Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David.
These are Zechariah’s first words spoken after a long silence. Nine months earlier, the angel of the Lord had appeared to him and told him that his wife Elizabeth, who was as elderly as Zechariah and well beyond child-bearing years, was going to have a baby. It was something for which Zechariah had prayed, but something for which he was not prepared. This child, the angel said, was to be called John and he would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16).
“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years,” Zechariah replied (v. 18). He found it hard to believe. Perhaps the prayer that was now being answered was one he had prayed many years earlier, when he was a much younger man. Perhaps a prayer he had given up on long ago and he no longer had any expectation for it. But now, suddenly, here it was finally being answered and Zechariah did not know what to say, so he said it — and spoke his unbelief.
This answer to prayer was too precious to be squandered away — it carried too great a promise — so the angel of the Lord did Zechariah a kindness and shut his mouth for him. Zechariah would be unable to speak for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. That gave him a good long while to think about his prayer for a child, the promise of the angel, and the faithfulness of God. Over those months, his faith grown cold warmed once again and a new hope began to arise within him. It was a gift from God.
Finally the child was born — a son. Friends and family thought he should be named Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth spoke up and said, “No, he shall be called John.” A bit of a commotion followed because there was no one among the relatives who was named John. So the friends and family made signs to Zechariah — apparently, because he was silent, they figured he must also be deaf — about what to name the child. Zechariah motioned for a tablet and wrote, “His name is John.”
Suddenly he found that he could speak again and he began praising God. Everyone now began to wonder about this child whose life had already been marked by miracles. Then Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to prophesy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people …”
Zechariah now realized that God was doing a mighty thing for His people, something that would change the whole world, and that somehow … somehow it had something to do with the birth of his son. And that filled him with great expectation, which came out of his mouth as prophesy. It is recorded in Luke 1:68-79 and has been prayed every morning since the early centuries of the Church. (We’ll look at more of it in the next post.)
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles
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