Friends and relatives of Elizabeth were concerned for her health.
As the time for her child to be born approached, Elizabeth’s wellbeing was the topic of much conversation and nearly as much prayer for her safety. In those days a young woman went terribly close to death’s door to give birth. No one knew how the ordeal would affect a woman of Elizabeth’s advanced years. Poor Zacharias was unable to speak for the whole term.
John Is Born.
When the time finally came, all the resources, including prayer, of a village full of priests and their families were brought to bear. God was merciful to Elizabeth and the child came with no more trouble than a normal birth at a normal age.
Eight days later when Zacharias and Elizabeth presented the child at the Temple for dedication, more than the usual crowd gathered to honor this miracle child. Someone suggested they name him after this father. Elizabeth corrected them: His name would be John. Since no one in the family was named John, protestors took the matter to the boy’s father. Crude sign language communicated the dilemma to the priest. He asked for a writing table and settled the question. His name would be John. Immediately the old man’s tongue was loosed and he began to praise God. Making up for lost time, it was as if a dam had burst as praise gushed from the lips of Zacharias.
The Holy Spirit
As these pent-up rivers of adoration flowed, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit. This was the New Wine Jesus would preach about later. It was a foretaste of the new joy and freedom of a New Covenant. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the praise of Zacharias became prophesy. The people listened in amazement, wondering what kind of man this John might be. If they had listened to his father’s prophesy, they would have heard.
The Song of Zacharias
The old priest, perhaps with his 8-day old son in his arms, began to prophesy
- of salvation to come to the House of David,
- of the defeat of the enemies of the nation,
- of a renewal of the Covenant, and
- of holiness and righteousness restored to the land.
This child would be the prophet of the Highest going before the face of the Lord
- to prepare His ways,
- to give knowledge of salvation and the remission of sins, and
- to announce the tender mercies of the Lord.
John would announce the coming of “The Dayspring from on High,” “the Bright and Morning Star” who would give light to those who sit in darkness. He would guide the feet of the faithful in the way of peace.
Preparing the Way
While Jesus was still being knit together in Mary’s womb, His prophet and forerunner had already brought revival to the Temple. His whole life would be given to this single, demanding mission: to quote Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” Build Him a highway in this wilderness that the glory of the Lord may be revealed. The plan was underway. Events were unfolding that had never happened before. The Morning Star was rising.
Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” So they made signs to his father — what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him. Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: 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 the days of our life. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Lord Jesus, even though he has left the scene, the ministry of John the Baptist must continue. Help me lift up his cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” So much of following You is preparation. Help me be faithful to the ministry of preparation today. I want to fill in the deep, empty valleys and bring down the proud mountains that exalt themselves against You. I want to be straight when the world is crooked and smooth when the world rides rough. I want to see Your glory revealed! Amen and Amen.
Comfort Ye / Every Valley / And the Glory of the Lord
Words: Isaiah; Music: G. F. Handel from “Messiah”
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,
that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . .
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low,
the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved