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The Birth of John Pt. 2 (Luke 1:57-80)



Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.

 

As we have seen in the previous sections of our study together in Luke’s gospel, both Mary and Elizabeth are now pregnant and Elizabeth is at the time of giving birth. One of the first fundamental lessons that I want us to take from this passage, is that when God speaks the words of a promise, they will come to pass as he told them. Elizabeth was promised to have a son and he would be the forerunner to the Lord in making his pathway ready for the coming kingdom.


The text says, "Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.” Exactly what God had promised and what she was expecting. God blesses Elizabeth in her old age with a son.

 

Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

 

When your neighbors or relatives have good news to share, how do you respond? When Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives heard about baby John's coming, they began to rejoice with her because of the great mercy God bestowed upon her.


The birth of a child is certainly an opportunity to demonstrate the power and might of God. When you hold a newborn baby and realize that God formed him or her in their mother's womb, it is an amazing blessing from His hand. On this occasion, the birth of John was a time for rejoicing at the Lord’s work in bringing him to have life. How do we react when we see the mercy of God in our lives?

 

And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, "No indeed; but he shall be called John." And they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name." And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, "His name is John." And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue {loosed}  and he {began} to speak in praise of God.

 

The eighth day after the birth of a child was the customary Jewish day to circumcise them according to the law. This was generally an event to which friends and family would gather to be a part. Since circumcision was binding on those who wanted to be a part of the Jewish people of God, this was a significant time in their lives. While circumcision is not a requirement of God to be one of His people today, have you done what is necessary to be one of His children? Have you been spiritually circumcised? According to Paul the circumcision of the heart happens when we obey the gospel in baptism and our old man of sin is removed from us (Col. 2:11-14; Gal. 6:15-16).


This eighth day is also the day the child’s name would be announced. The text says, “they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father”. We all know from the earlier portions of Luke chapter 1, that the child was to be called, “John” according to the angel's commands from God. Elizabeth, John’s mother, said, "No indeed; but he shall be called John." 


It was a custom in the Jewish family (and still is in some families today) to name a child after a relative. That is why the people responded, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name." What seemed to be the breaking of a custom, was an act of obedience to the word of God. Since the people who had gathered were not comfortable with Elizabeth’s response, they turned to Zecharias to get his decision on naming the child.


Remember that Zecharias was unable to speak up until this time. He had been made mute after his disbelief of the words of the angel in the announcement of his wife’s conception. Do you think he would make the mistake of unbelief again? NO! After the people had made signs to him regarding the name of this newborn child, he called for a pen and writing tablet [wax covered piece of wood] and wrote, "His name is John." 


The text reveals that the people were astonished. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this. When the Lord tells us what to say or do regarding naming a thing or accomplishing something for Him, what do we do? When Jesus came and set up His church, why do people want to call it by the name of another man (Matt. 16:18)? We should be the Lord's church. Why do so many people today want to call the name of the faith by a name that is nowhere founded in the word of God (Acts 11:26)? We should be called Christians. When God calls something a sin, and the world tries to change what is wrong into something right how do we respond? Are we going to speak as the oracles of God (I Pet. 4:11 [“speak where God has spoken”]), or are we going to allow the world to mold our views on these various issues? Look at this in general, and ask, “What do we do in any situation, where the Lord has instructed us about what we should do?” Do we obey or give in to the desires of the world? Think about this because we are put in this situation more than we like to accept!


The Bible then tells us that after Zecharias revealed the name, “John”, his mouth was opened and he could speak again. The first words out of his mouth were words of praise to God. Our mouths need to be praise-filled for the Lord since He has done many wonderful things for His people. The psalmist David once exclaimed in Psalm 51:15,


“O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare your praise.”

And another psalm of David stated,


“Thus I have seen you in the sanctuary, to see your power and your glory. Because your loving kindness is better than life, My lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips (Ps. 63:2-5).

Indeed this was a joyful time for Zacharias and Elizabeth as not only had they been blessed with a child and were no longer barren, but they were also the parents of the forerunner to the Messiah, Jesus. We need to offer up continually a mouthful of praise to God today, for all He has done (See Heb. 13:15).

 

Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, "What then will this child {turn out to} be?" For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

 

After Zacharias confirms that the child born to him and his wife would be called “John”, and he praised God for his blessings, fear came upon the people living around them. Remember that Zacharias was seen as one with paralysis in his tongue. Now he speaks, and the people knew something was happening that was God sent. The fear mentioned here, is defined by Strong’s dictionary as, "phobos (fob'os); from a primary word phebomai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright”, and it represents a true terror inside of someone. It is the word from which we get “phobia”…a fear of something.


