Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for, etc. - Zacharias praises God for two grand benefits which he had granted to his people. 1. He has visited them. 2. He has ransomed them.
, he hath made a ransom - laid down the ransom price. Λυτροω signifies particularly to ransom a captive from the enemy, by paying a price. The following remarkable passage from Josephus, Ant. b. xiv. c. 14, sect. 1, fully illustrates this meaning of the original. "Herod, not knowing what had happened to his brother, hastened λυτρωσασθαι, to ransom him from the enemy, and was willing to pay λυτρον ὑπερ αυτου, a ransom for him, to the amount of three hundred talents." Sinners are fallen into the hands of their enemies, and are captives to sin and death. Jesus ransoms them by his own blood, and restores them to life, liberty, and happiness. This truth the whole Bible teaches: this truth God has shown in certain measures, even to those nations who have not been favored with the light of his written word: for Christ is that true light, which enlightens every man that cometh into the world.
How astonishing is the following invocation of the Supreme Being, (translated from the original Sanscreet by Dr. C. Wilkins), still existing on a stone, in a cave near she ancient city of Gya, in the East Indies!
"The Deity, who is the Lord, the possessor of all, appeared in this ocean of natural beings, at the beginning of the Kalee Yoog (the age of contention and baseness). He who is omnipresent and everlastingly to be contemplated, the Supreme Being, the Eternal One, the Divinity worthy to be adored - Appeared here with a Portion of his Divine Nature. Reverence be unto thee in the form of (a) Bood-dha! Reverence be unto the Lord of the earth! Reverence be unto thee, an Incarnation of the Deity, and the Eternal One! Reverence be unto thee, O God, in the form of the God of mercy; the dispeller of pain and trouble, the Lord of all things, the Deity who overcometh the sins of the Kalee Yoog; the guardian of the universe, the emblem of mercy toward those who serve thee - (b) O'M! the possessor of all things in Vital Form! Thou art (c) Brahma, Veeshnoo, and Mahesa! Thou art Lord of the universe! Thou art under the form of all things, movable and immovable, the possessor of the whole! and thus I adore thee. Reverence be unto the Bestower Of Salvation, and the Ruler of the faculties! Reverence be unto thee, the Destroyer of the Evil Spirit! O Damordara, (d) show me favor! I adore thee, who art celebrated by a thousand names, and under various forms, in the shape of Bood-dha, the God of Mercy! Be propitious, O Most High God!" - Asiatic Researches, vol. i. pp. 284, 285.
(b) O'M. A mystic emblem of the Deity, forbidden to be pronounced but in silence. It is a syllable formed of the Sanscreet letters a, o o, which in composition coalesce, and make o, and the nasal consonant m. The first letter stands for the Creator, the second for the Preserver and the third for the Destroyer. It is the same among the Hindoos as יהוה Yehovah is among the Hebrews.
(c) Brahma, the Deity in his creative quality. Veeshnoo, he who filleth all space, the Deity in his preserving quality. Mahesa, the Deity in his destroying quality. This is properly the Hindoo Trinity: for these three names belong to the same Being. See the notes to the Bhagvat Geeta.
(d) Damordara, or Darmadeve, the Indian God of Virtue.
Blessed - See the notes at Matthew 5:3.
Hath visited - The word here rendered “visited” means properly “to look upon;” then to look upon in order “to know the state of anyone;” then to visit for the purpose of “aiding those who need aid,” or alleviating misery. Compare Matthew 25:43. In this sense it is used here. God “looked upon” the world - he saw it miserable - he came to relieve it, and brought salvation.
