Sermon from Luke 1:57-80:
Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. I am so thankful for my wife. She truly is a gift from the Lord. I have learned and experienced many things because I married Ellen. One of the things that Ellen has introduced me to is musicals. We have had the opportunity to attend several different musicals throughout our marriage. During a musical, when a certain actor wants to be highlighted on the stage, a spotlight shines on them so the audience knows this is where you look. Today, I pray that I will be able to shine a spotlight to show the Lord’s Mercy in our text this morning. We will be studying John the Baptist, who served as a spotlight for the Lord Jesus. He did not want the light to shine on himself, but turned the spotlight on Jesus Christ. I pray that I will be able to do the same this morning. First point,
I. The Lord Shows His Mercy In Giving His Word (57-58)
The Lord is not silent. He speaks to his people. How often do we take for granted that God speaks to his people? Verse 57, “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.” Elizabeth probably remained in seclusion during her pregnancy and did not reveal to her neighbors and family that she was pregnant which is why it says that they, “heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy and they (the family and neighbors) shared her joy.
God kept his promise to Zechariah. Look back at verse 1:13, “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Notice how this promise was fulfilled. God gave a child to Zechariah’s barren older wife and her neighbors and relatives shared in the joy of his birth. God kept his promise. We need to always remember that God always keeps his Word. So when God gives His Word, it shall come to pass. Every time we read of a promise in the Bible, we see the Lord showing mercy to his people. We do not deserve the Word of the Lord. But he gives us His Word and when he gives it, he keeps it.
What is your attitude to the Word of the Lord? Do you cherish it? Do you marvel that the Creator of the Universe speaks to us? Last week my wife was teaching Sunday School and one of the children was being a little rough with one of the Bibles and my wife said, “Be careful that is the Word of God.” The child’s eyes got real big and said, “God’s words are in here.” When was the last time your eyes got real big and you were amazed that God’s words are in here?” We need to have greater respect for the word of the Lord. Isaiah 66:1-2 says:
This is what the Lord says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
If you want to receive favor from God, be humble and tremble at his word. I have tried to practice this in my own life during my reading times. In the past when I read books that would quote scripture, I would skim or skip the Scripture to get back to the author’s train of thought. The Lord showed that I was valuing the words of man more the Word of God. So now, I am training myself to read the scripture slowly and digest it, as a way to tremble at His word. Are you valuing the words of man more the Word of God? Do you tremble at His Word or do you crave the opinions of man? The Lord has shown us mercy in giving His Word.
II. The Lord Shows His Mercy In Giving A Name (59-66)
Verse 59, “On the eight day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No!” He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, His name is John.” The custom was for a male child to be named after a father or grandfather. The naming of a child was a very big deal. We see from the text that the crowd had already decided on a name. It says, “they were going to name him,” literally “they were wishing to name him” after his father Zechariah.
But we know from the earlier words of the Angel Gabriel that the boy was to be given the name John. Now we do not know how Elizabeth knew this information. It could have been revealed by the Holy Spirit for it says earlier that when she spoke to Mary that she was full of the Holy Spirit. But we could also assume that Zechariah may have communicated it some way to his wife during the pregnancy. Regardless how Elizabeth knew, after Zechariah confirmed the name, the crowd marveled. They were astonished. Listen to verse 64, “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
The neighbors and eventually all of the hill country of Judea were amazed at the naming of John and were asking, “What then is this child going to be?” The people rightly understand that the Lord hand was with the child because it was the Lord that named the child. Throughout the Old Testament when God gave the name to the child, the child was special and would be a part of his special plan.
