January 31, 1999
With the birth of John the Baptist, a long period of waiting came to an end. The priest Zechariah had not been able to speak for his wife Elizabeth’s whole pregnancy—but after John’s birth, he proclaimed the Lord’s faithfulness to his people. Israel had waited centuries to hear John’s message of repentance and to be pointed to the Messiah. Today, we share in that redemption and are called to lives of faithful service to our Savior.
Sermon Transcript: Print
When we, having taken up the things of yourself to tell you of our desire to praise you and to extol your marvelous grace, we come to these moments when in our study of the Bible, we continue to worship you by the declaring of your mighty deeds. So grant to us, then, worshipping hearts as we preach and listen and seek to understand and obey. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.
Now I invite you to turn again to Luke 1:57 as we resume our studies. I’m conscious of the fact that there are stores here in America where you can go in and celebrate Christmas in July, and I’m noticing the speed with which we are moving through Luke’s Gospel and recognizing that we’re going to be pretty close to that, the way things are going. But I’m actually looking forward to it. I was first concerned about it, and then I decided I wasn’t remotely concerned about it, and I’m looking forward to singing some Christmas carols in the next couple of weeks.
One of the things that we’ve done in following the Christian calendar—in relationship to the high points of the Christian calendar, at least—is isolate consideration of a central Christian doctrine in just a period of a few days in the course of a year. This is as true for the resurrection as it is for the incarnation. And so it is going to be interesting to study the incarnation, to study the birth of Christ, without the extraneous concerns of gifts and turkeys and all the other stuff that’s usually in our minds when we’re thinking these issues out.
But that’s for a later day. Now we’re here at the birth of John the Baptist.
There are few, if any, moments in life that are equal to, both in terms of their drama and their wonder, the arrival of a baby. Somebody says “Push,” and suddenly, all the months of waiting are over, and hopes and dreams are about to be turned into reality. If it happens in a small neighborhood, it becomes a community event. Even in suburbia, young mothers discover that perfect strangers may come up to them and ask about their baby or arrive at the front door of their home to offer them something, having heard that a child has arrived. Within a very short period of time, relatives show up to offer their advice and, every so often, to offer their help. But they arrive, and you are inundated by this crowd of people.
Now, this is a familiar experience in all of life. And therefore, when we come to a story such as this, the record of the arrival of John the Baptist, we need to recognize that all of this and more is wrapped up in the events that are described for us here. The arrival of this child, born to this elderly priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, has a little more to it than normal.
And, of course, we understand this, because back in the eighteenth verse, still in this first chapter, we remember that when the angel came to Zechariah, he came to one who had a wife, who was, in the King James Version, “stricken in years.” She was well past the age when anybody would have expected her to produce a child. And, of course, Zechariah himself, as we noted, was, as we say, no spring chicken. They were the most unlikely couple to become parents at this point in their lives.
Added to that, of course, had been the silence of the father, Zechariah. And for nine months, not by desire but by design—God’s design—Zechariah had been unable to communicate verbally. You will recall in our study that he was rewarded for his unbelief with dumbness. And so he had gone through these months, through all the time of Elizabeth’s expectancy, having to find alternative ways to communicate not only with his wife but also with all who would come around.
So you can imagine that within the environment in which Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were staying, there was a tremendous buzz as it became more and more apparent that the day of her delivery was drawing near. And we would remove this to a realm beyond the practicalities of human existence if we didn’t recognize that people in the normal course of their days would have been mentioning these circumstances and would have been talking at least about Zechariah.
And if we had been in the bazaars, if we’d been at the markets picking up produce, there would have been people saying to one another, “Have you seen Zechariah lately?” Another would have said, “Yes, I saw him going down the street the other day. His wife must be due soon.” Another person, chiming in, says, “Is he talking yet, or is he still doing that sign language and writing on his tablet all the time?” “Strange business, that,” says another. “Highly unusual, you know. I mean, I was really amazed when my wife told me she was expecting. I might have been struck dumb for a moment or two, but not for nine months!” “Maybe,” says one going out the entryway, “maybe he’ll get his voice back when the baby comes.” And then, as you hear him going down the street, he shouts over his shoulder, “I wonder what the first thing is he’ll say when he gets his voice back?” Wonder what would be the first thing we said, if we couldn’t speak for nine months? Well, we’re going to find out.
