Luke 1:57-80: The Benedictus
There are two ways in which God faithfully parents us with suffering. Think of these as two different types of parental discipline. There is the use of suffering in our lives in general which acts to refine our faith, we can think of 1 Pet. 1:6-7:
‘In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’
Here God uses suffering as a gymnasium to stretch and strengthen us. Sadly, because we are sinners who have sin so deeply ingrained this is God’s strong detergent to help sanctify us. The second way in which chastens us is where He reacts directly to our particular sins and as a faithful Father reacts to discipline us. 1 Peter 3:7 is a great example of this:
‘Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.’
Liberty in prayer, and answers in prayer are put on hold until the sin in your marriage is dealt with. You can categorize these forms of discipline as proactive and reactive discipline, proactive discipline is like when a parent gets a child out of bed every morning, gets them to make their beds, puts restrictions on their time and who they hang out with, etc. all in a bid to grow their character. There is no particular sin being addressed but rather sin in general is being worked on. Then there is reactive parental discipline which is when a parent has to respond to the specific bad behavior of a child.
Throughout our lives you and I will undergo both. In the portion before us we have that familiar saint, Zechariah. The angel Gabriel visited him and gave him a prophecy about a son born for the purpose of preparing the way of the Lord, whose name is to be John. Where Mary trusted in the word of the angel and believed that God could do impossible things, this priest, who we would ordinarily credit with a better theology did not believe the word of God through Gabriel. Even though an angel was the messenger Zechariah asked for a sign, and God disciplined him. Zechariah was under reactive not proactive discipline. Luke 1:20, ‘And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”’ Some have suggested that not only was Zechariah mute but that he was also deaf, in our text v62 we see that those present at John’s birth had to make signs to Zechariah to communicate with him, this is possible.
This time of silence, suffering and discipline was a time that Zechariah used for learning and reflection. It is said that there are three types of people, those who learn from others suffering, those who have to learn from their own suffering and those who don’t learn. Zechariah is a common believer like you and I who often has to learn the hard way. As we look at Luke 1:57-80 we will look at the birth of John in v57-66 and think about Zechariah’s silent suffering and how the Lord used this in his life, and secondly, we will look at Zechariah’s song, famously known as the Benedictus from the first word of the Latin translation. A particular focus for us in this song is salvation.