“Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.’” (Luke 1:67-69)
One of the most fascinating things about the Bible is that it tells us that God makes promises to us. You may not get a lot of comfort from this idea, particularly when you think about the way that we often forget or break our promises. In our world we have come to believe that promises are cheap – they are made to be broken. People think nothing of breaking marriage vows, businessmen welch on deals and manufacturers refuse to honour warranties. But it was not like this in the world of the Bible; when God made a promise it was for keeps.
God’s promises, or covenants, are meant to be a great comfort to us. Many of us drudge our way through life grappling with fears, doubts and uncertainty. This drains all the joy out of our existence. Knowing that God relates to us through a series of covenants should reinvigorate us and be a cure for the crippling anxiety that so many of us face. If you understand God’s covenants and cling to the assurances they contain then you will have a new hope for the future – a hope, incidentally, that every one of us can have regardless of our nationality, colour or station in life.
Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, came to this realization late in life at his son’s circumcision ceremony. It was at this precise moment that he realised that his own son’s birth, as well as the birth of Jesus, was in fulfillment of several great treaties or arrangements that God had instituted for the sake of His people. These treaties are far more important than any other agreement that we may have; indeed, business and financial arrangements pale into insignificance alongside them.
This explains why Zechariah’s song begins and ends on a note of praise. This is not surprising given the importance of what Zechariah is singing about. Since God’s promises of salvation are the most precious things that we could possess, we would hardly expect Zechariah to do otherwise than to speak about these promises in song. A song is special because it involves words being put to music; and music is significant because it helps to make the meaning of God’s words more vivid and memorable. In other words, music intensifies the meaning of the promise. Whenever words appear in a poetical or lyrical form, we are getting a clear signal that this particular text is precious. God wants us to cherish it, and this is especially so with respect to His covenants of promise.
Luke mentions three covenants in Zechariah’s song. He refers to the Davidic, Abrahamic and New Covenants. There are others, of course, but these are the three that he mentions. And they are important because they remind us that history is unfolding according to God’s plan and timetable and in line with His will and purpose. This is what should bring peace and stability into our lives – knowing that God has our future in His hands and that we have been assured a privileged place in it.