On Sunday we spent some time looking at the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79).
If you know the story behind the song, you know that Zechariah was the father of a miracle son, John (the baptist), born to him and his wife Elizabeth in their old age. After 400 years in which God had not spoken to men, God’s silence was broken when the angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son and that his name should be called, “John.”
Because he did not believe the angel’s announcement, Zechariah was unable to speak during the entire pregnancy. He had ample time to think about and develop a worship response to God’s revelation. It appears that he considered the name given by the angel. And it seems he also thought of his own name and the name of his wife. The name John means “God is gracious or merciful.” The name Zechariah means “Jehovah remembers.” The name Elizabeth means “God has sworn” or “Oath of God.”
When his own silence was finally broken, Zechariah said these words, starting in verse 68 and then jumping ahead to verse 72, where we find the meanings of all three names woven into the middle of his song (emphasis added):
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people . . .
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham . . .
The Salvation of Israel was dependent upon God’s remembering and mercifully keeping His promises from of old. But the Benedictus is a song of our salvation as well, because your salvation and mine are also dependent upon God’s remembrance of His covenant promises. At baptism, we enter into a covenant relationship with God, in which He promises to wash away our sins and make us new creations. Our salvation is dependent upon God remembering that promise, even when we so often forget that we have promised at the same time to follow Him!
As we come each week to the Lord’s Table, we are exhorted to “do this” in remembrance of Him. But in our remembering, may we remember that it is actually GOD’s merciful remembering of His holy covenant and sworn oath, that sent Jesus to the Cross to accomplish our salvation. May we sing with Zechariah, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!