Based on Luke 1:67-80
It is unfortunate that most translations rightly introduce passages such as this with “Zechariah prophesied, saying…” while many scholars and historic tradition understands this as being something of a poetic verse chanted or sung by Zechariah. This is true also of Mary’s song, the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55. Singing and chanting was common in Israel as they were a musical people. The Psalms of David, himself a musician, were intended to be sung/chanted, even as Moses led the Israelites in a song to the Lord and Miriam and the women sang a song and danced upon the deliverance from Pharaoh and his armies, crossing the Red Sea. The reality among God’s people seems to be, words are not enough to express the joy and thanks at safe deliverance. And truly, Zechariah chanted his poetic verse of praise upon the delivery of his son, John.
Martin Luther also highly prized music as a worthy form of praise and proclamation. He is famously remembered for saying, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise… But any who remain unaffected [by music] are clodhoppers indeed and are fit to hear only the words of dung-poets and the music of pigs.” He wrote hymns and songs as expressions of praise and thanksgiving, as well as prayers for strength and courage, such as in the beloved, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word.”
Appreciation and love of music and singing is one of the great gifts of Luther and those who continue to bear his name in the world. With Zechariah, our spirits are lifted and soar in poetic verse upon the birth of a child, realization of the blessings of God, knowledge of the salvation we have in the forgiveness of our sins. When we consider the gift of God we have in Jesus, when we ponder “the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace,” how can we not join Zechariah, singing, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, fill us with joy and let our voices soar in praise and thanksgiving. Amen.
Lenten response: Sing your favorite hymn today. And don’t worry who hears you!
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
3:9 Listen to this, you leaders of the family of Jacob,
you rulers of the nation of Israel!
You hate justice
and pervert all that is right.
10You build Zion through bloody crimes,
Jerusalem through unjust violence.
11Her leaders take bribes when they decide legal cases,
her priests proclaim rulings for profit,
and her prophets read omens for pay.
Yet they claim to trust the Lord and say,
“The Lord is among us.
Disaster will not overtake us!”
12Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed up like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
and the Temple Mount will become a hill overgrown with brush!(NET Bible)
62:1 For the music director, Jeduthun; a psalm of David.
For God alone I patiently wait;
he is the one who delivers me.
2He alone is my protector and deliverer.
He is my refuge; I will not be upended.
3How long will you threaten a man?
All of you are murderers,
as dangerous as a leaning wall or an unstable fence.
4They spend all their time planning how to bring him down.
They love to use deceit;
they pronounce blessings with their mouths,
but inwardly they utter curses. (Selah)
5Patiently wait for God alone, my soul!
For he is the one who gives me hope.
6He alone is my protector and deliverer.
He is my refuge; I will not be shaken.
7God delivers me and exalts me;
God is my strong protector and my shelter.
8Trust in him at all times, you people!
Pour out your hearts before him!
God is our shelter! (Selah)
9Men are nothing but a mere breath;
human beings are unreliable.
When they are weighed in the scales,
all of them together are lighter than air.
10Do not trust in what you can gain by oppression!
Do not put false confidence in what you can gain by robbery!
If wealth increases, do not become attached to it!
11God has declared one principle;
two principles I have heard:
God is strong,
12and you, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love.
For you repay men for what they do.(NET Bible)
1:67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
because he has come to help and has redeemed his people.
69For he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from long ago,
71that we should be saved from our enemies,
and from the hand of all who hate us.
72He has done this to show mercy to our ancestors,
and to remember his holy covenant –
73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham.
This oath grants
74that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
may serve him without fear,
75in holiness and righteousness before him for as long as we live.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.
For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.
78Because of our God’s tender mercy
the dawn will break upon us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80And the child kept growing and becoming strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he was revealed to Israel.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
Luther again speaks of the infallibility of Scripture in Contra malignum J. Eckii judicium M. Lutheri Defensio, which left the press on September 30, 1519. In the preface he refers to the statement of Augustine, “I have learned to ascribe this honor (namely the infallibility) only to books which are termed canonical, so that I confidently believe that not one of their authors erred,” and continues, “but the other authors, no matter how distinguished by great sanctity and teaching, I read in this way, that I do not regard them as true because they themselves judged in this wise but in so far as they could convince me through the authority of the canonical writings or other clear deductions.” (17)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.