Zechariah praises God for coming to redeem His people through a mighty Savior who delivers God’s people from their enemies in fulfillment of His promise (Luke 1:67–75).
Redemption finds its roots in the Old Testament when God freed His people from bondage in Egypt. The main characters in the redemption story are God, who frees His people to worship Him; God’s oppressed people; the oppressing enemy; and God’s champion. In Exodus, Israel is God’s people, Egypt the enemy, and Moses the champion.
The enmity between God’s people and their enemies, consistent with God’s promise of enmity between the woman’s and serpent’s offspring (Gen. 3:15), is reenacted throughout redemptive history. For example, in Judges, Israel’s neighbors are the enemies and the judges the redeemers, while in Esther, Haman is the enemy and Esther and Mordecai the champions.
The New Testament gives a fuller picture of how the Redeemer delivers, who the enemies are, and how God’s people respond to their enemies. Previously, God’s deliverer would lead Israel in destroying their enemies, but now the Redeemer dies to turn God’s enemies into His people by freeing them from their enemies (Rom. 3:9–12; 5:10).
Christ redefines both the enemies and how we should relate to them. God’s people have two types of enemies: the redeemable enemies we should love and seek to win to Christ and our mortal enemies we should hate, resist, and defeat. Because of Christ’s work, God can turn our redeemable enemies to brethren (Prov. 16:7), so He commands us not to resist, retaliate against, or hate our redeemable enemies but to love, serve, and pray for them (Matt. 5:38–48; Rom. 12:14–21).
The second type of enemy should be resisted and destroyed. God promised that the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent’s offspring and that Abraham’s offspring would possess the gate of his enemies (Gen. 3:15; 22:16–18). Zechariah’s prophecy interprets the conception of the Messiah as the fulfillment of the promised offspring who subdues the enemies of God’s people. Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25–26). Until then, we should resist the devil and the desires of the flesh; hate sin, the ways of the world, and the things of the flesh; and put to death the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:16–17; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 5:8–9; 1 John 2:15–17).
Thanks to Christ’s victory, we are freed from the fear of our enemies. Although some enemies are yet to be fully subdued—including death, residual sin in us, and the conquered yet bound devil—we should not fear because God is with us and prepares for us a table in their presence (Ps. 23:4–5; Rom. 8:31–39; 1 ohn 4:4).
Let us take care not to love those we should hate or hate those we should love by misconstruing grace as a license to sin or by hating our so-called enemies who are or were fellow enemies of God, just as we once were, and who are candidates of grace.