The narrative unfolds, and we discover that it wasn’t until eight days after the baby was born that Zechariah’s voice was to be heard again. She had “give[n] birth to a son.” Verse 58, the “neighbors and relatives” had “heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy,” which he had. It’s always his mercy in the gift of a child. It’s a peculiar mercy at this stage in life. And consequently, “they [all] shared her joy.”
Now, what I’d like to do is to simply view the scene with you, which is described between verse 57 and 66, and then begin to consider the song with you, which begins in verse 67 and goes through to the eightieth verse.
First of all, in the scene, I put in my notes three headings. And for those of you who take notes, this may be helpful to you.
First of all, I made note of the discussion—the discussion that is provided for us in this scene.
It doesn’t take long for parents to discover the fact that when it comes to naming your child, everyone seems to have an opinion. Even total strangers will be bold enough to tell you that they never, ever considered the list of names that you volunteered to them when they met you somewhere and they said, “And do you have any names in mind?” And you gave them your top three boys’ and your top three girls’, and they were completely unimpressed. And they were gracious enough to let you know that they had never heard of anybody naming their children such amazing things, and they like these names, and they’ll let you know. And it niggles you a little bit. It makes you feel uncomfortable. Relatives often have far more to say on the subject than they ever should—more than is wise, more than is helpful.
And so it’s no surprise to discover that in the events surrounding the arrival of this boy, the exact same thing is happening. Everybody, apparently, has an opinion on what’s going on. And “on the eighth day,” when the time came, according to the process of the law, for the child to be circumcised, you will notice what it says: “They were going to name him after his father Zechariah.” Now, the question is, who was “they”? Because it clearly wasn’t Elizabeth and Zechariah. So it seems it was everybody else. And they had all decided that since it was such a community event and since they had all been looking forward to the arrival of this child, it was very appropriate that he should be named Zechariah also.
Now, the response of Elizabeth is fairly clear: “No!” You don’t have to be brilliant to understand that. That must have sounded out fairly stridently: “No! He is to be called John.”
Now, I have a view on this that I have dealt with, along with my wife—I’m sure other men can concur with this—that as far as I am concerned, if the lady goes through all of this process to produce this character, when push comes to shove, she can choose the name. She deserves to choose the name. She deserves a lot more than choosing the name, but she can at least have the final vote on the name.
So, here’s the scene. Everyone’s around, the baby’s arrived, the circumcision takes place, it’s a community event, and the word is buzzing around: “And guess what! We’ve decided to call him Zechariah.” “Oh, no!” says the mother, “We are going to call him John.” Now, you would expect that that would end the conversation right there, wouldn’t you? After all, she’s the mother. Look at these people! Verse 61. You can just imagine somebody on the front row with a kind of… Just a face, you know? Just, “There[’s] no one among your relatives who has that name.” And Elizabeth, trying to be a good, holy lady, she wants to slap the person in the face, say, “What’s it to you? Where did you come from?” you know.
So, unable to get closure to their desire, they turn to the father—old, silent Zach, you know. And “they made signs to [the] father, to find out what he would like to name the child.” Now, remember, when we said that he was struck dumb, we went forward to this verse, and we noted the fact that they were making signs to him. Now, I think that probably he was deaf as well. But if you have ever dealt with disabled people, either in deafness or where they are devoid of the ability to articulate their words, then you sometimes find yourself making signs to them in the way that they make signs to other people. It’s really rather irrelevant, because we’re not told exactly. Suffice it to say that they communicated to him and were seeking to determine what his position was on this important subject.
So, the discussion leads to the decision. And that’s my second point. In verse 63: “He asked for a writing tablet,” a flat piece of wood that would have been covered with a film of wax on which letters could be traced with a stylus, and you would simply mark out the letters and leave the background in the wax, and so form your letters. And he writes on it—and presumably had become very good at writing on this, because he must have had to have some means of communicating in the nine months that had elapsed.
