Luke 1:57-80: “The Birth of John the Baptist”
“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the LORD had displayed His great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her. And it came about on the eight day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias after his father. And his mother answered and said, ‘No indeed, but he shall be called John.’ They said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.’ They made signs to his father as to what he wanted him called. He gestured for a tablet, and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John,’ and they were all astonished.
“At once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, ‘What then will this child turn out to be?’ for the hand of the LORD was certainly with him.
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant, as He spoke by the mouths of His holy prophets from of old – Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being delivered from our enemies might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of God the Most High; for you will go on before the LORD to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
“And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:57-80, NASB).
One of the most precious moments in a young couple’s life is when they find out that they are going to be parents. They will purchase the necessary furnishings, choose a doctor, tell the family and their friends the good news, attend baby showers, time the trip to the hospital, and then comes the day of the baby’s arrival, signaling a new milestone in their life’s journey. This same type of rejoicing was also part of the household of Zacharias and Elizabeth as the story in Luke’s gospel continues.
Their prayers and respective devotion to God has been wonderfully rewarded. In their advanced years, they had been given the privilege of being the parents of the prophesied forerunner to the coming Messiah. This was a time of excitement and praise to God for this obvious and welcome miracle from His benevolent hand. This new life that has graced the home of this couple will grow up to be the vessel that will herald the coming Holy One of God, and that the nation needed to be prepared by having repentant hearts and hungry souls ready to take in what will be proclaimed by this Promised One.
There is, of course, the obvious joy of this birth (vv.57, 58). This joy was shared among friends, relatives, and the new parents. This period of bliss shows that God is interested in the affairs of all people and considers every life special and a moment to treasure. No one is a fluke or accident, and no baby deserves to have its life ended at the whim of selfish ambition or as a means of avoiding scandal and responsibility on the part of all those involved. The Scriptures are clear on how God views children.
Children are a gift given by God to parents and are the means of a continuation of the family (Genesis 33:5; Psalm 127:3-5; Proverbs 17:5). Children possess unique characteristics (1 Kings 15:11, 26; Genesis 25:27; Matthew 11:16-19), and have specific capacities (Matthew 21:15-16; Mark 10:13-16; 2 Timothy 3:15; Acts 2:39; Matthew 18:6; Ephesians 6;4; 1 Samuel 1;24, 28). Parents have obligations towards the development of their children (1 Samuel 1:22; Ephesians 6:4; Galatians 4:1-2; Luke 12;13-14). Likewise, children are expected to have responsibilities and obligations towards their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Hebrews 12:9; 1 Peter 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:4; Deuteronomy 30:2; Ecclesiastes 12:1).
As an obedient servant of the LORD, Zacharias took it upon himself to have his new son circumcised in accordance with the ordinance of God (Genesis 17:10-13). He affirmed to the people that the baby would not carry his name but the one given to him on the Word of God, and declared his name to be John, upon which he was given his speech back. He concluded the day of celebration with a blessing upon the child and the deserved praise and thanksgiving to God for what Zacharias correctly saw as the fulfillment of prophecy and the certainty of the coming acts of redemption for the people of Israel who had a true heart for God.
In Zacharias’ declaration, he presents the wondrous truth that throughout the history of Israel, even when their sins had come at tragic costs to themselves and the destiny of their nation, the LORD remained faithful to them. In verses 67-75, Zacharias reminds the people of what God has done for them. He has constantly visited them, redeemed them, provided them salvation and forgiveness, shown mercy, remembered His covenant with them, and declares that they should serve Him without fear, and maintain righteousness and holiness as part of their individual and national character.
In blessing his new son (vv.75-80), the aged priest states that John would be a prophet, the one to prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah, instill the knowledge of salvation to the people, confront and expose sin, provide the light of God’s righteousness, and be a spiritual guide to the remnant believers in Israel. John more than likely grew up hearing from his parents that he was chosen by God to deliver the message of the coming of the Promised One. It was probably after both his parents died that he left to dwell in the desert and wait for God’s appointed time to begin his ministry.
Great men and women of God through history may not have had as dramatic an introduction into the world as did John, but all of His servants, known and obscure, have been given gifts, strengths, talents, purposes, and places to bloom in order to accomplish His will, not only for their lives, but for the souls who would be impacted by their respective ministries and occupations. The key is to be available and obedient to His commands.