Luke 1:57-80 Zechariah Sings Truth: We Sing Pap

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.”62 And they made signs to his father, enquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbours. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
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, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Zechariah Sings Truth

In a musical the characters sing the plot line into being.  The opening of the gospel of Luke reads like Jesus:  The Musical.  People hear what is going to happen and they sing;  Babies are born and mute people burst into song.  the songs they sing are rich with meaning, however.  A lot of modern worship songs are pap.  Why is that?

In ancient times the songs focused on telling the story of God and his people.  I have been in churches recently where the singing tells me nothing of substance about God.  Often the singing tells me much about how I should be feeling.  I may sing, “I worship you.”  But in so doing I am allowed to construct any ‘you’ that I desire.  In the Psalms, God is meticulously described.  The description of God actually draws us more strongly toward him.  If a Psalm is lament it authentically opens the heart to god with its lack of faith and its fears of the future.  However, the biblical lament then puts the focus back on God and then tells us who he is.

Zechariah, as a priest, sings rich words full of a knowledge of God.

I believe that our churches today are so often interested in meeting people where they are that they avoid songs which require thought.  This contributes to the lack of thought that pervades Christian community.  Again, many of the church communities I have been in elevate a mindless faith which promotes anti-intellectualism.  The songs work like a Twilight novel.  In Twilight Bella is fairly non-descript so that as many young women as possible can see themselves in her shoes.  The benefits she receives from the men around her are easy to apply to oneself.  In our churches we do not create an exclusive discipleship. We want to welcome everyone.  On one level, Jesus too welcomed the crowds through his winsome presentation. However, the disciples were called out to experience more.  They were transformed by the renewing of their minds and the songs they sang had complex and deep theology.  We sing pap.

As I am writing this I am listening to a wonderful exception to the self-focused tunes I hear in church and on Christian radio.  The music inspired by The Story tells the narrative of scripture.  It deals with the complexities of being human, but the focus is moved away from our micronarratives (little stories) to the Big God Story in which we are all players.

I don’t know for sure, but I see that Zechariah saw himself as a player in a grand narrative.  I have a suspicion that Mary saw herself as a servant in another person’s tale.  The musical of scripture is the musical Godspell.  Godspell is the old English for Gospel.

Prayer

May we be a people who sing words with each other that transform our view of you.  May we sing of the story that you are still telling in the world.

Questions

  1. Who is singing?
  2. What are some of the themes in his song?
  3. Why is this in the Bible?
  4. What are you singing?
  5. How would you compare the song above with the songs you sang last Sunday?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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