December 19, 2016 • Life for Leaders
The Lord has raised up a horn of salvation for us…
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.
As you may recall, in the first part of Luke 1, Zechariah receives a visit from an angel, who informs the priest that his elderly wife, Elizabeth, will bear a child. When Zechariah doubts the angel’s good news, his power of speech is taken away until the time when his child is born.
This birth happens in the latter part of Luke 1. Sure enough, Zechariah’s ability to speak is restored. The first thing he does with his voice after months of silence is to praise God (1:64). A portion of his celebration is found in Luke 1:68-79, a passage that we often call the Benedictus (which is the first word of the Latin version of verse 68, meaning “blessed”).
In this hymn of praise to God, Zechariah proclaims that God “has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (1:69). In the Old Testament, the horn was associated with strength, especially in battle. In Psalm 132, for example, the Lord says, “Here I will make a horn grow for David,” which refers to the victory and sovereignty of his progeny over the enemies of Israel. Similarly, Zechariah celebrates the “horn of salvation” that the Lord has raised up for Israel. The nation will be saved through the messiah who exercises God’s mighty power.
Notice what follows from this act of salvation. Zechariah says that when God rescues us from our enemies, it will “enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness” (1:74). God’s people are saved so that they might serve God. How does this service happen? To be sure, in Zechariah’s day it included the offerings presented in the temple and the other actions of the priests. But the Old Testament concept of serving God also embraces our daily work. In fact, the Hebrew word for “serve” can mean “work or “worship” (avodah).
Those of us who have been saved by God’s grace through Christ have a similar experience and calling. We have been saved to serve the Lord in a variety of ways, including our daily work. In Ephesians 2:8-10, for example, we learn that we have been saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) and that when we are saved we are also recreated in Christ for good works (Eph 2:10). When we do our work “in holiness and righteousness” (Luke 1:74), then we are living out our salvation by serving the Lord and contributing to his work in the world.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you envision serving God, what images come to mind?
In what ways do you serve God? How do you serve God in your daily work? (Remember, our work may or may not be for pay.)
How might you live out your salvation more completely through serving God in your work?
Gracious God, we join Zechariah in praising you for your salvation. Thank you, most of all, for saving us from sin and death through Jesus Christ.
As we receive your gift of salvation, may we receive it with joy and gratitude, and may we offer ourselves as your servants, not just when we do “religious” things, but in every part of life. Help us, Lord, to serve you intentionally and joyfully through our daily work. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Advent Reflection: Zechariah
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
At the end of the first sentence of the second paragraph, you most likely meant “Luke 1” instead of just “Luke”: “This birth happens in the latter part of Luke 1.”
Also, in the second line of the second paragraph of the prayer, you will want to change “may be offer ourselves” to “may we offer ourselves.”