And redeemed - That is, was “about to redeem,” or had given the pledge that he “would redeem.” This was spoken under the belief that the Messiah, “the Redeemer,” was about to appear, and would certainly accomplish his work. The literal translation of this passage is, “He hath made a “ransom” for his people. A “ransom” was the “price” paid to deliver a captive taken in war. A is a prisoner taken in war by B. B has a right to detain him as a prisoner by the laws of war, but C offers B a “price” if he will release A and suffer him to go at liberty. The price which he pays, and which must be “satisfactory” to B - that is, be a “reason” to B why he should release him is called a “price” or “ransom.” Men are sinners. They are bound over to just punishment by the law. The law is holy, and God, as a just governor, must see that the law is honored and the wicked punished; but if anything can be done which will have the same “good effect” as the punishment of the sinner, or which will be an “equivalent” for it - that is, be of equal value to the universe - God may consistently release him.
If he can show the same hatred of sin, and deter others from sinning, and secure the purity of the sinner, the sinner may be released. Whatever will accomplish “this” is called a “ransom,” because it is, in the eye of God, a sufficient “reason” why the sinner should not be punished; it is an equivalent for his sufferings, and God is satisfied. The “blood of Jesus” - that is, his death in the place of sinners constitutes such a ransom. It is in their stead. It is for them. It is equivalent to their punishment. It is not itself a “punishment,” for that always supposes “personal crime,” but it is what God is pleased to accept in the place of the eternal sufferings of the sinner. The king of the “Locrians” made a law that an adulterer should be punished with the loss of his eyes. His “son” was the first offender, and the father decreed that his son should lose one eye, and he himself one also. This was the “ransom.” He showed his “love,” his regard for the honor of his law, and the determination that the guilty should not escape. So God gave his Son a “ransom” to show his love, his regard to justice, and his willingness to save people; and his Son, in his death, was a ransom. He is often so called in the New Testament, Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:12. For a fuller view of the nature of a ransom, see the notes at Romans 3:24-25.
With amazement the heavenly messengers beheld the indifference of that people whom God had called to communicate to the world the light of sacred truth. The Jewish nation had been preserved as a witness that Christ was to be born of the seed of Abraham and of David's line; yet they knew not that His coming was now at hand. In the temple the morning and the evening sacrifice daily pointed to the Lamb of God; yet even here was no preparation to receive Him. The priests and teachers of the nation knew not that the greatest event of the ages was about to take place. They rehearsed their meaningless prayers, and performed the rites of worship to be seen by men, but in their strife for riches and worldly honor they were not prepared for the revelation of the Messiah. The same indifference pervaded the land of Israel. Hearts selfish and world-engrossed were untouched by the joy that thrilled all heaven. Only a few were longing to behold the Unseen. To these heaven's embassy was sent. DA 44.1
Angels attend Joseph and Mary as they journey from their home in Nazareth to the city of David. The decree of imperial Rome for the enrollment of the peoples of her vast dominion has extended to the dwellers among the hills of Galilee. As in old time Cyrus was called to the throne of the world's empire that he might set free the captives of the Lord, so Caesar Augustus is made the agent for the fulfillment of God's purpose in bringing the mother of Jesus to Bethlehem. She is of the lineage of David, and the Son of David must be born in David's city. Out of Bethlehem, said the prophet, “shall He come forth ... that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2, margin. But in the city of their royal line, Joseph and Mary are unrecognized and unhonored. Weary and homeless, they traverse the entire length of the narrow street, from the gate of the city to the eastern extremity of the town, vainly seeking a resting place for the night. There is no room for them at the crowded inn. In a rude building where the beasts are sheltered, they at last find refuge, and here the Redeemer of the world is born. DA 44.2Read in context »
The Holy Spirit rested upon Zacharias, and in these beautiful words he prophesied of the mission of his son: DA 100.1
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.” Before the birth of John, the angel had said, “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” God had called the son of Zacharias to a great work, the greatest ever committed to men. In order to accomplish this work, he must have the Lord to work with him. And the Spirit of God would be with him if he heeded the instruction of the angel. DA 100.3
