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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tremendous Faith Before John could be John

Tremendous Faith Before John could be John

Read Luke 1:57-66

Here we find Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, giving birth to John. Many people, neighbors and relatives heard about the birth and shared in her joy. This seems normal except for one thing. Elizabeth was not able to have children her whole life and now she was very old. Because of this, you can imagine that this birth was "relatively" famous in the area. The Bible says that the people "shared in her joy." This is important as we will see ahead. Now they are on the eighth day, the day of the circumcision. Many people were there and they were discussing what to name the child. Imagine being in a culture where your first son is everything to you. He gets your inheritance, leadership of the family, and is your namesake. The pride of any man at that time was to have a son in which he could pass on HIS legacy.

(If you read my Bible study post on Luke 1:1-25 "What can we learn from John the Baptist's father," you see that Zechariah lost his ability to speak for doubting God. We questioned if the purpose of this was so he would learn to "listen" better to his wife and to God?) (Also check my last post on Mary's Melody to see some discussion about pride and humility.)

Let me paint you a mental picture of the scene. The room is crowded with friends and family. They are all excited because of the miraculous birth of Zechariah's son. A son whom everyone assumed was never coming because of his wife's age and infertility. The son to whom Zach could finally leave his legacy. A son who would assume his duties in the family. A son who was his pride and joy. A son who would take the family name. (Go to Genesis 1:27-30. God has just given Adam rule over all the animals and living creatures on the Earth. Jump to Genesis 2:19-20. Here Adam is naming everything on Earth as a symbol of his rule over them; 'including Eve'.) …Back to the room… All the men are joyous and contemplating the new boy's name when out of the corner a woman yells, "NO!" See the room fall silent as everyone turns to her in astonishment. "Who does she think she is?” "Doesn’t she know her place?" For as we all know, women in that time, in that society, did not have the freedom and position to question the authority of men. Now see the whole room take their eyes off Elizabeth and turn in unison across the room to Zechariah to see what he would do about his insubordinate wife. Imagine Zach's face turning red as all eyes fall on him. What would he do?

Before we read what he did do, let's imagine what he would have done with the ability to talk... Remember the scene in the room, excitement, shouting over each other’s voices, joy at the new birth and fact that there is finally an heir to the family. Would he have scolded his wife in front of everyone? Would he have "put her in her place? We don't know, but maybe this very moment was the reason he had lost his ability to speak???

Instead of responding on impulse, he had to ask for a tablet to write his response. Thus giving him time to think, and maybe pray. As he is writing down the name John, he is doing much more than just giving the boy a name. It is like he is signing a contract where he is acknowledging that this boy belongs to God, not to him. (It was while praying that the angel of the Lord appeared to Zach and told him he would have a son and to name him John. (Luke 1: 11-13) John did not get to name “his” son after himself, as was the custom. He was instructed to give him a name that was nowhere in the family line. This may or may not seem significant today, but it was very much so in those days, as is evidenced by the people gathering to discuss his name earlier in the story. This son would not be “following in his father’s footsteps,” but rather he was market for great service to God. Zechariah knew all of this while he was writing down the name Jon. He must have remembered that for his whole life he had no son. It was only eight days ago that his son was born. It was only months earlier that there was any hope at all. He must have remembered that just a while ago he had been given the gift of a son. And he must have realized that he was not signing away his son, but acknowledging that God had plans for this boy and that he Zachariah the gift of being a part of that purpose.

Standing in that room, will all of those expectant, silent, eyes on him, he passed the tablet back with the name John written on it. What honor did he bring to God by doing this? What honor did he bring to his wife by publicly doing this? It took enormous humility and enormous faith. What kind of whiteness did this give for the people in the area? It says that everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” verse 65. What can we learn from this act of humility? Have we ever been given a gift from God and then clutched it with tight fists? Have we ever had selfish goals for that which was placed in our control for God’s purpose?

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