Promise of the birth of John
Luke 1:11-13 “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.
Extra Reading: Luke 1:5-25.
The story begins in the days of King Herod of Judea. This was Herod the Great, confirmed by the Roman Senate as king of the Jews but never accepted by the Jewish people as their king. Although Herod was half-Jewish, he was not part of the royal line of David. This was Herod who ordered a massacre of infants in a futile attempt to kill the infant Jesus. In the midst of all the happenings, there was an unknown priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. A Jewish priest was a minister of God who worked at the temple managing its upkeep, teaching the people the Scriptures, and directing the worship services. Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, was a descendant of Aaron. Both were known for their personal holiness (v.6) and they had no children. Children were considered to be God’s greatest blessings. Elizabeth was barren and both were getting old. As Zechariah discharged his daily duties in the Holy Place, an angel of the Lord appeared to him (vv11-13). This was not a dream or a vision; the angel was a royal herald of God. Zechariah became fearful. The angel said, “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.”
The angel came to deliver an important message. John means “the Lord is gracious”. Through the birth of this son, God was gracious to Zechariah and Elizabeth and ultimately to all people, for this son will prepare people’s hearts for the Messiah. John was to be set apart for special service to God. He may have been forbidden to drink wine as part of the Nazirite vow, an ancient vow of consecration to the Lord (Numbers 6:1-8). John was to encourage people to turn away from sin and back to the Lord their God. The angel explained to Zechariah that John would go before God in the spirit and power of Elijah, a great prophet who was known for not mincing words and for standing up to evil rulers (1 Kings 17-19; 2 Kings 2:9, 15).
Prayer: Father God, help us to repent of our own sins that hinders our relationship with you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.