Genesis 16:11-12 ESV
And the angel of the LORD said to Hagar, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
Isaiah 7:14 ESV
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
By naming John, God is taking responsibility for him. And we know he is special for he will be the prophet of the Most High. He will be the fulfillment in the prophecy of Malachi: he will be the one that comes and prepares the way of the Lord. God’s naming of John shows His mercy. And God loves to name His people. He gave Jacob the name Israel to identify his special people. He gave the name Immanuel, God with us, to the Messiah. And he also gives you a name. Listen to Revelation 2:17:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ 
God gives a white stone with a new name to everyone who conquers or everyone who perseveres in their faith in Jesus until the end. A white stone was commonly associated with a vote of acquittal. The white of the stone is to symbolize cleanness and righteousness. Revelation 19:8-9 refers to the clothes of saints as fine linen, bright and clean representing their righteous acts. So the one who has the white stone is declared not guilty and that stone then becomes their ticket to the Marriage Super of the Lamb. So what is this new name? The new name written on the stone is God’s Own Name. Revelation 3:12:
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
All of these names refer to God’s name given to his people. We can see this clearly in Revelation 22:3-4
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.
The Lord shows His Mercy in giving a Name, His Name. The name of the King of kings and the Lord of lords will be given to us as a sign that we have overcome this world and will secure our seat at the great Marriage Super of the Lamb at the end of time. And the giving of that name starts right here in our text this morning when God gives a name to John as the forerunner to the Messiah who will announce the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. We should love that the Lord shows His Mercy in giving a Name.
Has the Lord given you a name? Have you been identified with the name of Jesus Christ? Acts 4:12, “12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” If you are here and have never trusted in the NAME of Jesus Christ, please do so today. For without His Name there is no salvation and no invitation to the great Marriage Feat of the Lamb.
III. The Lord Shows His Mercy In Giving Silence (62-64)
Look at verse 62, “Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.” Remember God made Zechariah mute because of his unbelief. But apparently we see here that he could not hear as well for they had to make signs for to him to explain their question. So he asked for a writing tablet, and he wrote, “His name is John.” Notice how Zechariah answers. He does not say, “His name will be John.” He says, “His name is John.” This shows that Zechariah now believes the promise. He has not only seen the prophecy come true in the birth of his son, but he believes in who this child will become and the role he will play in history. We know he believed for, “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed and he began to speak, praising God.”
God disciplined Zechariah for his unbelief, but Zechariah’s heart was not hardened but softened. This is how we all should respond to the chastening of the Lord. The Lord’s discipline is meant to soften out hearts and drive out unbelief. And just imagine how much of a blessing that silence was Zechariah. How he was forced to think about his doubt? Silence is such a blessing to the soul. It forces us to think. Beloved, we need silence to think. But our world pushes against silence and solitude at every turn. We live in constant noise: tvs, radios, ipods, text messages, phone calls, sirens etc. Our constant noise keeps us from thinking deeply. We do not like silence.
Instead of allowing silence to prick our consciences, we run to noise to drown out our pain and avoid those hard feelings. I believe there are many of us that do not grow in our spiritual walk, because we do not make room for silence. Silence can serve your soul. Do not run from it, embrace it. Look at how much it served Zechariah.
IV. The Lord Shows His Mercy In Giving A Horn of Salvation (67-75)
The crowd realized that the Lord’s hand was upon this child as did his father. But notice who Zechariah focuses on in this prophecy, verse 67, “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit (like Elizabeth earlier in this chapter) and prophesied, “Praise be to 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 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham and to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” Zechariah starts not focusing on his own son, but on the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Notice how Zechariah speaks in the past tense. Praise be to the Lord because he has come and has redeemed his people. And has raised up a horn of salvation for us. The mission had not been completely fulfilled. Jesus had not yet died on the cross and had not yet been raised from the dead, but Zechariah was completely confident that the start of the rescue mission meant the definite completion of the mission. Like the D-Day invasion of Normandy was the beginning to the end of World War II, the incarnation was the beginning of the end of the works of the devil. Hebrews 2:14-15:
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things (meaning flesh and blood in being born as a baby), that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
The rescue mission had begun. And we know that it will be completed, because Jesus is called the horn of salvation. In the Old Testament, the title, “horn of salvation” always refers to God. Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” The horn of salvation was a sign of strength and power.
