Luke 1

The third gospel was written by “Luke the physician” (Colossians 4:14). It is the first of two historical volumes he wrote to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2), who was possibly a Roman official or even Luke’s publishing underwriter. Luke stated his goal was to provide a clear, well-researched (although not necessarily strictly chronological) account of Jesus ministry (and, later in Acts, the beginning of the Church).

Whether it was intentional or not, Luke’s account places a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ humanity. From the details of his birth and boyhood to the specific names, dates, and locations, Luke provides a unique view of the finiteness of the infinite, yet incarnate, Son of God. Several parables and miracles exclusive to Luke offer insight into Jesus’ humanity – especially his compassion toward fellow humans. The parables of the prodigal son and the good Samaritan, the raising of the widow’s dead son, and Jesus’ meal with Zacchaeus all show a man of great love and sympathy. In Luke, we are invited to embrace God in the flesh.

Chapter one introduces a series of pairs: two birth announcements, two mothers, two sons, two hymns of praise. Yet the differences are as important as the similarities: two adults long past child-bearing years and an unmarried, virgin teenage girl; one announcement received with skepticism, the other in pure faith.

In addition to Jesus’ humanity, Luke points to the purpose of his coming immediately – Jesus was to be Israel’s long-awaited Messiah-Deliverer. Gabriel told Zechariah that his son, John, would fulfill Malachi’s prophecy (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6) of Messiah’s predecessor, pointing people to Jesus. He told Mary that Jesus would fulfill God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7:8-16) that his royal dynasty would never end. One day Jesus will sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem forever (Luke 1:31-33). In their songs of praise, both Mary and Zechariah focused on the deliverance of Israel as promised throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Allusions to several psalms can be found throughout their songs.

Zephaniah 3

Chapter three continues Zephaniah’s second section for the first eight verses (2:4 – 3:8). God’s attention turns from the nations back to Israel, specifically to Jerusalem personified. Not only was there general wickedness throughout the population, but Jerusalem was corrupt to the very top. Her princes, judges, prophets, and priests – those who were to represent God to the people and the people to God – abused their power and devastated God’s people (similar to the false shepherd warnings given throughout Ezekiel).

The final section (3:9-20) offers a brief picture of the promised Messianic Kingdom. It will include all world nations, placing them under Messiah’s reign as he rules from Jerusalem (3:9-10). Special blessings promised to the remnant of Israel (vs. 13) include forgiveness of sin (vs. 11), God’s personal presence (vs. 12), physical protection (vs. 15-18), and global respect (vs. 19-20). These same promises are repeated throughout the Jewish prophets, but the spiritual aspect (God’s presence and forgiveness of sin) is exemplified in the primary New Covenant passage, Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Zephaniah 2

Chapter two reveals the scope of the day of the Lord. Some have concluded that Zephaniah’s prophecy was fulfilled by the Babylonians in the years following Josiah’s death. (See Habakkuk for Babylon as God’s instrument to punish Israel.) However, as terrible as the Babylonian attacks and captivities were, they did not compare to the complete annihilation described in chapter one. Additionally, chapter two lists other nations around Israel that Babylon also did not decimate – Moab and Ammon (vs. 8-11); Ethiopia (or Cush, vs. 12); Assyria (vs. 13-15).

A special point of note is in 2:9 where Zephaniah refers to the “remnant” or “those who are left.” These will be the survivors of the great day of the Lord’s wrath. The remnant is a common term used in Old Testament judgment passages and New Testament passages related to Israel (e.g., Romans 9-11) for those individual Israelites who had genuine faith in God. Using Church-Age terminology, we would call them “saved” or “Old Testament saints.” Like Abraham, they had believed God’s promises and had faithfully obeyed his law. These will not suffer God’s wrath; instead, they will enjoy the privileges of the spoils of his war on the nations. Notice the back and forth between judgment on the wicked (vs. 4-5, 8-13) and paradise for the righteous remnant (vs. 6-7, 14-15) throughout this chapter. This balance is shown throughout the Scriptures; God judges the wicked but is gracious and merciful to all who place their faith in him.