Zachariah to John

Pastor Josh Combs

“And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, ‘No; he shall be called John.’” Luke 1:59-60

Strangely enough, the first miraculous conception  recorded  in  the Gospel of Luke is not that of Jesus. Before the angel Gabriel announced the coming birth of Jesus Christ to Joseph and Mary, he visited a much older man named Zechariah. He was a priest, married to a woman named Elizabeth. Luke records a very succinct but thorough biography of the couple. He writes, “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years” (Luke 1:6-7). A great stigma and shame was placed upon both of these God-fearing and God-serving people simply because they were unable to have children.

While serving in the temple, Gabriel announces to Zechariah that he and his wife are going to be blessed with a son. Shocked, nearly beyond words, the faithful priest responds, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Seeing the situation through only human eyes and with human limits, Zechariah is doubtful. Gabriel pronounces judgment: “Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words…” (Luke 1:18-20). Zechariah exited the temple and made his way home in complete silence, because God had taken away his ability to speak. He was truly left speechless.

In the days that followed, this elderly couple was blessed with the birth of their newborn child, their firstborn son. As news of this miraculous conception and birth spread, the neighbors and community began to gather together to celebrate. The Bible says, “And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father” (verse 59). Culturally the expectation was to name the child after the father, honoring his and his wife’s faithfulness to the Lord during those barren years.

For a moment, make the cultural jump to our time. The cake had “Zechariah” printed on it. The invitations welcomed people to Zechariah’s party. Every present and card was addressed to little Zechariah. “Happy Birthday” would be sung to “Zechariah.”

But with a mute husband, Elizabeth speaks up. She boldly exclaims, “No; he shall be called John.” The festive atmosphere quickly turns to confusion and the people become inquisitive. The neighbors, rather than accepting this, approach the baby’s father. Their rationale is sound: “None of your relatives is called by this name.” Unable to speak, the father of this precious little miracle writes, “His name is John.” The Scripture says simply, “And they all wondered” (verse 63). John means “God has been gracious.”

What those gathered for a celebration didn’t know was that God had revealed through Gabriel not only the name of the child, but the anointing and calling placed upon his life.

“He will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:15-17

This faithful couple embraced the purpose and plan God had for their son, John. Immediately, as Zechariah did that, God restored his ability to speak.

We too must embrace God’s plan, not only for our sons and daughters, but for our own lives as well. The long years of sorrow and brokenness that Elizabeth endured only brought greater glory to God and greater joy to her heart, because she remained faithful. We often associate faithfulness and the opportunity to bring glory to God with only blessings, but the hand of God is seen in trials most clearly. Although we may feel pain, sorrow, fear, or anxiety, when we stay faithful to the Lord, we are declaring His glory by embracing His sovereign will. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him” (7:17).

Today’s Bible Reading: Luke chapter 1; Proverbs 16:9

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