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
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Last December, confined to home with my husband due to coronavirus precautions, we daily observed the season with no fewer than three Advent calendars. One featured a name for Jesus each day and scriptures to accompany it. But when I read today’s scripture passage with an eye toward a devotional I could share, I was intrigued by “horn of salvation.” These are Zechariah’s words shortly after the birth of his son, John the Baptist. With them he celebrates not just his great joy and the role of John in preparing the way of the Lord, but prophesies that the means of their salvation, and ours, was to come. Jesus is the horn of our salvation!
But why “horn”? This moniker did not make it into our Advent calendar last year, and I don’t know about you, but I have little use of (actual) horns these days. Thankfully, Andrew Wilson, pastor of King’s Church in London, writes a chapter on horns in his book God of All Things. (Apropos for Advent, Wilson explains how material things reveal to us things about God. Perfect for a season of awaiting God coming in flesh.)
Horns, Wilson points out, have at least three meanings in scripture. First, horns symbolize “strength, power and victory in battle,” as that is their purpose for the animals that possess them. Second, horns connote plenty, as in the image of cornucopias full of produce and gifts of the earth. And, finally, horns are used in anointing with oil, and thus also suggestive of the Christ, our Messiah, the anointed.
In our modern world, we too easily take comfort in our historically unprecedented plenty, but how about God’s timeless sovereignty and unchanging power? With strength, he has raised up a horn of our salvation, to save us from our enemies (v. 71), to show us mercy, and fulfill His covenant (v. 72), so that we can serve Him without fear (v. 74). Amen.
Dr. Sarah Estelle is an associate professor of economics.
Scripture quotations are 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.