“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us.”
~Luke 1:78 (NRSV).
Zechariah’s prophesy, momentous as it was, brings us to goose bumps as we read it, knowing what God was set upon, and achieving, in Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son incarnate.
His prophesy (Luke 1:67-79) is beautiful to read.
But it’s not just that the words have beauty — their selection and poetic formation — it’s predominantly that these words echo beforehand a promise that subsequently becomes truth, established fact, history.
God has weaved together the melding of prophets for such a time as this — Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, then John the Baptist, and finally, Jesus himself. All these had no thread of separation; they were on song for the Lord God Almighty; all playing their divinely apportioned roles.
Benedictus – “Praise Be”
The entire canticle (song) is named, Benedictus, meaning also, Song of Zechariah, or also “Praise Be.”
During it Zechariah is speaking of his newborn son — John the Baptist — as well as lauding the Covenant Father for what is now coming to pass; from that prophesied back to Abraham’s day (v. 73).
As it flows, this prophesy shifts from praising God as in a history lesson to praising the Lord for the imminence of it all, now, about to occur.
Imagine, as Zechariah was, being filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit, ushering praise for a reality, certain, though yet to come! This has to fill us with a sense of an inimitable Presence of the Lord — a supernatural above-the-world personal experience; the knowledge of God in the seconds of breathing and conscious awareness.
Redemptive Lives Now Possible in This Messiah
This is the long hope expressed in this canticle. The truly righteous of Israel — the real Hebraic Jew, not the typically legalistic Pharisaic Jew — set their heart and soul on being redeemed by a Saviour who would make living righteously achievable.
Their heartfelt desire was to live to the rule of the Lord — to achieve obedience to the statutes of the Holy One. This desire is not for self-righteousness, to claim some proud standing, but to honour the Lord.
This is the sentiment Zechariah is heard to utter. That’s his heart in this canticle.
And only in and through Jesus is this redeemed life possible. Beyond necessity-of-obedience is something even more powerful, more truthful, more vibrant and liveable. It’s grace implicit of the trust that we’ll do our best and forgiveness is now a given, because of Jesus’ obedience on the cross.
His obedience has vouchsafed ours!
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.