72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
1901 ASV Translation:
72 To show mercy towards our fathers, And to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he spake unto Abraham our father,
74 To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies Should serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
In verse 74, the Textus Receptus has both a definite article before "enemies" and the possessive pronoun "our" after "enemies; the Nestle/Aland 26 has neither. In verse 75 the Textus Receptus has "all the days of our life" where the Nestle/Aland 26 has "in all of our days". The overall meaning is unchanged, though the Textus Receptus tends toward emphasis upon our "life" which the Nestle/Aland 26 simply does not mention.
1. Luke has recorded Zacharias' perception, by the Spirit, of what God is "about". He has taken the "bigger picture perspective" in that none of the things of which he speaks are "immediately present in the life experiences" of those hearing his words. It is impossible to read these words and not come away with the impression that the works of God are to be understood in light of a bigger plan that, though it includes the daily lives of the people of God, is not readily apparent in terms of the fulfillment issues...the people are going to have to be patient and endure through hope.
2. Luke's record is of two fundamental issues: the provision of a ransom price so that we can be redeemed; and the provision of deliverance from the activities of enemies.
3. In this text, he calls these provisions "a performance of mercy" for the fathers and an indication of the fulfillment of the holy covenant He made with Abraham. This is all to result in the aforementioned, then repeated, "deliverance" from the enemies so that we can be about the business of "serving Him".
I. The Details of 1:72.
A. The return to the thesis of "mercy".
1. "Mercy" is mentioned by Luke 6 times in this Gospel, and 5 of those times are found in chapter one.
a. In 1:50, Mary claims that Yahweh's mercy is upon all generations of those who fear Him. This claim is made in the light of her selection by God to be the bearer of His Christ. The claim implies that Yahweh is doing things in every generation that are similar to the way He has treated her.
b. In 1:54, Mary claims that Yahweh has done what He has done in her case as an example of His "remembrance" of mercy in respect to "our fathers". The very idea of "remembering" implies that much time goes by without any discernible indication that the promises are being brought to pass. This signifies the on-going need of the people of God to go about their daily lives with a "big picture perspective" in mind...rather than getting so bogged down by the immediate details that the soul is brought to despair.
c. In 1:58, the neighbors and extended family recognize that Yahweh has shown mercy to Elizabeth in a way that "magnifies" it...but we must keep in mind that gobs of years had gone by without this "evidence" of His mercy so that we do not despair over the invisibility of His mercy in the times when it is not apparent. This was, apparently, Zacharias' and Elizabeth's failure: they lost the bigger picture issues in the longing for the fulfillment "now".
d. In 1:72 (our current text) Zacharias' words are indubitably an echo of Mary's words back in 1:54-55: the issue is that there is a covenant that has been in place for centuries that is taking centuries to bring to fruition. This is not a welcome perspective to the "microwave generation", but it is a crucial perspective for stability of faith.
e. In 1:78, near the end of his prophecy, Zacharias once again pushes "mercy" forward as the causal root in the nature of Yahweh for His covenant keeping in respect to the forgiveness of our sins.
2. This "mercy" thesis is critical for the proper development of Theology Proper and its impact upon our daily attitudes.
B. The Focus Upon "Fathers".
1. The word "father" is used by Luke in this Gospel in 47 texts, 9 of which are in this opening chapter.
2. The word "father" is also used by Luke 12 times in Chapter Fifteen in the story of the "father" who had a son who wanted to live his own life on his own terms.
3. The remaining uses are scattered throughout the Gospel.
4. Luke's interest in the "fathers" in chapter one.
a. The opening reference is 1:17 where "John's" impact is predicted to be that of "the spirit of Elijah" in reference to "turning the hearts of the fathers to the children".
1) This impact is called making "ready a people, prepared for the Lord".
2) This "preparation" is identified as turning "the disobedient to the wisdom of the just".
3) This "introductory reference to fathers" is made unique by its isolation from the rest of the chapter until we get to the next reference in 1:32.
a) It's prominence in the prophecy of John's impact is a given.
b) It's isolation from the remainder of the account seems to make it function like a "major thesis statement" that will be addressed a bit later.
c) However, the reference is in the midst of a story about a man whose greatest longing was to be a "father" and how he was promised the fulfillment of that longing and how he did not believe the good news when it was given to him (making him the first candidate for the predicted impact -- turning his heart to the Lord).
b. Then comes the statement to Mary regarding the fact that her Son was to be known as "the Son of the Highest" while, at the same time, being known as "the Son of David".
1) This reference contains a deliberate echo of the "he shall be great" thesis first mentioned of John in 1:15.
2) Clearly, the identity as "the Son of the Highest" is absolutely crucial and, as an identity, it brings up both the concept of "sonship" and the concept of "fatherhood".
3) This reference is in the midst of a story about a woman who was to have a "son" without a human male "father" being anywhere in the picture.
4) Then, like the 1:17 reference, the concept of "father" is dropped until we come to 1:55 where it surfaces again and does not drop out of the text until we get past a cluster of six uses that, for all intents and purposes, brings us to the end of the "coming of John" material.
c. The cluster of six...
1) The first is 1:55 where Mary ties the "mercy" of Yahweh to "the fathers" as the original recipients of the promises of God.
2) Then we have 1:59 where those who came to circumcise John seek to impose upon him the name of his "father", Zacharias. This imposition is resisted by Elizabeth, so "they" turn to...
3) 1:62...the "father" who they expect to back them up...and he does not, but makes manifest his "faith" by insisting that "his name is John"...at which point, he is released from the silence imposed upon him for his unbelief.
4) Then, in 1:67, we have the emphatic reference to "his father, Zacharias" as the introduction to the extended prophecy of 1:68-79.
5) And, finally, we have two references in 1:72-73 as a deliberate echo of 1:54-55.
a) This "echo" was originally a "sound" in Mary's exuberance in which she pointed out Yahweh's "help" to Israel, His "servant" as an outworking of "remembering mercy to the fathers, specifically Abraham and his seed".
b) In the prophecy of Zacharias, Yahweh is identified as "the Elohim of Israel" just as Mary had identified Him in 1:47 and 54.
c) The thesis of Mary's original "sound" was that the Elohim of Israel is "merciful" (1:50 and 54), and this echo deliberately restates that Theological characteristic as the root of His actions in providing the "Son of the Highest".
d) The thesis of "mercy" was originally tied to the "fathers" and in this echo, it is also tied to them.
e) The original thesis specifically identified "Abraham" and this echo does the same.
f) One thing this echo does is add specific emphasis to the "covenant" God made in the form of an "oath" to Abraham. The conclusion that "believing" the Executor of Power for Israel is critical is impossible to ignore..."oaths" are only given to emphasize the integrity of the words stated. Hebrews 6:16-17 make this exceedingly clear.
C. The Focus Upon "Remembering His Holy Covenant".
1. There are only two uses of the word "covenant" in Luke: this one; and one in 22:20, where Jesus institutes the "new covenant".
2. The issue of "remembering" is part of the "sound/echo" issue of 1:54-55 and the text before us. The issue of remembering is a matter of mental focus for men and a matter of divine action for God. When God "remembers", He acts; when men "remember" they have to "think" about the implications of what they are "remembering".
D. The Focus Upon the Impact of the "Oath" Given to Abraham.
1. The focus, in Zacharias' words, is upon "being delivered from the hand of our enemies" (1:71 and 74) so that we might "fearlessly" "serve" Yahweh all of our days.
2. This makes the impact of the oath a matter of "serving" Yahweh all of our days.