior. Help us to live in gratitude and remember this great truth everyday but especially this Christmas. Amen.
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ” ), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Luke 2:21-24 NKJV
Bridging the Gap
Jesus’ life represents movement from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. He lived, died and was resurrected to usher in a new way for us to have forgiveness of our sins. The temple curtain will be torn, the veil between God and man destroyed. The law of Moses is fulfilled through Jesus. His participation in Mosaic legal requirements is the beginning of this role. Now, reigning at the right hand of the Father, the risen Jesus completely fulfills the role of high priest, see Hebrews 8.
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Luke 2:16-20 NKJV
Mary and Joseph, after their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, were unable to find a proper place to stay. Instead, they are in a stable area with the animals of the household. In this uncomfortable arrangement, Mary’s time comes and she gives birth to Jesus.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:11-15 NKJV
In keeping with the perspective of common people God inspired Luke to write about, we learn about common, lowly shepherds being given privileged information. To them is proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy- The Anointed One, The Christ, is here! The Savior, promised by God and his prophets many years ago, is here! This announcement must have confused them. They knew the Christ would be from the line of David, so the city of David made sense. But why is a baby the sign? Could the Anointed One be a baby, lying in a feeding trough, a manger?
“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Luke 2:6–10, NKJV
An Arrival with Startling Humility
A back room with the animals. A rough feeding trough fit for animals. Simple cloths to protect a new life. This is how the Savior of all, the King of Kings, made his grand entrance into the world.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1–5, NKJV)
Another Prophecy Fulfilled
In the earlier part of Luke’s narrative, we learn that Mary, mother-to-be of Jesus, lives in Nazareth, about 100 miles north of Bethlehem, prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah. How will this happen? God’s got this. He uses the secular rulers to bring his prophesy to pass. The Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, declared that all the world under his jurisdiction should be registered.
“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, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Luke 1:76-80 NKJV
Luke gives us more information about Mary and Zechariah than any other Gospel. His account includes details not found elsewhere in the Bible. This corresponds to what Luke stated at the beginning of his narrative. He promised to shed light on “all things from the very first”. Luke seems to have firsthand information from sources like Mary and Zechariah so that these beautiful songs are preserved for us today. Did they make you feel more certain about what you believe as Luke stated he desired for his readers?
John’s message would be one of the necessity of salvation because of the sins of the people and the provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. John’s words were both challenging and comforting. It is because of the great mercy of God towards his people (literally translated “bowels of mercy”) that he saves. God loved the world so much that he sent his son Jesus to earth for our salvation. (John 3:16)
Although the word for salvation can have the sense of health or wellness, in this case, the fact that salvation is spiritual and not just political or physical is alluded to as Zechariah describes the role of remission of sins.
Dayspring. A word we don’t use anymore but it is a picture of dawn. Dawn is daylight springing forth from darkness. The word in Greek, anatole, means “east”. It is used to convey the sun rising in the east as in the dawn. Interestingly, the ancient Jewish Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek translated the Messianic word Branch as anatole. Why? Possibly because both have the sense of a Messiah “breaking forth” or “breaking out”. The sun breaks out into the sky at daybreak and a branch breaks out from the root. Both metaphors reflect the breaking into human history of a deliverer and redeemer, Jesus.
Greek scholar Bill Mounce writes that the compass direction of orientation in the ancient Near East in the time of Jesus was east just as we use north in compasses today. Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer and King, comes from the exalted direction, the east. This Dayspring is also Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus graced the world with his presence for us!
Jesus didn’t come quietly or in a subtle way. The whole world was irrevocably changed when Jesus came on the scene in human form, as a helpless baby. He broke into our humanity with its sin, shame and death, to bring light. The light of Jesus is the glorious light of salvation.
Jesus in his own words confirmed Zechariah’s prophecy. He spoke of being light. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”” John 8:12, NKJV
Luke in writing about the Dayspring also brings to mind the vigorous and victorious image given to us by the prophet Malachi:
“But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.” Malachi 4:2, NKJV
Zechariah’s words echo Isaiah’s prophecy (also repeated in Matthew 4:16):
“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2, NKJV
The light of Isaiah’s prophecy looks forward to our great hope in Jesus.
