When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy,
and they shared her joy.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child,
and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,
but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.
He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote,
“His name is John.” …
All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea
people were talking about all these things.
Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking,
“What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
Points to Ponder:
As we learn in today’s passage of Scripture, the relatives of Zechariah and Elizabeth shared the joy of these parents at the miraculous birth of their son. Before much more than a week had passed, however, a rift erupted among them over what the baby would be named. In a culture where much importance was placed upon observing tradition, most Jewish children were given names that has been present within their family for generations. This method of naming children was considered to be a part of the social status associated with the family line.
This particular rift had the potential to place Zechariah and Elizabeth between a proverbial rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. On the one hand and as we saw earlier this week, Zechariah had received specific instruction from God’s messenger that he and Elizabeth “[were] to call his name John” (Luke 1:13). On the other hand and in their day, the use of a name not associated with themselves or any of their relatives could leave those relatives feeling perplexed and hurt – even to the point of feeling shame.
No matter how diligently followers of Christ may try to avoid them, the truth is that most of us have experienced times when we literally must choose to either obey the instruction of God or compromise our convictions in an effort not to offend friends or loved ones who give well-intentioned advice or hold differing views than we. All of us long for peace and harmony within our families, worship communities and friendships. It’s an admirable desire and one worthy of pursuit – unless the earthly pursuit of peace and harmony with people comprises our peace and harmony with God’s instruction. When this happens – no matter how minute the compromise may appear – we stand to open ourselves to the dire consequences of missing out on the best that God has in store for us and even for others.
Consider what might have happened had Zechariah and Elizabeth made the decision to change the name of their child from the appointed John. Certainly the couple could have rationalized that changing his name would be no big disaster; perhaps, in fact, John wasn’t their favorite name anyway. Or didn’t flow well with his surname.
Thankfully, it appears that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were mature enough in their relationships with God to know the benefit of active obedience to His word. Elizabeth, for example, is so firm in her faith that determined to see that God be glorified through this child. And Zechariah stands with her when the perplexed group looks to him to overturn the naming of John.
The steadfast obedience of the couple pays off in a way that leaves me mystified each time I think of its implications. The name John means the Lord is gracious. Think of this fact in light of these two miracles: in both the birth of John and the birth of Messiah we see firsthand the grace and glory of God breaking forth into a world that lies like a toy broken by sin and death, devoid of hope.
John’s miraculous birth in particular shows the mercy and favor of a loving God preparing his people for the birth of Christ our Messiah. As Christ-followers today who anticipate the second coming of this same Messiah, God strengthens our faith in His future promises in two ways. He has given us His printed Word as a testament to the acts and assurances He has already brought to fruition, and He graciously fills those who ask with a heaping dose of His Holy Spirit, who livens our faith as we look to His promises yet to come. One of God’s most fervent desires, in fact, is to fill Christ’s with His glory each and every day of our lives, just as He filled John, the joy of two of His obedient servants.
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
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Focus for Reflection:
Have you made your life, your family and your possessions an offering to God for His glory? If not, how might you go about doing this?
Does the committed obedience of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the naming of John – and the result of that commitment – in any way shape or reshape your commitment to obeying God’s word as you wait expectantly for Christ’s second coming? How so?
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