John was to go forth as Jehovah's messenger, to bring to men the light of God. He must give a new direction to their thoughts. He must impress them with the holiness of God's requirements, and their need of His perfect righteousness. Such a messenger must be holy. He must be a temple for the indwelling Spirit of God. In order to fulfill his mission, he must have a sound physical constitution, and mental and spiritual strength. Therefore it would be necessary for him to control the appetites and passions. He must be able so to control all his powers that he could stand among men as unmoved by surrounding circumstances as the rocks and mountains of the wilderness. DA 100.4
In the time of John the Baptist, greed for riches, and the love of luxury and display had become widespread. Sensuous pleasures, feasting and drinking, were causing physical disease and degeneracy, benumbing the spiritual perceptions, and lessening the sensibility to sin. John was to stand as a reformer. By his abstemious life and plain dress he was to rebuke the excesses of his time. Hence the directions given to the parents of John,—a lesson of temperance by an angel from the throne of heaven. DA 100.5Read in context »
This body was made up of members chosen from the priesthood, and from the chief rulers and teachers of the nation. The high priest was usually the president. All its members were to be men advanced in years, though not aged; men of learning, not only versed in Jewish religion and history, but in general knowledge. They were to be without physical blemish, and must be married men, and fathers, as being more likely than others to be humane and considerate. Their place of meeting was an apartment connected with the temple at Jerusalem. In the days of Jewish independence the Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the nation, possessing secular as well as ecclesiastical authority. Though now subordinated by the Roman governors, it still exercised a strong influence in civil as well as religious matters. DA 133.1
The Sanhedrin could not well defer an investigation of John's work. There were some who recalled the revelation made to Zacharias in the temple, and the father's prophecy, that had pointed to his child as the Messiah's herald. In the tumults and changes of thirty years, these things had in a great measure been lost sight of. They were now called to mind by the excitement concerning the ministry of John. DA 133.2
It was long since Israel had had a prophet, long since such a reformation as was now in progress had been witnessed. The demand for confession of sin seemed new and startling. Many among the leaders would not go to hear John's appeals and denunciations, lest they should be led to disclose the secrets of their own lives. Yet his preaching was a direct announcement of the Messiah. It was well known that the seventy weeks of Daniel's prophecy, covering the Messiah's advent, were nearly ended; and all were eager to share in that era of national glory which was then expected. Such was the popular enthusiasm that the Sanhedrin would soon be forced either to sanction or to reject John's work. Already their power over the people was waning. It was becoming a serious question how to maintain their position. In the hope of arriving at some conclusion, they dispatched to the Jordan a deputation of priests and Levites to confer with the new teacher. DA 133.3
A multitude were gathered, listening to his words, when the delegates approached. With an air of authority designed to impress the people and to command the deference of the prophet the haughty rabbis came. With a movement of respect, almost of fear, the crowd opened to let them pass. The great men, in their rich robes, in the pride of rank and power, stood before the prophet of the wilderness. DA 133.4Read in context »
Jesus did not begin His ministry by some great work before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. At a household gathering in a little Galilean village His power was put forth to add to the joy of a wedding feast. Thus He showed His sympathy with men, and His desire to minister to their happiness. In the wilderness of temptation He Himself had drunk the cup of woe. He came forth to give to men the cup of blessing, by His benediction to hallow the relations of human life. DA 144.1
From the Jordan, Jesus had returned to Galilee. There was to be a marriage at Cana, a little town not far from Nazareth; the parties were relatives of Joseph and Mary; and Jesus, knowing of this family gathering, went to Cana, and with His disciples was invited to the feast. DA 144.2
Again He met His mother, from whom He had for some time been separated. Mary had heard of the manifestation at the Jordan, at His baptism. The tidings had been carried to Nazareth, and had brought to her mind afresh the scenes that for so many years had been hidden in her heart. In common with all Israel, Mary was deeply stirred by the mission of John the Baptist. Well she remembered the prophecy given at his birth. Now his connection with Jesus kindled her hopes anew. But tidings had reached her also of the mysterious departure of Jesus to the wilderness, and she was oppressed with troubled forebodings. DA 144.3Read in context »