In my study on the book of Luke, I have come up with some thoughts that I wanted to process. First of all, I enjoy reading the gospel of Luke because of the insightful details that are highlighted in it. The main theme of this study is for me to take a deeper look at the life of Christ. However, all of the extra looks given on the life of John the Baptist have me fascinated with this little narrative.
Luke gives us more detail on the parents of John the Baptist than the other gospels. We find out that he is from a long family line of rich priestly heritage. His father Zacharias is a faithful and devout priest from the division of Abijah. Zach must have made his dad proud when he diligently trained and worked to enter into the priesthood. I believe his entire family was pleased when he found a wife from the daughters of Aaron. It was a requirement for a priest to marry from a pure Jewish lineage and Elizabeth being of priestly decent, was the ultimate catch!
From the start, things were looking really good for Zach and Liz. They were the ideal couple; young and giving themselves to the work of the Lord. He had a wife that came from a long line of ministers and understood what ministry life was to look like. I presume they were well liked in the religious community and were excited to raise a family and pass on these strong bloodline traditions to their children. They served whole heartily and probably expected for things to continue on just as it did before them.
However, it must not have been long after a year into their marriage when the rumors started swirling around. People in the community eventually started to question if Zach and Liz were really living righteous and holy lives before the Lord. What were they doing wrong? How could Zach bring such a bad name to his family line? Why is Elizabeth still barren? A few years became 10, then 20 and then 40 years, all the while this ‘curse’ was testing their marriage, ministry and social standing. I can only imagine the heart CRY from Zach and Liz as they walked down a road that was different than they had pictured.
The Lord had a superior plan in mind for this couple, He wasn’t looking to resume comfortable, ‘business as usual’ religion for them or His people. He promised deeper intimacy with His people and He was looking for a family that He could birth a forerunner to. He was looking for a family that could withstand the pressures on the outside and the pressures from within! He was watching their heart response over the decades in the midst of the trial and accusations. Would they still be obedient? Would they still serve? Would they still relate to the Lord? Would they still believe in His promises? He was looking for overcomers that could persevere and run the race with endurance.
We see that even when they were well advanced in years, “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” They overcame! They held fast to the faith! And just like Abraham and Sarah, in the midst of advanced years and bareness, God breaks in with His promise. He moves on the scene of impossible circumstances and brings forth life!
Quick pause – I found some significance in the meanings of their names – As they are intricately tied into the prophetic word!
Zacharias means: Yahweh Remembers
Elizabeth means: Oath of God
In an instance, there is a swirl of angelic and prophetic activity! It was like God broke in and said, “I REMEMBER, ZACHARIAS and I HAVE REMEMBERED MY OATH ELIZABETH”, “for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.” This was to fulfill their prayer and to continue to fulfill His oath. Then after 9 months of pregnancy, Elizabeth with John and Zacharias with the prophetic word, (remember Zach could not speak or hear for 9 months!) John is born and Zacharias speaks forth this word –
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them…
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68,73-75)
A great shift in history had taken place and Zach and Liz discerned this transition. They laid down their old dreams of raising a son in the religious environment that had been passed down to them. They laid down their reputation and stepped out into the deeper calling that the Lord encountered them with. John the Baptist was still going to be a priest unto the Lord but his parents brought him to the wilderness to intentionally fashion him to be a forerunner. Not so that he would be anti-social, estranged, or a mystical maniac – he was brought into the desert so that he could be focused on God –“to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all of (his) days.” We don’t know how much longer Zach and Liz lived after the birth of their son – but we do know that they made this radical decision so that their son would be able to recognize the Lamb of God when the time came.
I believe we are entering into another shift in history – will we see the signs of His coming? How will we recognize the Lamb of God? And what are we doing now to prepare for His second coming?