He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God (Luke 1:15b-16 CSB).
Excitement undoubtedly filled the hearts of Zechariah and Elizabeth, because this was to be a special day. Zechariah the priest had been chosen by lot to offer incense before the Lord in the temple. He boldly entered to do what the law covenant required, and at that moment his life, and the lives of all people began to change, for the Lord was about to make a joyful announcement. But Zechariah knew nothing about God’s message until he entered the temple. The Lord often surprises people when he steps into their lives by his grace. Can you remember when God came to you with a powerful, joyful message? What did he experience when God spoke to him that day?
- Zechariah was startled and afraid when he saw the angel next to the altar of incense (1:12). We all can understand his fear. Who hasn’t felt alarmed when someone suddenly pops out of hiding? Plus, this was a messenger from the heavenly realm. We’re not accustomed to receiving spiritual visitors. Zechariah is not to be blamed for his reaction.
- Zechariah heard that his prayer had been answered (1:13). His prayer was to have a son. To have children was very important for God’s people under the law covenant. Since Zechariah was a priest, it was not a matter of passing an inheritance in the Promised Land unto his son, but it was a sign of God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 28:1-4; Psalm 127:3-5). The angel told him that Elizabeth, who had been barren, would be blessed and bear a son, whom they were to name John.
- Zechariah received information about caring for his son (1:14-15). The birth of John would signal the start of the new covenant age. Not only the happy couple find delight in their son, but many people will rejoice because of his birth. The kingdom of God is a matter of joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 NIV) and the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). The time of the promise of the Spirit was about to arrive, and the Spirit comes to produce life (Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). At the end of the old covenant age, John was to be consecrated to God like a Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-4). The Holy Spirit would fill John from his mother’s womb to do the work that God had called John to do.
- Zechariah learned the mission of his son (1:16-18). John would be the promised forerunner of the Lord Messiah (Malachi 3:5; 4:5-6; Isaiah 40:3-5). The I AM, Yahweh, was about to come to his people and to enter the temple. John’s task would be to call the people out to the wilderness of a new Exodus, that the Lord himself would accomplish (cf. Luke 9:31). He was to seek a turning or repentance in the hearts of the people. This would involve a restoration of relationships among the people and to wisdom, as in the book of Proverbs. When the Lord himself stepped on the scene, there would be people ready to follow him (cf. John 1:35-51).
So then, Zechariah received exciting news! A new era in the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ was about to begin. He ought to have worshiped joyfully. We who have heard the good news should be filled with joy, because the Anointed Savior and Lord has come. But are we? Or do other concerns fill our hearts? Are we ready for the return of our Lord? Read Luke 12:35-40.
Grace and peace, David