Zechariah's Song - the Benedictus

We all have our favorite Christmas playlists taht we pull out after Thanksgiving. But the FIRST playlist can be found in Luke 1.

Written by Pastors Mike Biolsi & Len Flack on .

Notes

Last week we began to look at our “Christmas Playlist”, which includes four sections of the Gospel of Luke which are poetic in nature – the original Christmas songs.

We were introduced to two couples, Mary and Joseph (the soon-to-be mother of Jesus), and her relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah, who have been chosen by God to become the parents of John, later known as John the Baptist.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were good folks, known for their righteousness. In fact, the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy was delivered to Zechariah in an unusual way – by an angel – while he was serving as a priest in the temple. His response to the angel was a bit of doubtful questioning, which resulted in having his voice silenced... Whoops!

Here comes John.

We join the story in Luke 1:57, shortly after Mary had visited them. Their new baby is just about to arrive, and Zechariah is still mute.

57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” 61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

What’s in a name?

So, Elizabeth’s baby was born. As was the custom in Israel, in accordance with the Old Testament law, when the boy was eight days old, it was time to circumcise him as a sign of being part of God’s covenant people. The family gathered along with friends to celebrate the gift of new life. And, they were excited to learn the name of the newborn.

Elizabeth told the gathering that the boy’s name would be John, however there wasn’t any family significance in that choice. Some suggested that Zechariah should choose his own name... Zechariah Jr., perhaps?

However, they would have none of that, because the angel who had appeared to Zechariah in the temple also told him “you are to call him John.” That was a command. There wasn’t any ambiguity. It was simply the will of God.

Why JOHN? Well, perhaps because of its meaning?

Hebrew Meaning:

The name John is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name John is: Jehovah has been gracious; has shown favor. In the bible John the Baptist baptized Christ in the Jordan river. Variants have been created in almost every language.

They went with it faithfully. Zechariah, who had been silent for nine months, wrote that the baby’s name was John. And immediately he was able to speak again!

His voice working once again, Zechariah began to praise God, and talk with his friends. We read in the passage that “awe fell upon the whole neighborhood” and everyone wondered “What will this child turn out to be?”. They knew God had done something amazing with this family!

Zechariah’s Song: The Benedictus

Once Zechariah regained his speech, he began to praise God. Like Mary and Elizabeth earlier in the chapter, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit, and offers words of praise. This song, sometimes called the Benedictus (Latin for Blessed) is a song of thankfulness for what God has done. It’s found in Luke 1:68-75, and we begin in verse 67:

Luke 1:67-80 (NLT) –
67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior*
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.

76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,*
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”

80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

Chorus - Salvation

Verses 68-70 serve as the chorus of the song, and bring our focus to praising God for providing us with salvation and redemption:

68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,

because he has visited and redeemed his people.

69 He has sent us a mighty Savior*

from the royal line of his servant David,

70 just as he promised

through his holy prophets long ago.

Seeing things unfold as they had, Zechariah knew what the angel had told him months prior was true. Way back in Luke 17 he was told of John, “17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.””

John would be a prophet, like Elijah. He would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

And Zechariah knew the Lord was coming soon behind John. He had been with Elizabeth when Mary had come to visit, and the purpose of Jesus’ life was revealed. These two families were being used by God for His redemptive work, and they knew that salvation was at hand! And that’s something worth continuing to praise God for, again and again!

Verse 1 – Sanctification

If salvation through Christ Jesus was the chorus of Zechariah’s song, then there are at least two other themes that he develops in subsequent verses of the song.

The first “song verse” is found in Bible verses 71-75:

71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.

He builds on the initial work of Salvation, and gets into the concept of Sanctification. See, it’s not just that God has provided a savior for his people... But that the savior delivers us from our enemies, is merciful to His people, and grows us day by day in holiness and righteousness.

Sanctification is the word we use to describe the process of growing in holiness. Of living – increasingly – with Godly character and conduct. Of being renewed in faith, and made more and more like Jesus.

Zechariah rightly saw it as God’s work of redemption continuing to expand and grow His people. He pointed first to David and the throne that Christ would occupy as King of Kings, and also to Abraham, and the covenant promise to grow His people to be a blessing to the world. That happens in and through Jesus!

Verse 2 – Service

There is a third “song verse” if you look at Luke 1:76-80.

76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”

Zechariah’s focus switches gears here a bit. First, he looked at the concept of Salvation for God’s people. Then he looked at Sanctification, as we grow in our faith. Now, he moves to the concept of Service. But not Christ’s service... John’s.

Here Zechariah confirms what we mentioned earlier, and what the angel had told him: John would be a prophet and he would prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. He would preach the Gospel of salvation through the forgiveness of sins (further developing the theme of salvation), and call people to repentance.

In short, John would serve the Lord.

Family ministry: Just as his parents had served the Lord. Remember, both were counted as righteous. Zechariah was a priest in the Lord’s temple. John would grow up in a home with faithful and godly parents. Parents who modeled their faith, and included it in their daily lives.

Zechariah’s song is a song of JOYFUL OBEDIENCE.

Zechariah’s heart is evident in the very first verse:

68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.

He’s joyful because of what God has done. He’s joyful because of John, and because of Jesus, the savior and redeemer.

However, his joy wasn’t merely an emotional acceptance of what God was doing. It prompted him toward obedience. Towards a commitment to growing in sanctification, developing righteousness and holiness. Toward a commitment to continue his service for God, and to teach his family to do the same.

Zechariah’s song wasn’t just an expression of joy, it was an expression of JOYFUL OBEDIENCE, as he embraced that which God wanted for His people. All His people.

Is this song part of YOUR personal playlist?

But, what about you?

Are you joyfully obedient to what God has shown us in this song?

Christmas is the perfect time to reflect on what God has said:

1 John 5:3 (NLT) - Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

  • We need to embrace what God has done for us.
  • We need to trust in Christ, and His perfect sacrifice on our behalf.
  • We need to grow in Christ, becoming more and more like him every day.
  • We need to serve Christ, participating in the Great Commission to make disciples.
  • We need to model Christ, teaching our families and others how to live for His purposes.

Salvation. Sanctification. Service. They are all tied together, with service being the natural outflowing of faith in Jesus’ work of salvation, and the Spirit’s work of growing us in sanctification.

Our hope is that you would be JOYFULLY OBEDIENT. Repent of sin and trust in Christ. Live for Christ each day. And share the Gospel of grace with others in your words and deeds.


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NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.

35206 Sayre Road
PO Box 823
Carthage NY 13619
315-493-3958
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