Summary: The beauty of the benedictus lies in its eloquent description of the salvation of the Messiah. Inverse 78 the tender mercy of God is behind the beautiful dawning of the new day.
One morning the 5-year-old son of a doctor overheard his father tell his mother "I don't know
when I will be home. I have been called out on a maternity case." A few minutes after his father left
the doorbell rang, and the little lad went to the door. "Is the doctor in," inquired the caller. "No sir,"
replied the boy. "Have you any idea when he will be back?" the man asked. "I don't know sir," the
boy answered, "He went out on an eternity case."
At first the boys mistake is only funny, and you see a bewildered caller convinced its hardly
worth waiting for a man on an eternity case. As you give the matter some thought, however, it has
profound implication. Maternity and eternity are not ill matched words infinitely separated in
significance. The story of Christmas and pre-Christmas events link these terms together intimately.
Dr. Luke is not sharing these birth stories and songs because of his interest in maternity only, but
because of his interest in eternity. The birth of Jesus and His forerunner John the Baptist are eternity
cases because the God of eternity has a direct involvement in these births. By means of them He will
open the gates of eternity to all people. Never were maternity and eternity most closely linked.
The birth of John the Baptist was the birth of one who would herald the coming dawn of a new
day, which would be made bright by the Son of Righteousness who, said Malachi, would rise with
healing in his wings. Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He predicted that a
messenger would go before the Messiah to prepare his way. Now after 400 years of silence this
prophecy is being fulfilled in the birth of John the Baptist. Some of the relatives following the rut of
family tradition are upset with Elizabeth over her insistence that the child's name be John. They
thought it only right to honor his father by naming his Zacharias. So they go to Zacharias assured
that he would back them up and put his wife in her place. To their shock he writes, "His name is
John, which means the grace of God, or the Lord is gracious." This was the name the angel gave
him, and in this act of obedience he is released from his 9 months of being imprisoned in silence, and
he breaks forth in a joyful song of salvation.
He has been silent but not blind. He saw the shining faces of Mary and Elizabeth as they sang
the praises of God. He saw the implication of what was happening, and he knew the dawn of a new
day of salvation was about to break, and he uses his first words to greet it with a song. The poet
There's a light upon the mountain, and the day is at the spring
When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King.
Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long,
But his triumph-day is breaking, and we hale it with a song.
This was Dr. Henry Burton's description of how saints will greet the second coming of Christ.
Zacharias has the same mood as he greets the first coming. Nothing but song can begin to express
the emotions of men who are aware of the nearness of the Savior. Zacharias is glorious happy over
his son, and of the role he will play in preparing the way, but he devotes only 2 verses to that. He is
aware that this is more than a maternity case. It is an eternity case, and that is why the theme of his
song is salvation, and all else is secondary. This song is called the Benedictus from the first word in
the Latin version, which is blessed in the English. Like Mary's Magnificat, it has been a part of
Christian worship for centuries. St. Augustine back in the fourth century expressed how he loved it
and sang it daily.
"O blessed hymn of joy and praise! Divinely inspired by the Holy Ghost,
and divinely pronounced by the venerable priest, and daily sung in the church of God; Oh, may the
words be often in my mouth, and the sweetness of them always in my heart." In more recent times in
the Church of England the Benedictus was revived after years of neglect. In the Diary Of A Church
Goer, Lord Courtney describes the impression made on him by hearing the Benedictus sung in
church: "The choir to-day sang divinely the Benedictus....In my boyhood we rarely heard the
Benedictus. It was in the prayer book, doubtless, but practically never said or sung. Now days it is
reaccepted in use....nor is this surprising, for the Benedictus surely expressed the essence of all