Prepare a Way in the Desert
John’s father summarizes his childhood in the final verse of this section. John grew spiritually as well as physically during this time. Zechariah tells us that John was in the desert until the start of his public ministry. This fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah said:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Is 40:3 NKJV
Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” NLT Luke 1:78-79
Heavenly Father, We thank you for the glorious light of Jesus, the one who came to earth to save us and redeem us! Thank you for faithful prophets like John the Baptist and his father Zechariah who led the way for you. Fill us with fresh wonder about the miracle of Jesus being a born a baby, fully human and fully man, to live among us. What a wonderful, precious gift! Amen.
Cooking can sometimes feel like a chore at the end of a busy day. It’s often tempting to throw a ready meal in the oven or call for take out. But preparing a simple and healthy family meal doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. Here are some quick wholesome dishes that you and your family will love. They can even be prepared in advance.
I know, what could be better that a steaming plate of fries, gravy and cheese curd? Fries, gravy, cheese curd and bacon, that’s what! Throw in some fresh shallots, chilli, and a splash of roasted bone marrow and duck gravy, and we turn this popular French-Canadian dish into a something sublime.
During the week we’re often walking out the door with a coffee in one hand and slice of toast in the other, but on weekends breakfast is never rushed. It’s a late affair, sometimes spilling over to lunch, with lots of reading and chatter in between courses of fruits, poached eggs, honey and toast. One of our favorite things we like to serve when friends are visiting are buckwheat blueberry pancakes.
That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which 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 the days of our life.
Luke 1:71-75 NKJV
Victory in Jesus
Jesus came into the world to conquer sin and death that we too would find victory over that which keeps us from God. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We recognize that our primary adversary is Satan. He stands against us as an accuser and opposes everything that Jesus stands for. Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of God. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). God promised that through a descendant of Abraham all the world would be saved.
“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Genesis 12:3, NKJV
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7, NKJV
Saved to Serve
Jesus saves so that we can serve. We are set free from sin, death and shame so that we can freely serve God and man. Perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear so we are free to live righteous despite risk. Yes, we may be misunderstood, hated and persecuted but if we live in holiness, we need not fear. We will be able to walk in holiness all of our lives and “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6.
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 the days of our life.
Luke 1:74-75 NKJV
Thank you, Lord for freeing us from the bondage of sin and death and the accompanying fear. Help us to boldly serve you all the days of our lives. May we seek you as we desire to live in holiness and righteousness. Guide us today and every day for the rest of our lives. Amen.
“Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is 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, Who have been since the world began,”
Luke 1:67–70, NKJV
We see again a strong theme of Luke, that of the power and work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people. Through the Holy Spirit, Zacharias speaks here of Jesus, the son of Mary, not his son John. The Holy Spirit showed the elderly father the promise of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, another theme in Luke as he seeks to make his readers certain of what they have learned. Zacharias learned firsthand of the holiness of God through the miraculous birth of his son. Now, he will proclaim this truth to all the congregation.
So begins an exuberant praise song of Zacharias, the first words he is able to utter since being struck mute at his meeting with the Angel Gabriel at the altar. This prophetic song is known by its Latin name which is derived from the first word, Benedictus, which means “Blessed be”. The Benedictus is one of three songs found in the beginning of Luke. The other two are Mary’s Magnificat and Simeon’s song. All three are prophetic revelations encased in praise.
In this case, we imagine a man who for 9 months or more has been unable to speak one word because of his doubt of Gabriel’s proclamation that Elizabeth would have a baby at her advanced age. Now the baby, John the Baptist, is here and Zacharias obeyed God in naming the baby John. His ability to speak comes back and with it a praise-filled prophecy tumbles forth out of his long silent mouth.
He blesses God for:
Visiting his people
Redeeming his people
Raising up a salvation from the house of David
Fulfilling the word of the prophets of old
““Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,” (Luke 1:68, NKJV)
The godly priest realizes that God has begun the work of coming among and redeeming his people. Jesus is to be born as a baby and called Immanuel, God With Us. Redemption is coming through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! He was born as a humble baby, died as a suffering servant and rose as a victor!
Lord, We praise you and we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to live among us and redeem us. Through him came the salvation of the whole world and there can be no better gift! Help us to proclaim this joyous news to others especially during this Christmas season. Amen.