And he writes in such a way so as to leave no one in any doubt as to the name. He doesn’t take a lot of time with it. He doesn’t, you know, say, “In my humble opinion, we have decided to call him John.” He doesn’t even write, “I think it would be best if we agreed with his mother, and he should be called John, I think.” He wrote on it, “His name is John.” Clear! “I think Zechariah’s a great name,” said the group. “Oh, no! He’s to be called John.” “What do you think?” “His name is John.”
Now, and a number of things happened simultaneously. One of the things is that the people were totally astonished. “What was it,” they must have said to themselves, “that makes this couple so united in their commitment to this name John? I mean, Elizabeth was on it immediately. Now we’ve turned to him, and he is also very clear.” The answer, of course, that we know from reading the story is that God had commanded it. And as in Mary’s case, the angel had come and said, “And you [will] give him the name Jesus, [for] he will save his people from their sins,” and the angel comes to Zechariah and says, “Your wife is going to have a child, and it will be a son, and you will call him John.”
Now, the word John, the name John, means “Jehovah is gracious.” The fact that the angel gives no explication of the name need not lead us to assume conclusively that his name is without significance. Indeed, no child was named without significance. And therefore, for God to determine that this particular child, who is to fulfill the function of the forerunner, should be called “Jehovah is gracious” is surely purposeful. And as we will see in the unfolding story, the cries of John that ring out from his place in the desert, urging men and women to repentance and urging them to turn their gaze to the Lamb of God, are expressions of the meaning of his name.
Now, their astonishment is more than matched by the rediscovery of his voice. So the discussion leads to a decision and leads in turn to a question. Now, the question is in verse 66, in one simple sentence: “What then is this child going to be?”
Every baby is a bundle of possibilities. Every time you take a child on your lap and you look at it, you hold the little thing in your hands, and you realize all of the potential that is wrapped up, you project your thoughts ahead at all, and you say, “Well, I wonder what will become of this wee one? I wonder how they will end up? Where they will live? Will they marry? Will they be single? Will they be successful? What will they be?” And that’s the question these people were asking. And it was made all the more dramatic by the events that had taken place.
But back up and notice that when he wrote on the tablet “His name is John,” we’re told, “Immediately his mouth was opened.” The word here is a graphic word. It’s at the beginning of the sentence in order to make the point. It wasn’t that sometime later in the afternoon, he realized he could speak again. No, he wrote on the tablet, “His name is John,” and suddenly, in the same way that his unbelief had been responded to with dumbness, so now his obedience is responded to with the rediscovery of his voice. It’s almost as though God could hardly wait to remove his punishment and to reward his obedience.
It’s interesting, but it is the same statement in Luke chapter 15, when the Prodigal Son returns with his speech to his father, and he says to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; and I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.” You remember, the first word out of the father’s mouth is “Quick!” That’s the first word he says: “Quickly! Immediately! Bring a robe for this boy.” The father is prepared immediately to respond to this expression. Indeed, the father’s longing heart has been the underpinning to the very response itself.
And so his voice returns, and he begins “to speak,” notice—verse 64—“praising God.” “Praising God.” That in itself is not insignificant. Some of us, if we had been struck dumb for nine months, as soon as we opened our mouths, we would have already begun to talk about ourselves: “Do you know how I was feeling? You can’t imagine what it was like. I haven’t been able to say a thing. I don’t know what that angel was up to. Goodness gracious! All I said was ‘This is unbelievable. My wife’s really old.’ And then, boom—nothing!” And we would be going on and on and on and letting everybody know how it was.
No, he opens his mouth, and he praises God. “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known [your] faithfulness.” “Your faithfulness.” “O Lord, open thou our lips, that our mouths might show forth your praise.” What comes out of our mouths is an indication of what’s going on in our hearts.
You remember James points out the incongruity, the ridiculous picture, of a spring of water gushing forth fresh water and salt water from the same source. He says, “Can it happen? No.” And then he says, “Well, why should it be that out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing?” Out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak. And that is a salutary challenge to those of us who are most verbal, for it is so easy for us to sin with our lips.
But for Zechariah, he has moved, now, from this once-in-a-lifetime event, which had been the genesis of his dumbness. You remember he had had the privilege of burning incense in the context that only happened to one of these individuals once in his lifetime. And he had now fast-forwarded through all of this. He had gone back to it in his mind many times. He was there for the great day of his life. His wife would have been excited. His community would have been pleased. The worshippers, we were told, were waiting outside, and they were praying. They were longing for him to come. And he had finally appeared, and he was unable to speak.
