Thanks for joining us today. The prophecy “teased” in the headline is the prophetic prayer of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. In my NIV study Bible, the prayer’s subhead is “Zechariah’s Song” and notes, “This hymn is called Benedictus, (‘Praise be’) because the opening word in the Latin Vulgate translation is ‘Benedictus.’”
This prophetic “song” — recorded in Luke 1: 68-74 — immediately follows the birth of John the Baptist. Let’s read it now and then discuss why Zechariah’s prayer is a great New Testament prophecy that I would argue does not receive enough attention:
“‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us — to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace’” (Luke 1: 68-74).
It is essential to understand the context of Zechariah’s prayer in light of John the Baptist’s miraculous conception story in Luke 1: 5-24. And, in case you missed it, read Vol. 90: The Lesson of John the Baptist’s Conception Story.
Briefly, Gabriel, “an angel of the Lord,” appeared to the high priest Zechariah in the temple. (Gabriel is on several world-changing missions from God. At his next stop, he informs Mary about the news that launches the Christmas card industry.) Now, Gabriel tells Zechariah that wife Elizabeth (thought to be barren) would conceive a child who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
However, Zechariah made a big-time error when he asked: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18).
Lesson for us: Don’t ever question Gabriel. Immediately, Zechariah was told he would not be able to speak until his son was born — who must be named “John.” Read about the naming controversy at John’s birth in Luke 1: 57-66.
After the birth, Zechariah was “filled with the holy spirit,” which enabled him to praise and prophesize — which he sure did! In his prayer/song, Zechariah references Hebrew Scripture — the only Scripture at the time. (And don’t ever answer the question, “What were Jesus’s favorite New Testament quotes?”)
Zechariah uses the Hebrew Scriptures as a foundation to summarize the mission of Jesus upon which the New Testament is based. As Gabriel had told Zechariah at John’s conception, all of Zechariah’s prayer would be fulfilled.
Moreover, the prayer is God’s poetry of truth that foretold the arrival and meaning of the Savior of Israel — Jesus Christ — Hebrew name, Yeshua.
In Zechariah’s prayer, he praised the “God of Israel,” saying, “he has come to his people and redeemed them.” God “raised up a horn of salvation” — as the horn of an animal symbolized strength — so will a strong Messiah be raised to deliver his people.
Continuing to reflect upon Scripture, Zechariah praises God: “...to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
Zechariah’s prayer reads like he is describing Jesus, who has the power to “rescue us” and to save us, so we can “serve him without fear...”
Next, Zechariah looks forward, first mentioning John’s critical mission, saying:
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins…”
Through the Holy Spirit, Zechariah knows his child has been born and blessed for a supporting role.
He closed the prayer, again, mentioning God’s mercy:
“...the tender mercy of our God by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
The “rising sun” symbolizes the light of Christ who will rise up, die, and then rise again. Notice that Jesus is not named but alluded to as the “rising sun” (who later called Himself the Son of Man), and John will “prepare a way for him.” That unnamed “Him” is “The One” whose light will give hope to those lost, consumed by sin, and separated from God.
Also note that Zechariah said John “will be called a prophet of the Most High.” Then, in Luke’s next passages — when Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a son and name him Jesus — the angel says:
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David...” (Luke 1:32). Zechariah’s prayer and Gabriel make a clear distinction between “a prophet of the Most High” [John] and “the Son of the Most High” [Jesus].
All said, this remarkably profound, prophetic prayer — in only 190 words — neatly summarizes the New Testament. And that is why I believe that Zechariah’s prayer should receive more attention. Amen to that!
Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. NEWS FLASH: SignFromGod is a proud sponsor of Museum of the Bible’s two opening events for its six-month, high-tech exhibition about the Shroud of Turin. The preview is on February 23, and the grand opening event, February 26. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.