God Will Visit His People – Luke 1:68

christmas, zechariah, elizabethZechariah is the father of John the Baptist. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were childless and too old to have any children, yet Zechariah is told by an angel of the Lord that his wife will have a child, and that child will be a prophet in the power of Elijah, and that he will be the forerunner of the Messiah. Zechariah questions this prophecy, since it seems impossible to him. He is told by the angel Gabriel that because he doubted the word of God, he will not speak until the day that the child is born. On the day the child was to be named, Zechariah was again able to speak, and we are told that the Holy Spirit filled him, and he prophesied these words.

It is important to note that these are the words of the Holy Spirit spoken through Zechariah to the people that were gathered in the temple for John’s circumcision. They would have all been familiar with the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the coming of the Messiah. In this ten verse section there are at least 16 allusions to the Old Testament, making it clear that John’s birth, and more importantly, the birth of Jesus three months away, would be the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel.

These words are spoken for John and about John, but John the Baptist was merely the precursor to Jesus, and all he did pointed forward to Jesus. Even in this solemn prayer of dedication at his circumcision, John is pointing the way to the Messiah. This section is centered upon the actions of God. With the birth of John, and later of Jesus, God “has come to his people.”

The word Zechariah uses for “has come” is literally “visited” (ἐπισκέπτομαι). The word has the connotation of an inspection or examination.  Zechariah is saying that God is about to come to inspect his people.  In the Old Testament, when God “visited” his people, it could be to bring them some sort of blessing, or it could be to bring the judgment.  In Exodus 3:16 God has “observed” the suffering of his people (ESV, same word appears in the LXX), and in this case he is about to rescue his people from their slavery.

Zechariah’s words are therefore a prophetic warning that in the near future God would visit his people, and that “visitation” might not be a time of great blessing and favor.  God may be visiting in judgment!  There is an element of foreshadowing in Zechariah’s words:  at the end of Jesus’ ministry he weeps over Jerusalem because they did not recognize that “this day” was the time of God’s “visitation” (ἐπισκοπή, a noun from the same root as 1:68).  Sadly, the people did not heed the warning and were unprepared for God’s inspection.

This is what happened with the birth of Jesus:  God has literally come to man.  By becoming flesh Jesus was able to offer to his people ultimate forgiveness of sin. We do not usually associate the Christmas story with a time of God’s judgment, but it is significant that this first prophecy of Jesus’ ministry in Luke describes Jesus as the coming judge.

4 thoughts on “God Will Visit His People – Luke 1:68

  1. I had never known the meaning behind the word for “has come” or “visited”. It makes me think how Jesus had to come from His perfect, heavenly home/place to earth. It also serves as a reminder that we are here as pilgrims; we are wandering here, it is not our home or final destination. This is not the point of the text; however, it is what the use of the word, “visited”, made me think of. The song of Zechariah here is one of prophecy. Jesus was coming. Jesus visited earth to judge or to bless, as the word “has come” or “visited” was used in the Old Testament. Zechariah prophesied of the blessing that Jesus was going to be. Luke 1:68 reads “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us…”. He came to die and be a ransom, to justify those who he called. He was bringing salvation and redemption. Zechariah did not know what this was going to look like, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit to testify of the coming and future work of Christ. Jesus was sent as a blessing and gift to the children of God. This prophesy from Zechariah is full of joy and the good news of the gospel. He talks of salvation, of the fulfillment of promises, forgiveness of sins, and a life of peace. This is what we gain from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The message from the Spirit here reminds us to have Christ as our focus of hope. There is also a warning we can gain from the foreshadowing of the second coming, or visitation that we should be aware of and prepared for. The second coming of Christ will not be one of blessing and redemption, but of judgement. The way we will be prepared for the second coming is to put our hope and faith in the good news of the first.

  2. I think that it is interesting that the word Zechariah uses for “has come” actually means “visited” I feel like it puts it into a new perspective. When I think of the word visited it makes me think that Jesus is coming to check on his people not that he has just come to earth just because. “Zechariah is saying that God is about to come to inspect his people. In the Old Testament, when God “visited” his people, it could be to bring them some sort of blessing, or it could be to bring judgment.” (Long) I think it is comforting knowing Jesus does check on his people and occasionally brings blessings, I know this to be true. In some of the hardest times, Jesus has come and blessed me in some sort of way. I do think that it is important that God visiting his people doesn’t only mean that he could potentially be bringing blessings to his people but rather that is time for judgment, for God to judge the people of the world. Overall I think that when Zechariah uses “has come” which also means “visited” that not only is it a reminder that God does check on His people but that the time of judgment will come where Jesus separates the good people from the evil people of the world.

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