Were we in Zechariah's shoes, what would we say had the announcement been given to us that our child had been chosen in the providence of God to be the Elijah that would go before the Messiah, to be the one who would prepare His people for the coming of the long awaited one?

What would we say?

How would we publicly respond to that blessing?

Well, we saw last week that when Zechariah's mouth was finally opened that the first thing that came out of his mouth was praise to God.

For nine long months he had been silent, he had been mute, he had been dumb, he had been unable to speak.

And finally his tongue is loosed, and what does he do?

He praises God.

So let's walk through the three glorious parts of The Benedictus, of the song of blessing sung by Zechariah, and see what we can learn about our God and about our Savior, and about our salvation, and about the way that we are to walk in daily life.

I. Praise to God For Fulfilling His Promise to Redeem His People

The first thing I want you to see is this.

Zechariah makes it very clear that John the Baptist's, his son's, life and work and ministry and message is going to be set in the context of the unfolding plan of redemption, which the Lord himself is accomplishing.

The first thing that comes out of his mouth (look at verses 68-71) is this: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel."

Zechariah is saying to all of those people who were saying, "What is this child going to turn out to be? Surely, this boy is a very, very unique boy, and he's going to do great things."

The first thing that Zechariah wants them to know is that it is God who is doing great things.

He wants all of us to see is that John is just a part of a larger thing that's going on: God is preparing to visit His people in the person of His own Son, the Messiah, and He's going to accomplish redemption for His people.

We have to understand John in the context of something bigger: God's redeeming work, God's plan of salvation.

Isn't that true for all of us, that we need to understand our lives, our work, our ministry, our mission in life, in light of something bigger than just ourselves?

Our lives are about the kingdom of God displayed in all the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are to bear witness to Him in all that we say and do.

Even as He wants us to care deeply about our families and to love them as He has loved us, so also He wants us to value His kingdom and His person more than anything else.

There's a God-centeredness about Zechariah's song here that teaches us the kind of God-centered lives that we're to live.

II. The Messiah's Coming is the Fulfillment of Prophecy Given to Abraham

But there's a second thing as well that I want you to see in verses 72-75.

Before we get to knowing what this boy is going to do and what God is going to accomplish through him, Zechariah wants you to understand that God is filling a two-millennia-old promise.

In Genesis 12:2, God promised to Abraham that He would bless him, that He would curse those who curse him, and that He would make him a blessing to all the families of the earth. (Genesis 12:2.)

And then He reiterated this promise in Genesis 15:1: "Do not fear, Abram," He said. "I am your shield and your reward will be very great."

And He reiterated in Genesis 15 His promise to make Abram a multitude of nations and to be a God to him and to his seed after him, and to give him a land of his own.

And then in Genesis 17, and He reassured Abram of this promise, changing his name to emphasize it-from Abram to Abraham-and telling him that he would make a covenant with him and his descendents after him, and that He would be his God, and Abram and his descendents would be His people, and that He would fulfill His promises to him.

In other words, Zechariah wants everyone to understand that there is something big going on here.

As glorious as is the unique role that his son will play, God is about His work of redemption, and He's fulfilling a promise that is twenty centuries old by bringing first the forerunner of the Messiah and then the Messiah himself into this world.

III. The Prophecy Concerning John - His Ministry

Third, if you look at verses 76 and following, Zechariah gets around to answering specifically the question, "What is this child going to be?"

And here's how Zechariah answers it: He "...will be called the prophet of the Most High; and [he] will go before the Lord to prepare His ways."

But then look at what else he says in verse 77: "...To give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins...."

And then, finally, if you look at verses 78, "...because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high...."

In other words,John's preaching of sin and repentance and of forgiveness is going to be rooted in an understanding of God's grace and in the gospel of grace and of salvation.

There's going to be a message of repentance in preparation; there's going to be a message of forgiveness of sins; and, there's going to be a message of God's grace and tender mercy to His people.

Now I want to pause and think with you for a second about John's preaching, because John's preaching has often been characterized as hard preaching - preaching that crushed sinners, challenged sin, demanded repentance, and demanded response.

John's ministry is a glorious example of how faithful preaching makes soft hearts, because faithful preaching brings us face to face with our own sin and our own need for grace and forgiveness, and the provision of that grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ alone and in the gospel as we trust in Him.

We should want faithful preaching that makes our heart soft under the gospel, because in the end the only kind of preaching that will enable us to magnify the grace of God is the kind of preaching that is willing to address the hard issues of our own hearts.

It's us.

We're the problem.

It's the sin in our heart that needs to be dealt with.

And until you've been brought face to face with that in preaching, you're very ready to find the speck in others' eyes because you can't see the log in your own.

And that's why John's ministry is such a blessing to us, because he refuses to let us get away without seeing the log in our own eye, so that, having it removed, we can then look to the grace of the Savior and find forgiveness of sins.