By Eva Stimson
Zechariah has at least two good reasons to be thankful: (1) After years of childlessness, his wife, Elizabeth, has just given birth to their first son. (2) After being mute throughout Elizabeth’s pregnancy, his speech has been restored.
Imagine yourself in Zechariah’s situation. What would your first words be after nine months of enforced silence? Zechariah’s first words are ones of praise. In loosening Zechariah’s tongue, God also has opened Zechariah’s eyes, giving him an even greater reason to give thanks. No longer is he the fearful doubter who wants proof that his wife can actually bear a son in her old age (Luke 1:8-20). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he suddenly sees the events of his own life as part of a larger divine plan.
At the center of this plan is a “mighty savior” (or “horn of salvation” in the Greek text). Like the “righteous Branch” in Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah’s savior is a descendant of King David who will rescue God’s people from their enemies so they “might serve [God] without fear.” Both Zechariah and Jeremiah emphasize “righteousness”- just and holy living- as a by-product of the people’s salvation.
While the Jeremiah prophecy is written in future tense, clearly looking toward events to come, Zechariah speaks in Luke 1 as though the events he describes have already happened. How can this be, since Jesus does not arrive on the scene until the following chapter?
This unusual choice of tenses reminds us that God is not limited by our sense of time. In God’s time there is no past, present, and future. In Christ the whole world is already redeemed, even though we can’t always see evidence of that reality.
God, give me the eyes of a prophet, so that I can see how my life fits into your unfolding plan of salvation. Give me the voice of a prophet, so I can share the good news that redemption is already here. Amen.