He had gone through the events of these months with his wife in seclusion—the conversation between herself and Mary, the birth of the child, the insistence on the name, now the rediscovery of his tongue, his sincere and his enthusiastic praise. And as a result, “the neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking [all about] these things.”
Isn’t it amazing what God can do with an elderly priest, with a little old man and his little old wife? With things that may be regarded as dramatic on the one hand and yet trivial on the other? Have you asked yourself, believer, lately, “What’s going on in my community? What are my neighbors filled with when they hear me speak? What are my work colleagues consumed with when they listen to my conversation? What are the words that are out of my mouth that would make it possible for people in the hill countries all around me to talk about nothing except the dramatic things that I have been able to tell them about the unfolding plan of salvation?”
I found this sixty-fifth verse very, very challenging: “The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. [And] everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’” This was far more than just the news of the birth of a baby. And Zechariah contributes to it.
Now, verse 80, as the chapter closes, tells us of the physical and spiritual development of the child, and little more than that. Indeed, we have a silence in terms of the formative years of John the Baptist’s life. There is more than an even chance that he was orphaned at a fairly young age. That would make sense. After all, his parents were very old when he was born; therefore, in the normal run of things, they wouldn’t live long enough to see him through all of his years. The chances are that he spent a fair amount of time on his own, and it was out of the desert that he finally came to cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” But we won’t get there until chapter 3.
Well, that’s the scene. It’s fairly straightforward. There was a discussion, there was a decision, and then there was a question: “What then is this child going to be?”
Now, that brings us to the song, which essentially has two verses. The first verse goes from 68 to 75, and the second verse goes from 76 to 79. We’ll take a moment or two just on the first verse, and we’ll come to the second verse this evening.
Elizabeth’s exclamation back in verse 42 was on account of being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” And Luke tells us that it is by the same means that Zechariah is able to see and to say what follows. It is impossible to understand verse 68 and following without verse 67: “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.”
Now, in certain traditions, as we noted, the Song of Mary is known by the first word of the Latin translation, magnificat. And so, in certain traditions, people will say, “Let us say together the Magnificat.” In those same traditions, the song of Zechariah is known by the first word in the Latin, benedictus. And so they will also say, “Let us say the Benedictus.” And those of you who were brought up in that tradition know you would say it together: “Benedictus esto Dominus Deus Israelis,” and so on; “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” That’s his first statement: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Now, his adoration, which is there in that straightforward statement, is grounded in the explanation, which follows in the second part of the verse and, indeed, in the rest of this opening verse of the song: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Why? “Because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
What, then, is the basis for our praise? What is the basis for our worship? Well, it is the fact of God and his mighty deeds. And it is a reminder to us in passing of the nature of biblical worship: that it is the truth of God—who he is and what he’s done—that is the foundation of all acceptable praise. And therefore, for those of us who are concerned about our hymnody—and that should be each of us—and who are concerned about our songs, that they would be “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” the fundamental question should be: Is there within these songs the theological underpinnings which would so stimulate our minds as to stir our hearts and unloose our tongues? We don’t simply want to be standing making declaratory statements about how we’re feeling or what we’re doing.
I’ve said this to you before, but I believe it passionately. I was away last weekend and subjected to singing and singing and singing about how I was feeling, and it wasn’t remotely like how I was feeling! People think that if you just sing it enough times, that’s how you will be feeling. Not necessarily! I was feeling bad to start, feeling a little worse after the third time, and feeling totally depressed by the time we got to the fifth attempt. “I just want to praise you, lift my hands and say ‘I love you’”—when in point of fact, the truth is, I don’t even want to be here. Some of you were up far too late, and you’re already well gone. You’re in the third stage of anesthesia already. You’ve developed an ability to get there with your eyes open, but you are long gone. You don’t need somebody to try and whoop you up; you need some theology! You need some foundation. And the Spirit of God takes the truth of God and drives it home to the people, and that’s what energizes us! “’Tis what I know of thee, my Lord and God, that fills my [heart with praise], my lips with song.” “And when I think that God, his Son not sparing”—“And when I think”!—
Sent him to die, I scarce can take [that] in,
That on [that] cross my burden[s] gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art!
