Friday, March 16, 2007

Watch Your Mouth!

Luke 1 is loaded with songs, angelic messages, miracles, pregnancies, virile expectation, and celebration. It's a long chapter, but it sets the tone for the rest of the gospel. Here are some observations about the interesting text.

Luke (who is identified as a physician in Paul's letter to the churches in Colossae) is writing an account based on eyewitness accounts for a friend named Theophilus (whose name means "loved of God", or "God-lover"). This makes Luke's gospel unique - it is written to a particular person for a specific reason.

Luke begins his meticulous account with his thrilling opening scene based on his interviews with Zechariah and Mary. It is interesting that both Zechariah and Mary are given a message by an angel, both of them question how this can be (Zechariah states that Elizabeth is too old, and Mary says she is a virgin), but Mary gets a blessing and Zechariah gets his mouth taped shut. Very different response, very interesting. The age of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth ought to remind you of Abraham* and Sarah. Their son of promise (Isaac) was the beginning of the fulfillment of God's pledge to bless them, to make them a blessing, and to bless the whole world through them. John will fulfill a similar role, and so will Jesus.

Both Mary and Zechariah pour forth two potent, beautiful songs - their best response to the mysterious, fascinating, disturbing events in their life. Here, in one extended family, two sons will be born through which God will bring about forgiveness of sins (end of the exile) and salvation (the second exodus) which will result in peace/shalom with God, one another, and their oppressors.

Mary's song is chock full of victorious praises, God will defeat the oppressors, God will fill the empty bellies of the children, God will remember his promise to Abraham* and blessings will begin again.

Zechariah's song exudes gratitude for God's coming rescue to his exiled people, his gracious forgiveness of sins, and then he references three famous texts one after another in a crashing crescendo of delight: Isaiah 9 (a light shines into the darkness), Psalm 23 (walking out of the valley of the shadow of death) and Psalm 119 (walk in the path of the LORD).

The songs of Mary and Zechariah reveal their heart, and it reflects their response to Gabriel's message to them about a coming son who would be a servant of God. Reread the dialogue between Gabriel and the humans, and then reread their songs. What did the coming of God's deliverance mean for 1st century Israel? What does 21st century America's deliverance look like?

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