Is such guiding of “feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79b) really a reference to the way in which God intended His covenant people to interact with the world around them? When Zechariah speaks of giving “light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (1:79a), is he really referencing what God had charged Israel to be for the Gentiles, and by extension, what God charges to all those that He brings into covenant with Himself through Christ? Let’s see.
In the sixty-eighth verse, Zechariah speaks of “Israel” and “His people.” In verse sixty-nine, he uses the term “us.” In the seventy-first verse, we read of “our enemies” and those who hate “us.” In verse seventy-two, we see “our fathers.” The seventy-third verse presents “us” again. In verse seventy-four, we find the use of “we” and “our,” with “our” used again in verse seventy-five. The seventy-seventh verse presents “His people” yet again, along with the use of “their” in conjunction with sins. Verse seventy-eight again says “our” and “us,” and verse seventy-nine once again posits an “our.” Clearly, these words are given a corporate understanding, and are not to be taken primarily in a personal sense, with God revealing Himself and His light to individuals, so as to speak of this in terms of personal salvation and a personal relationship with God.
Through the One Who was to come, of Whom John the Baptist was serving as His messenger---much like a slave would go before the Caesar in proclamation of the king’s greatness---God’s people would be brought into the way of peace, to be a light for the revelation of the glory of God. As a follow-up to Zechariah’s prophecy of this way of peace, Luke records the message of the angels that was delivered to the shepherds of the field, as they exclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (2:14). As we hear the words of the angelic host, something that should be remembered here is that such words would not be uncommonly spoken or heard in those days. That slave that went before the Caesar would make such a declaration, speaking of the “glory” of the lord and god-man Caesar, and of the “peace” that he brings to his subjects that are pleasing to him. In this case, however, they were being spoken by “a multitude of the heavenly host” (2:13b), which would tend to lend the message a greater degree of credibility.
As we keep things in the context of a continuing narrative here in Luke, we can see that this declaration by the angels seems to be connected with a guiding of feet into the ways of peace. The announcement, and its ultimate connection to the Gospel of the Christ, the declaration of the Lordship of Jesus, and the loyalty inducing belief in that Lordship that is brought about by the Holy Spirit’s evidencing exercise of faith as shown by the belief, is what brings peace. That is what reconciles a man to his Creator God, and brings that man into renewal and restoration through the sharing of the power of the age to come (Resurrection power) that returned Jesus to life from out of the grave. In the power of what was accomplished by Christ’s faithfulness to the long-standing covenant, and by the open confession of allegiance to the claims of the Christ as a man believes and proclaims the message that Jesus is Lord, that man has victory over death and the grave, also sharing in the life of the age to come, as both a repository and harbinger of that life. That is a battle that has been fought and won. Could there be a greater peace? Should this not elicit, from God’s covenant people, “Glory to God in the highest”?
In attempting to understand the implications of this time of God’s visitation, as it is referred to by Zechariah, we are brought by Luke to the story of Simeon. Simeon is said to be “righteous and devout” (2:25). When Jesus is brought to Jerusalem, Simeon takes Jesus into his arms and says, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace” (2:29a). There’s that use of the word “peace” again. It seems to be a recurring theme in Luke and of God’s visit to His people. Simeon says that, in seeing Jesus, “my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (2:30-31). This was part of the hope of Israel in that day, that their God would save them, redeem them finally from their ongoing exile from what He had promised to them.
God’s purposes, however, went far beyond that. The salvation of Israel, represented by Jesus, Whose Name means salvation, was for the purpose of Israel (the Creator God’s covenant people) being “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (2:32a). This echoes what was said by Zechariah in the first chapter. Additionally, this being the light of revelation was also “for glory to Your people Israel” (2:32b). God’s covenant people truly attain to and reflect His glory, not when they are saved and assured of heaven and are satisfied with the hope of an escape route from hell at the end of life, but when they are being a light for the revelation of the Gospel (Jesus is Lord). The proclamation of the Gospel is what spreads God’s glory, restoring fallen men and a fallen creation, as an allegiance to Jesus as the Christ brings a glorification together with Him.