The prayer of Zechariah (Lk 1:68-1:68)

“Blessed be the Lord!

The God of Israel!

He has looked favorably

On his people.

He has redeemed them.”

 

Εὐλογητὸς Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτι ἐπεσκέψατο καὶ ἐποίησεν λύτρωσιν τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ,

 

Luke then had this so-called Benedictus prayer, based on the Latin translation of Εὐλογητὸς.  At the same time, this prayer is a prophesy also.  First, Zechariah was thankful for all the people of Israel, not just himself.  He used the familiar blessing that David said to Abigail in 1 Samuel, chapter 25:32, and to Solomon in 1 Kings, chapter 1:48.  Solomon used this same blessing in 1 Kings, chapter 8:35.  He said that the Lord was blessed (Εὐλογητὸς Κύριος).  He was the God of Israel (ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ) who had visited, intervened, or looked favorably (ὅτι ἐπεσκέψατο) on his people (τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ,), since he has saved or brought them redemption (καὶ ἐποίησεν λύτρωσιν).  Zechariah had a sense of what the scope of John’s birth would be on all Israel, not just his family.  He implied that salvation or redemption had already taken place with the birth of his son John, not waiting for Jesus.

The Redemption Context

African Christians put emphasis on creation and deliverance from hardship, while European Christians put emphasis on sin and salvation.  These differences show up in death rituals and funerals.  The early Church suffered political persecution.  Freedom from slavery saw redemption as the main form of freedom.  The early Medieval Church (4th-11th centuries) was more concerned about freedom from the power of the devil after Augustine had emphasized the concept of original sin.  The early Scholastic theologians like Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) put less emphasis on the ransom from the devil.  Adam had disobeyed and dishonored God.  Christ has saved us by being the second Adam, the so-called satisfaction theory.  Order and honor were more important.  The Third world today sees redemption as something else.  Christian redemption is the same reality, but there are different interpretations of what it means to be redeemed.

The great return (Zech 10:8-10:11)

“I will signal for them.

I will gather them in.

I have redeemed them.

They shall be

As numerous

As they were before.

Though I scattered them

Among the nations,

Yet in far countries

They shall remember me.

They shall rear their children.

They shall return.

I will bring them home

From the land of Egypt.

I will gather them

From Assyria.

I will bring them

To the land of Gilead.

I will bring them

To Lebanon,

Until there is no room for them.

They shall pass through

The sea of distress.

The waves of the sea

Shall be struck down.

The depths of the Nile

Shall dry up.

The pride of Assyria

Shall be laid low.

The scepter of Egypt

Shall depart.”

Yahweh was going to give a signal for the Israelites to gather, since he had redeemed them from their captivity.  They would be as numerous as they were before.  Even though they were scattered among many distant countries, they raised their children there before they returned.  Yahweh was going to bring them home from Egypt and Assyria.  He was going to put them in Gilead, the east side of the Jordan River, or in Lebanon, on the seacoast, until there was no more room for them there.  They would have no problems, since Yahweh was going to lead them through distressed seas, mild waves, and the deep dry Nile River.  The pride of Assyria would be brought down, while the control of the Egyptian rule or scepter would leave.

The saving redemption (Lam 3:58-3:60)

Resh

“You have taken up

My cause!

O Yahweh!

You have redeemed

My life!

You have seen

The wrong

Done to me!

O Yahweh!

Judge my cause!

You have seen

All their malice!

You have seen

All their plots

Against me!”

This personalized lament continued, but this time on a positive note. Yahweh has taken up his cause. He has redeemed his life. He has seen the wrong things that were done to him. Yahweh was going to judge his case, since he saw all the malice that other people have done against him with their various plots. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Resh in this acrostic poem.

Yahweh announces that Israel has been ransomed (Jer 31:10-31:11)

“Hear the word of Yahweh!

O nations!

Declare it

In the coastlands far away!

Say.

‘He who scattered Israel,

Will gather them.

I will keep them

Like a shepherd

Keeps his flock.’

Yahweh has ransomed Jacob.

He has redeemed them

From hands

Too strong for them.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, wants all the nations, including those on the far away coast to listen to him. He was announcing that the once scattered Israelites would now gather around their shepherd. Yahweh has ransomed and redeemed Jacob from the strong hands that held them captive.

The redeeming savior (Isa 63:8-63:10)

“Yahweh said.

‘Surely they are my people.

Children will not deal falsely.’

He became their Savior

In all their distress.

It was no messenger.

It was no angel.

But it was his presence that saved them.

In his love,

In his pity,

He redeemed them.

He lifted them up.

He carried them

All the days of old.

But they rebelled.

They grieved his Holy Spirit.

Therefore he became their enemy.

He himself fought against them.”

Yahweh responded that surely his people and children would not respond falsely. He was their savior in times of distress. He did not merely send a messenger or an angel. It was his very presence that saved them. He showed them love and pity as he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them away as in the good old days. However, they rebelled against him as they saddened the Holy Spirit. They became his enemy so that Yahweh had to fight against them.

The hope for Zion (Isa 62:10-62:12)

“Go through!

Go through the gates!

Prepare the way for the people!

Build up!

Build up the highway!

Clear it of stones!

Lift up an ensign

Over the people!

Yahweh has proclaimed

To the ends of the earth.

Say to daughter Zion!

‘See!

Your salvation comes!

His reward is with him!

His recompense is before him.’

They shall be called.

‘The holy people!

The redeemed of Yahweh!’

You shall be called.

‘Sought out!

A city not forsaken.’”

Here we have a summary of all that had proceeded. The Israelites were to go through the gates in order to prepare a way for the others to come. They were to build up the highway and clear it of stones so that it would be a level road to walk on. They were to lift up a symbolic sign over the people. Yahweh has proclaimed to the ends of the earth that his daughter Zion will be saved. Zion was to receive their rewards and compensation. They were to be called the holy people, the people redeemed by Yahweh. They would be a city sought out and not forsaken. Jerusalem would be restored as a shining city on a hill.