Yesterday we looked at the Magnificat, Mary’s song as recorded in Luke. I forgot to mention this, but there are four songs in Luke, each one of them a work of beauty. Hers is the first, then there’s Zechariah’s, then Simeon’s, then the angels’ on the night of Jesus’ birth.
Today we’re going to briefly examine Zechariah’s song, otherwise known as the Benedictus. The reason it’s called this is the first word in the Latin translation: “Blessed be” (“Praise be” in the NIV).
There’s a little bit of irony here. Zechariah was a priest, and he finally got his “number” called in order to offer incense in the temple. When he finished, he was supposed to step outside and offer a blessing on the people. Instead, because of his lack of faith in the Lord’s promises, he was struck mute. Now, once his tongue is loosened again, he offers an inspired benediction.
Like Mary’s song, Zechariah’s is chock full of Old Testament allusions, and sounds like it could fit right into the Psalter. Here are a few notes I’ve made:
The term “horn of salvation” is a common Old Testament phrase (like here). The horn was a symbol of strength and power, and the authors used it as shorthand for the Lord intervening on their behalf. They were in desperate need of salvation, and God stepped in to provide it. It wasn’t John the Baptist, but the One for whom he was preparing Israel, who was the ultimate fulfillment of that phrase. We were just about as bad off as you could get, and our Savior God was finally going to step in do something about it.
His first emphasis in the song is national salvation, the fact that the Messiah’s coming will signal his rescue of Israel from all her enemies. That won’t be completely fulfilled until his Second Coming, but just like the O.T. prophets, he combined the two comings into one (we’re going to get more into that next year, God willing).
Notice how both Mary’s and Zechariah’s songs have a common theme in them: God is now acting to fulfill his promises made to Abraham. For example, the Lord had promised their fathers that through Abraham all the nations would be blessed, and this is the beginning of that.
Notice the ultimate purpose of this Redemption. The Messiah was coming, and he was just over the horizon. He was coming to save us. Why? Was it just for our sakes? No! The reason why he was doing all this was so that “to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” You were saved, not primarily for your benefit, but so that you could serve your Redeemer.
Then we get to John the Baptist’s role, the son of this song's composer. It’s the natural thing for a father to exalt his son above everybody else, but Zechariah--under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit--knew that his son, as great as he would become, would always be under the shadow of One greater. As we saw last year in our study of John the Baptist, that man’s whole purpose in life was to point people towards Messiah Jesus. Any glory or accolades or concern about his own honor was immediately directed towards his Savior. He would be a “prophet of the Most High,” in fact the last in a long line of O.T. prophets.
John was there to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. One of the ways he did this was to present the message of salvation and the forgiveness of sins. That’s our main problem summed up in one word: sin. That’s what separates us from God in this life, and that’s what sends us into an eternity of darkness.
But John was also there to present the Savior. That’s the “rising sun” who came down “from heaven.” He’s going to “shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
I know we saw this last year when we looked at the Baptist, but it bears repeating. John’s mission is ours: To prepare people to meet Jesus, warn them about our main problem, and present the Savior to them. Am I doing that? Are you?
Lord Jesus, in everything I do and say, I want to do that. Please give me singleness of purpose.