You see. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because…” “Because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
And verses 68–69 are a celebration of the redemption of God’s people. And the word that is used there for redemption, lutrōsis, is used only three times in the New Testament. The other time is in Luke 2:38 and the other occasion in Hebrews 9:12. It is a very specific word which means the act of freeing by the payment of a ransom. And that, of course, is something that was etched into the mind of the people of Israel when they reflected on God’s goodness to them, because they had been redeemed from the bondage of Egypt.
Now, the principal meaning here is clearly spiritual and not political. You read a number of commentaries, and they are full of sort of political insurrection, thinking of it uniquely in terms of the people of Israel and the overturning of the domination of the Roman Empire and so on. There is no question that the terminology has political overtones. But the context is spiritual, and we can always determine that by reading the context in the context. Look at verse 77. In 69, he’s talking about salvation; 77, he’s still talking about salvation. He’s talking about “giv[ing] his people the knowledge of salvation” how? “Through the forgiveness of their sins.” He’s not talking about a political redemption. He’s not talking about something that is external. He is talking about that which is the crucial need of these people. And when God looked upon his people, their political situation was an entirely minor matter compared with their spiritual need to be saved from the guilt and power of sin.
And let us not miss every opportunity to underpin that in our day. The political situation of God’s people remains an entirely minor matter compared to the issues of redemption. “Calvary,” says one commentator, “does not merely creep in” to these verses; “it holds the entire territory.”
Their salvation is accomplished by a Savior, verse 69: “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us.” What does that mean? It’s a picture. It’s a metaphor. Just as the horn of an animal was indicative of its strength, representative of its strength, so the redeeming power of God that was promised to the house of David is to be concentrated in the strength of this Messiah-Redeemer. “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,” pointing to the fact that he is speaking of Christ and not of John the Baptist, for John the Baptist did not come from the house and lineage of David as did Jesus.
And you will notice, verse 70, he says, “[And] as he said through his holy prophets of long ago.” In other words, Zechariah is bringing a word of revelation by the direction of the Holy Spirit, but you will notice that it is in direct keeping with what the prophets had been saying all along. Peter underscores this in 1 Peter 1:10. He says, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care to try and figure out who this was and when he would arrive.” Don’t jump over little parenthetical statements like verse 70, because it is a statement of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. “As he said through his holy prophets … long ago.”
Theologians remind us that when we think in terms of the Scriptures as given to us, God is the causa efficiens, and the prophets and the Bible writers are the causa instrumentalis—that moved by the Spirit of God, men spoke in their own environment, in their own historical time, true to their own personality, addressing issues of their day, and as they did so, God was breathing out his very Word; that it is not that the Bible is a collection of material into which God has breathed divinity, as it were, but that the very words that were written and spoken by these prophets were the very outbreathing of God himself. And Zechariah is saying just that.
Now, “salvation,” he says, is “from our enemies.” It’s “from the hand of all who hate us.” And again you will notice that this expression is made in earthly and in political terms, but the salvation which he accomplishes is to be understood in a spiritual sense. From the beginning of the Gospels, it’s absolutely clear what Jesus is later going to declare: that his kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. He says that on a number of occasions. For example, in John 18:36: “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’” And Pilate says, “You[’re] a king, then!” And he says, “Well, in one sense, you’re absolutely right.”
Can I say to you this morning, with our minds buffeted by senate and judicial hearings, by alarmist pundits about Y2K, as you go to buy your generators and your seven-thousand-dollar Igloos and go and hide under your bed till February, Valentine’s Day, 2000, let me remind you that the concern of God from all of time is to redeem a people for himself; that from Abraham and through Isaac and Jacob and down through the lineage of time, out now onto the bursting forth of the Messiah on the stage of human history, God’s concern is ultimately not with the political structures of his people, and certainly not of particular nations. But many of us are so earthbound that we just can’t fathom it.
“Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” The Republicans read that as a Democratic verse; the Democrats read it as a Republican verse. The capitalists read it as a communist verse; the communists read it as a capitalist verse. The East reads it as a Western verse; the West reads it as an Eastern verse. What is it a verse about? It is about the antagonism which is unleashed from hell against those who would name the name of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the enemies that we have are what? Not flesh and blood. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” says Paul, “but against … spiritual wickedness in [the heavenly] places.” In other words, the battle is a cosmic battle which has been engaged in in Calvary, and whenever the devil comes to tell us about our past, we should just tell him about his future. And whenever our hearts are bedeviled by fear and by disappointment, when our concerns become the concerns of those around us, we lift up our eyes, and we realize that God brought about this salvation, “show[ed] mercy to our fathers … remember[ed] his holy covenant, the oath [that] he swore to our father Abraham.”
You remember the hymn:
His oath, his covenant, his blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
That’s what Zechariah’s singing about! “Oh, blessed be the Lord and God of Israel, because you have intervened for those who are your own, and you have raised the horn of your salvation, and you have granted liberation to the captives and sight to the blind and healing to the diseased and hope to the hopeless!” And how is all this to come? In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let the fearful look around. Let the pessimist look down. Let the Christian lift his eyes and look up! If it gets as bad as they say at the beginning of the next millennium, it still won’t be half as bad as the way two-thirds of the world are spending all of their days. So if you really want to deal with it, plan on leaving for Nepal around November the thirtieth, so that you can just get eased into life in Nepal. Plan on worshipping with the people there. As a result of that, you may be in jail sometime around Christmas Day. Therefore, while you are ensconced in the jail as a result of singing the praise of God, you will be relieved from the dramatic, amazing, bewildering, devastating thought that the traffic lights at the end of your street may not be working back in Cleveland.
Get a life, folks. Don’t start listening to these crazies on the radio. I don’t want to hear from you. You better send your letters to somebody else.
Why has God done all of this? Notice, verse 74: “to enable us to serve him.” “To enable us to serve him.” That’s the purpose of redemption: in order that we might serve him. How? He tells us: “without fear.” “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or peril, or nakedness, or the sword?” Or Y2K? “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I’m convinced that none of these things can separate us.” So, we “serve him without fear.” We serve “in holiness” before God. And we serve “in … righteousness” before our fellow man. And when do we do this? “All [of] our days.” All of our days.
Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re good for nothing or that what you are doing is really not that good. In Christ, all of your days and all of your deeds are marked with the deepest significance, because he has redeemed you, saved you, saved us, in order that we might serve him. How? “Without fear,” “in holiness,” and “in … righteousness.” When? All day, every day—including tomorrow morning, which will be here sooner than we realize.
Let us pray together:
Father, open our lips that our mouths may declare your praise. Father, forgive us our rambling tongues. Forgive us our preoccupation with that which is earthly and transient. Forgive us our little interest in the affairs of the great plan of redemption. But thank you that you have lit a flame in many of our hearts. It may not be as bright as we feel it ought to be or shine as lastingly as we desire, but we thank you that it’s lit, and we pray that you will fan it into a flame in these days.
We recognize that the whole earth bows down and sings praise to your name. Grant, then, that we might do likewise. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 Luke 1:7 (KJV).
 Luke 1:59 (NIV 1984). Emphasis added.
 Matthew 1:21 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 1:13 (paraphrased).
 Luke 15:18–22 (paraphrased).
 Psalm 89:1 (KJV).
 Psalm 51:15 (paraphrased).
 See Matthew 15:18.
 James 3:10–12 (paraphrased).
 See Luke 6:45.
 See Matthew 3:3.
 Luke 1:41 (NIV 1984).
 Ephesians 5:19 (KJV).
 Arthur Tannous, “I Just Want to Praise You” (1984).
 Horatius Bonar, “Not What I Am, O Lord, But What Thou Art” (1861).
 Carl Boberg, trans. Stuart K. Hine, “How Great Thou Art” (1885, 1949). Emphasis added.
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Luke’s Gospel 1–11, Commentary on the New Testament (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1946), 102.
 1 Peter 1:10 (paraphrased).
 See 2 Peter 1:21.
 John 18:37 (paraphrased).
 Ephesians 6:12 (KJV).
 Edward Mote, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” (1834). Emphasis added.
 See Luke 4:18.
 Romans 8:35–39 (paraphrased).
 See Psalm 51:15.
 See Psalm 66:4.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.