And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 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. Luke 1:63-66 NKJV
A Second Chance
God gives people a chance to repent of sin, make up for a wrong deed or bad decision. Zechariah sinned against God by doubting him. God then made him unable to speak. Now, Zechariah is given again the opportunity to obey God in faith. This time, he acts in accordance to God’s will. He says that the child must be named John as the angel commanded. We can act like God in our relationships. When a child, spouse or friend wrongs us, we can choose to stay in unforgiveness or anger or we can give the person a chance to try again and do better. That’s called grace. God gave it to Zechariah and he lavishly gives it to you and me. We should be generous in giving this grace to others.
Overflow of the Heart
God knows our hearts. But actions demonstrate to a watching world who God is through those who worship him. Zechariah’s repentance and obedience were seen by the congregation of the faithful although his sin was before Gabriel and God only. Once Zechariah’s heart changed to faith and obedience, his public actions reflected his repentance. God then enabled Zechariah to speak. Through this episode, Zechariah has seen firsthand the power, majesty and mercy of God. His lips must praise the God who makes all speech possible. He can not restrain his praise. The praise of his heart ❤️ overflowed to his lips and God was glorified in the presence of the people.
The Encouragement of Praise
When God redeems is, picks us up and puts us back on the right path, all we can do is offer praise for his great mercy and love. Zechariah praises God with the voice God gives him. All the people see God’s power in this miracle and are encouraged and blessed by the praise flowing from Zechariah.
Let us take time often to praise God in the midst of others, especially when he delivers us. It will encourage and strengthen our fellow believers and can even bring souls to God.
And the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:66(b)
The hand of the Lord is with you. His mighty outstretched hand upholds you. When you stumble like Zechariah did, God will lift you up. God’s hand protects, provides and comforts. Guidance and discipline are in the loving hand of God. Praise God for not withdrawing his hand from us!
Lord, Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. We praise you for your mighty strength and power and wisdom. With your hand you uphold the world. Yours are the hands that held back the Red Sea for Moses and we thank you for your hands clearing the path and making a way for us today. Help us to boldly obey you in faith knowing that your hand is always with us. Amen.
“Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. 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. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.””
(Luke 1:57–60, NKJV)
God’s Mercy and Faithfulness
God’s promise as given through the angel Gabriel is fulfilled in our first verse today showing God’s faithfulness. God used this miracle birth to strengthen the faith of the others in Elizabeth’s life. Once they heard of the childless, older woman giving birth, they knew that God’s miracle was the cause. God’s miracles are a sign of his mercy. Using the same word for “magnify” Mary used in the Magnificat, this verse tells us the Lord magnified his mercy to Elizabeth. An always merciful God showed great grace and mercy to Elizabeth.
Rejoice With One Another
The miracle of the birth of John caused those around her to come and rejoice with Elizabeth. Similarly, once we focus on on God’s great mercy to us, especially in sending Jesus to die for our sins, we feel like rejoicing. Such unmerited favor shown to us by the Creator of all the world is cause for joy! What a privilege to rejoice with other believers as we testify about what the Lord has done for us. This is not a private event to be hidden from Elizabeth’s community but a time of proclaiming the mercy of God and celebrating a renewal of faith as all celebrate the blessing being given to one.
A Public Life
John will spend much of his life in public ministry. His life will not be his own but will be dedicated to the service of the Lord. The beginning of his life reflects this truth. Friends and relatives are gathered together for the beginning of John’s life, a life that points to our Savior Jesus. Elizabeth’s joy goes beyond her happiness at having a longed-for child late in life. She rejoices because God is going to fulfill his promises to Israel for a Savior and a King soon.
What’s in a Name?
Much is made of the naming of John in this passage. In the Old Testament, naming was a significant rite with religious significance. Names given by God were recognized as a special gift and especially meaningful. God gave new names as a sign of his new work in someone’s heart and life. In the New Testament, God gives us names as followers of Jesus Christ. We are overcomers, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, sons of God and a new creation in Christ among others. Remembering God’s names for us helps us to live in our true identity in Christ and reject names that God does not have for us.
When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. Luke 1:58 (NKJV)
Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness and promises fulfilled! You are still a mighty, miracle-working God and we praise you and give you honor and glory. Thank you for the miracle you did for Elizabeth that showed your great mercy to her just as you showed great mercy to us by sending Jesus to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Continue to grow us in the grace and knowledge of your Word. Amen.