The days were dark and difficult for the Jewish people. While Herod the Great ruled with his iron fist, the voice of God, last heard four hundred years earlier, remained silent. Even then, God’s remnant remained faithful. “In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years” (Luke 1:5–7).
Aging and childless, the old couple was not unlike Abraham and Sarah, or Isaac and Rebekah, or Samuel’s or Samson’s parents. Hopes of bearing a son slipped farther and farther away with each passing day.
As Zechariah performed his priestly duties in the temple, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. 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. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people’ ” (Luke 1:11–17).
Caught off guard, the old priest responded with a mixture of faithlessness and fearfulness, “How can I know this? ... I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years. The angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen. You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time” (Luke 1:18–20).
When “the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth ... she had a son ... When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father ... So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him” (Luke 1:57–66).
“Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and provided redemption for his people... And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord
to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:67–79).
Thank you, Lord, for bringing Light to those who live in “darkness and the shadow of death!” ...for guiding us “into the way of peace!”
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.