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Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
Elizabeth seems like an amazing woman. We have seen her filled with the spirit, able to encourage others, and now we find all her friends and neighbors rejoicing with her. At this point this is the natural rejoicing over a child being born. They understood that the Lord had shown “great” mercy to her, but the general feeling here is rejoicing. Lit: the Lord magnified his mercy upon her.
And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.”
On the eighth day: Again Elizabeth and Zechariah are demonstrating their faithfulness to the law. Everyone knows that this is going to be Zechariah and Elizabeth’s only child so it makes sense that since the Lord has given them a son that he would carry on a family name. This was the expectation. In fact They are already calling him Zechariah (not “they would have called” but “they were calling him”) Yet Elizabeth, either because she was prepped beforehand by John or because the Lord has independently place this name on Elizabeth’s heart as well, declares that the baby will not take a family name but be called John. Yet notice the opposition. “None of your relatives are called by this name!” Very emphatic in the Greek. Why do they care?
Defying Conventions: Conventions: A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.
- People can have family conventions. We don’t start eating until everyone is seated. Dad sits in his chair. You call your sister every Sunday night. Siblings will be in the wedding party. Every one in the family has attended the same university. The oldest son takes over the family business.
- We can also have cultural or community conventions. You’re born into this community or ethnic group and that will say a lot of the expectations put on your life. The holidays you’ll celebrate, when you’ll start engaging the opposite sex, the type and length of your education. Zechariah and Elizabeth were hitting up against a community convention – how to name a baby
Some people spend their life trying to keep conventions at all costs defending them. They are the conservatives in a culture. Some people try to break convention at all costs – they are the rebels. Zechariah and Elizabeth, up until this point seem to be the type of people that generally keep convention, yet that makes this break all the more shocking to their friends and neighbors.
And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
This is now the fifth confirming sign that Luke records for us so that we might have certainty regarding the things we have been taught
- The silencing of Zechariah,
- The unexpected pregnancy of Elizabeth,
- The virgin conception of Jesus,
- The confirmation of John in Elizabeth’s womb
- The opening of Zechariah’s mouth to praise God.
Zechariah exercises faith. His chastisement has inspired repentance in him. It’s is one thing for an old man to lose his hearing and ability to speak. Perhaps people understood that something happened in Jerusalem to strike John deaf and dumb. But it is the opening of John’s mouth that inspires these emotions. His mouth was opened. His tongue was loosed, And he spoke, Blessing God.
The initial rejoicing that has united the friends and family has now come up against defied convention. This gives way to emotions of Wonder, Fear, Bewilderment and curiousity (What then will this child be?) Zechariah’s understands that his son’s life will not follow the path of people expectations, but will instead be in full agreement with the plan of God for his life. John will never live up to people’s expectations. But he will fulfill the plan and purposes for which the Lord has called him to.
The rest of the chapter is taken by the now loud and proud dad as he is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies over his son. Zechariah’s praise is all about Jesus: he speaks of Christ chiefly, and John only incidently. John’s life will be all about Jesus. Parents, the best thing you can pray over your children is Jesus.
Declaration of the Lord’s Salvation.
“Blessed be 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 from of old,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: the Holy Spirit fills us to praise the Lord. He has visited and redeemed and raised up a horn of salvation in the house of his servant David. Notice that through the Spirit Zechariah uses past tense. This had been confirmed to Elizabeth through the visit of Mary, but it would have been news to any of the friends and neighbors present that Messiah has been identified. Prophesy is directed for the benefit of others. This is a declaration that the Lord’s salvation is at hand. That Messiah is come. Zechariah is the first to publically proclaim to the sons and daughters of Israel that Messiah has come.
Definition of Lord’s Salvation
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that 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 our days … whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Salvation is both tangible and spiritual. Zechariah is prophesying that the coming of the Messiah will in fact save Israel from her enemies. The Jews were looking for (and still are looking for) the peace of God to reign within their nation. The events of this weekend remind us that peace has not yet come to the house of Israel. They are still seeking the peace, not yet having understood that the promise given to Abraham would deliver all whom are children of Abraham by faith. Some day peace will come through the House of David, that we all might rest from our enemies. Yet beyond the tangible effects of salvation, the deliverer would give light to those who sit in darkness and guide our feet in the way of peace.
Salvation is both from and to something. We are delivered from the hand of our enemies to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness. We are not only rescued from darkness, but also have our feet guided in the way of peace. You not just saved from something, you are saved to something.
Dedication of the Lord’s Servant
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God,
Set’s the scene for the next few chapters of Luke and answers the question found in the mouths of people in the hill country of Judea, “what then will this child be?” If John is the prophetic forerunner of Jesus, Zechariah here is the prophetic forerunner of John.
- He will go before the Lord to prepare his ways. (as the Angel said)
- To give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of sins.
- To testify to the sunrise from on high.
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.