A Study of Luke 1:78

“Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us” (Luke 1:78).

What is meant by the expression “dayspring”?

By “dayspring” is meant the day-dawn, the herald of the rising sun, the change from darkness to light, the first approach of morn; in one word, the spring of the day.

But what is this “dayspring” spiritually?

It is the intimation of the rising of the Sun of righteousness. It is not the same thing as the Sun of righteousness, but it is the herald of His approach, the beams which the rising sun cast upon the benighted world, announcing the coming of Jesus, “the King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17). This expression was singularly applicable in the mouth of Zacharias. The LORD of life and glory had not then appeared; He was still in the womb of the virgin Mary. But His forerunner, John, had appeared as the precursor, the herald of His approach, and was sent to announce that the Sun of righteousness was about to arise. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:6-8). All nations at that time lay in darkness. “Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah 60:2). But when the LORD of life and glory was about to appear upon earth, when He had already taken the body which was prepared for Him (see Hebrews 10:5), the very flesh and blood of the children (see Hebrews 2:14), which He was to offer as a propitiation for sin, “the dayspring from on high” had begun to dawn. God’s mercy, in the face of His dear Son, was just visiting the benighted world.

But there is another, an experimental meaning, connected with the words. “The dayspring from on high” is not to be confined to the approach of the Son of God in the flesh, but it may be extended to signify the appearance of the Son of God in the heart. I cannot be benefited by the appearing of Jesus in the flesh eighteen hundred years ago, unless He come and dwell in my soul. “The dayspring from on high” which visited the benighted Jewish congregation will not profit us, except that same dayspring visits our benighted heart. “The dayspring from on high” is the manifestation of God’s mercy in the face of the Saviour. And when this “dayspring from on high” visits the soul, it is the first intimation, the dawning-rays of the Sun of righteousness in the heart.

Now, “the dayspring from on high” visits the soul with the very first divine intimation dropped into the conscience respecting the Person, work, love and blood of the Son of God. Until this day-dawn beams upon the soul, it is for the most part ignorant of the way by which a sinner is to be saved. It has tried perhaps works of righteousness, and has toiled and striven to produce such a holiness as God may be pleased with. But what has been the success of these endeavours? Have they issued in peace to the soul? Have they not rather plunged it more deeply into guilt and shame? Have they not proved the spider’s web, the hypocrite’s hope, a garment too short, and a bed too narrow? And yet this very striving and toiling to work out a righteousness has wrought a profitable effect; for being fully convinced by painful experience that it has none of its own, the soul is prepared to receive with faith the righteousness of the Son of God.

But the first “dayspring from on high” which usually visits the soul is from a view by precious faith of the glorious Person of Immanuel. Until we see by the eye of faith the glorious Person of “Immanuel, God with us,” there is no day-dawn in the heart. Now we may see the doctrine of Christ’s Person in our judgment long before we see it in our soul. There is a peculiar teaching of the Spirit in making the Person of Christ inwardly known. There is a holding up of His beauty and loveliness to the eye of the spiritual understanding; a removal of the veil of ignorance and unbelief which by nature covers the heart; a raising up of a living faith to go out of itself unto Him; a heavenly affection breathed into the soul whereby it clasps Jesus in the arms of a holy embrace, and says, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee”(Psalm 73:25). This will be attended with meltings of soul at the solemn sight, with admiration of His beauty, with adoration of His glorious Person, with the confiding of body, soul and spirit into His keeping with a solemn committal of all we are and have into His gracious hands, as able to keep that which we “have committed unto Him against that day” (2nd Timothy 1:12), the day of His appearing. When the heart is thus opened, the affections thus drawn forth, the spirit thus softened, and the whole soul thus melted at a believing sight of the glorious Person of the Son of God, “the dayspring from on high” hath visited the sinner.

But, in looking at the glorious Person of the Son of God, we catch a faith’s view of His atoning blood, and see it to be of infinite dignity. We see its unspeakable preciousness, that it is the blood of the Son of God; that it is holy blood, precious blood, sin-pardoning, conscience-cleansing blood; that it is the only sacrifice offered to, and accepted by God the Father; that it is the only propitiation for sin; that there is no other way of salvation, and no pardon for sin, or true peace of conscience, but that which flows from its personal application. This leads the soul to look to, hang upon, trust, and confide in it, and to seek more and more after a spiritual manifestation and experimental sprinkling of it. We thus discard our own righteousness, trample upon our own doings, go out of self, and cast a longing, languishing eye towards that blood which “cleanseth us from all sin” (1st John 1:7).

So also with respect to the glorious righteousness of Immanuel. When we can see by the eye of faith that it is “the righteousness which is of God” (Philippians 3:9), because the righteousness of Immanuel, God with us; when we can realise how perfectly and completely Jesus has fulfilled the law, what a spotless obedience He has rendered to it, that He has magnified it and made it honourable, fulfilled all its holy requisitions and spiritual demands; when we can catch a glimpse of this righteousness as “unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22), and lay hold of it as all our justification in the eye of a holy God: when this is seen and felt, the “dayspring from on high”hath visited us.

Every manifestation of mercy, every testimony from God, every mark and sign in our favour, every evidence that our spot is the spot of God’s children, every promise applied with power, every holy affection, every tender sensation, every filial dependence upon God’s faithfulness, every breathing out of the heart at the footstool of mercy, either is, or is connected with, the visiting of this “dayspring from on high.” Every ray of spiritual light, every sensation of divine life, every feeling of humility, every emotion of godly sorrow, whatever there is in the soul heavenly, holy, and God-like, all arise from “the dayspring from on high” that hath visited us.

But what a sweetness there is in the expression, “visited us!” What is conveyed by it? One idea contained in it is, that it is the act of a friend. If I have a friend, and I visit him, my visit is a mark of my friendship and affection. Thus the word implies that there is a tenderness and affection in “the dayspring,” that it comes to us in a friendly manner, that it is not the wrath of God to destroy, but the mercy of God to save.
But another idea connected with the word “visit,” is that of unexpectedness. Is it not so sometimes naturally? We have an unexpected visit. We may have been looking for our friend to call, but the time passes away, and no well-known rap is heard at our door. We wonder why our friend delays his coming so long. But, perhaps, when we are least expecting it, the form of our friend appears. So spiritually. We may be longing and languishing, hoping and expecting the visit of “the dayspring from on high,” but it does not appear; the LORD delayeth His coming; there is no intimation of His appearing, no putting in of His hand by the hole of the door, no looking in through the lattice, no glimpse nor glance of His lovely countenance. But, perhaps, when least expected, and least anticipated, when the mind is so deeply sunk as scarcely to dare to hope, so shut up in unbelief as hardly able to vent forth a sigh, “the dayspring from on high” will visit the soul, and be all the more precious for coming so suddenly and unexpectedly.

J.C. Philpot

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