People who knew of these events were talking about them everywhere in Judea. When people heard about these things, they could not forget them, but they remained as images burnt on their minds. They were saying, "What then will this child {turn out to} be?" They knew that the Lord was certainly with him and that something great was transpiring.


Do we have a fear for the Lord today, like we should? Some of us need to renew our fear so we will properly show respect for the Lord (Psalm 33:8-12). Others need to realize the terror of the Lord and be persuaded to come to Him in obedience, before the final judgment (Matt. 10:28; II Cor. 5:11). Do we talk about the Lord and what He has done for us? If not, perhaps this is a reason we lack people who are repenting in fear. Perhaps this is the reason that the gospel message has not been sounded forth in the world like it should be today.


To answer the question regarding what this child would turn out to be, we can safely say that John would be the forerunner to the Messiah, Jesus. His work would be significant and necessary to prepare people for the coming of a Savior.

 

And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: "Blessed {be} the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant-- As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-- Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, and FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US; To show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

 

-Zacharias begins this next section of our text with his prophecy, as he is filled with the Holy Spirit. He blesses the Lord as he reveals that the Lord has accomplished redemption for His people. Redemption was not yet complete but God’s scheme of redemption would be accomplished.


He says, "Blessed {be} the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant-- As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old…” Zacharias declares here that the events unfolding before the eyes of the people are to be a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that was promised to the house of David. These prophecies spoke of a Savior who would offer salvation to the world (See Ps. 89:20-29; Jer. 33:15-17). The Lord has spoken these things since the world began (Gen. 3:15).


Some of the promises that God made of old were, “Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, and FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US; To show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” Many people who had heard these prophecies were looking for physical fulfillment (a literal king or ruler who would solve political problems and destroy all their enemies).


God was going to save His people from their enemies and from the hands of those who hated them by giving them a victory over evil in His Son Jesus. We are never offered the freedom from ills suffered on this earth, nor are we guaranteed that our enemies will not take our physical life. What we are promised is that even if we suffer and die at the hands of our enemies, we will have eternal life if we are faithful to our God in His service (Rev. 2:10). God will destroy our enemies with righteous indignation and wrath (II Thess. 1:7-10). God will show mercy to us after we have shown mercy to others and have obeyed His holy and Divine will. God’s hand can be upon us and he will remove our enemy's hand (vs. 66, 71)


When God rescues His people from the turmoil of sin, they are to serve before Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness, every day. Now, let’s make this personal and ask, “If you have been delivered from sin and are victorious in Christ, how are you doing with serving the Lord every day in holiness and righteousness?” OR “If you have not returned to the Lord, and you know you can’t serve Him without fear because of your sin, then why do you continue in sin knowing that the outcome is not a victory for you, but rather an eternal loss?” (Phil. 3:17-21).

 

"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people {the} knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

 

Zacahrias speaks to John by the Holy Spirit and says, "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS…” This prophecy comes in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 40:3-5, which states,


“A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see {it} together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken'" (See also Mal 3:1; 4:5).

Just as Jesus would be the Son of the Most High, John would be the prophet of the Most High who would prepare the way for the Lord Jesus to come. The words that John would speak would accomplish the following, “To give to His people {the} knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace." While the Law made the people knowledgeable of sin, God had a plan for making people knowledgeable of salvation. He would offer them the forgiveness of sins and teach them of their Savior. This would be a revelation of light to the people and cause them to come to the Lord. The sunrise is not necessarily referring to Jesus, the Son of God, but to the message of hope and redemption that would come because of Him (Isaiah 9:1-7; 60:1-3). Darkness is representative of sin in this text, and the knowledge of salvation in Christ is the light that will overcome that darkness if people come to the light (See John 3:19-21; Rev. 22:16). Have you come to the light and had your deeds exposed, that you might be forgiven of your sins? (See also Matt. 4:12-17)


One final thing that John would accomplish is to reveal the Lord, who would guide our feet into the way of peace. That peace is found in Jesus, whom John was going to prepare the way for (See Eph. 2:11-22). Barnes said about this path of peace, “The figure in these verses is taken from travelers, who, being overtaken by night, know not what to do, and who wait patiently for the morning light, that they may know which way to go. So man wandered. So he became benighted. So he sat in the shadow of death. So he knew not which way to go until the Sun of righteousness arose, and then the light shone brightly on his way, and the road was open to the promised land of rest-- to heaven.”.  Amen.

 

And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”

 

-The text continues regarding John, “And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” John was preparing for his ministry to God and was growing physically and spiritually strong. He dwelt in the desert until he was to appear before the people of God with his message of hope in the coming Savior. Are you prepared for the coming of Jesus? How can I help? Please reach out if you need spiritual guidance.

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