In Pamplona, Spain during the San Fermin Festival every July, a group of daring individuals participate the Running of the Bulls. These brave and wise individuals willingly stand in the middle of the street when a group of bulls are released to chase them through the streets of Pamplona. These animals are massive weighing an average of 2,700 pounds and run at an average speed of 15 miles per hour. Now when the bulls are released, there is only one response: to run, to run as fast as humanly possible because no one will be able to stand against their size and the strength of their horns.
Similarly, no enemies will be able to stand against the strength of our horn of salvation. This is why Zechariah is so confident and it is why we should be so confident. Jesus will deliver us from all our enemies being faithful to his covenant with his people. No enemies will be able to stand against His strength.
As much as this should give us confidence, this should also cause us to tremble. God is Holy and Righteous and no one can stand against him. This is why we all need salvation. We are unholy and depraved and are in desperate need of a Savior.
This past Friday, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary school and did the unthinkable. My stomach turned all day when I first heard. It was awful. And it only appears to get worse with the more information that comes out. How are we to respond to this?
First, pray for the families who lost love ones and for the survivors. Pray that God would give you a heart to empathize with people who are suffering.
Second, be reminded that one day God will administer His perfect justice. We are going to be unsatisfied with justice now, but one day God will rightly punish all sin. He will make all wrongs right. A tragedy like this makes our hearts scream for justice.
Third, be reminded of our own need for a Savior. We live in a depraved culture and need a Savior. We do not like to think about the things that happened on Thursday, but they are signs that something is wrong with our world. And that something is sin. Sin is against God and will be punished. Allow the horrific events of Thursday as a catalyst for you to put to death your sin so you can live for righteousness. Romans 8:12-14:
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
When a horrible act of violence happened in Jesus’ day this is how he responded in Luke 13:1-5:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
So I encourage you, like the Lord Jesus, repent so that that you will not perish. We know our world is depraved. We know that we are depraved. And this is why this text is so important to us? We have a horn of salvation in the Lord Jesus to rescue us from the works of the Evil one. Jesus lived and died to destroy the works of the devil; works which we witnessed this past Friday in Connecticut. He destroyed death through his resurrection of the dead for all who would turn to him as their horn of salvation. He will enable you to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all your days. The Lord shows His Mercy in giving a Horn of Salvation.
V. The Lord Shows His Mercy in Giving A Mission (75-80)
After prophesying about the Lord Jesus, Zechariah then turns back to his Son in verse 76, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into a path of peace. And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” God had a special purpose for John. John was going to be the forerunner to the Messiah, the one that was going to prepare the way. And how does John prepare the way for the Messiah? John gives the people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. John would bring many people back to the Lord and helped turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. God gave John a unique mission to prepare the way for Jesus in proclaiming the knowledge of salvation. Likewise, God has given us a mission to proclaim the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. The only way one has salvation is if their sins are forgiven. There are a lot of ways people think they can be saved, but those ways do not come through the forgiveness of sins. The only way to have your sins forgiven is to have someone pay the penalty of those sins. And that is what we celebrate this Christmas. We celebrate the One who came to pay the penalty of our sins, our strong horn of salvation. He came to us who were living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the path of peace. Jesus is our peace. He is the light. He came into our darkness so that we could tell others about His Light.
On Aug 5th, 2012, 33 Chilean Miners were trapped 2,230 feet under the earth when the roof of their mine collapsed. They were trapped underground for 69 days. They were in darkness. They were trapped and there was no way out; there was nothing they could do. They were surrounded by darkness. On the surface there was a team of men working tireless to save these men lives. After two and half months, these men finally succeeded in the rescue. The miners were brought out of darkness to the light. The rescuers did not create the light, but worked as hard as they could to get people to the light. God has called you to be a rescuer!! You did not create the light, but are called to bring people into that light so that they may be saved. Are you on mission? Are you working to bringing people into the light? Or are you content to leave people in darkness?
“6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”
The light has come. Will you be a witness to that light? Will you be a spotlight for the Lord Jesus?
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Re 2:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: A commentary on the Greek text. New International Greek Testament Commentary (252). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ac 4:12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.