Monday, December 30, 2013

An Old Song, A New Song, The Magnificat, Benedictus

Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving

My heart exults in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Thy salvation.

There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides Thee,
Nor is there any rock like our God.

Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let the arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble grind on strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.

The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
And He set the world on them.

He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.

Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And he will give strength to His king;
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.

A New Song

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.

The Lord has made known His salvation,
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.

The Magnificat: Mary's Song of Praise

My soul exalts the Lord,
My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.

And His Mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.

He has done mighty deeds with His arms;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.

He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his offspring forever.

Benedictus: Zacharias's Song Of Praise

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For he has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,

And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant --
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old --
Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare the ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

A question we need to face is the question of whether God intervenes in history and how God exercises His providence through government, civil society, and individuals.  This issue is universal in its quest, and not restricted to traditional Western societies, and what we commonly think of as democratic nations. These three songs, as well as David's song, all express confidence in God's exercise of providence in human history, even as they go well beyond that.

During the Christmas season, celebrated all over the earth, the Magnificat may seem to be the most familiar.  Yet, we may hear it in the music of Bach, and not really focus on the full expression of the content of Mary's song, as she recites, in a way, Hannah's song as she discovers her pregnancy with Samuel, as well as other passages from the Old Testament.  Or we might gloss over the song of Zacharias on the birth of his son, John, and fail to see the principles of God's sovereignty and covenant-making.  How easy it is in the midst of joy and celebration of the season to forget that there will be judgment some day, both on an individual and personal basis, as well as on a national basis.

Maybe I should just let the words of these songs speak for themselves!

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