“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.