On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
Then they made signs to his father to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
The name “John” means “The Lord is gracious” or “The Lord shows grace.”
Why do you think it was important that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son be named John?
In Luke 1:17 Zechariah was told that John would “bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God” and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” How might understanding or seeing God’s grace make us ready to turn our hearts toward him?
Can you identify the last time you were astonished or awed by an expression of God’s grace in your life? What was your response?
Father, let me see your grace. Keep my heart ready and free my tongue to praise you. If you need to shut my mouth and make me silent, do it. If you need to bring me low or break my heart, do it, Lord. Do whatever it takes if I turn away from you. Prepare the way by your grace for my return.
When [Zechariah’s] time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown me his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
During this time, priests were required to serve for one week at the temple every six months.
What must it have felt like for Zechariah to receive the news that he and his wife would have a son, but then finish out his service time at the temple instead of being able to go home immediately?
How must Zechariah and Elizabeth have responded when they learned that she was pregnant?
How quick am I to attribute good things that happen to me to the Lord’s favor upon me as opposed to my own effort, “good luck,” or coincidence? Does it matter?
As I look back over my life, are there any “disgraces” that I can see God has taken away or from which he has saved me?
Oh, God, I want to be a person who recognizes your favor upon me. I could identify a hundred times you have poured out your favor. There are the unexpected little things you have blessed me with that I can’t imagine you would spend your time on, but you did. There are the impossible things that you accomplished that just make me shake my head and fall to my knees in awe and humility. Oh, and the things you have saved me from, Lord! Some I know, some I’ll never know. Thank you, you have done these things for me. Thank you.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Herod the Great ruled over, among other places, Judea and Galilee from 37-4 B.C. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were both in Judea. Priests during this time were required to keep incense burning on the altar in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem. To be the one to enter the Most Holy Place and supply fresh incense for the morning and evening sacrifices would have been a distinct privilege and a priest could only be chosen once in his lifetime to fulfill this role. As a priest, Zechariah would have been very familiar with Mosaic law and the prophecies about the coming Messiah.
What words come to mind as I think about what Zechariah and Elizabeth must have felt as they reached old age and were unable to have a child?
If I were the one chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter into the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was palpable, how would I prepare to fulfill my duties?
What could I do to prepare my heart and my mind before I approach God in prayer?
Lord God, sometimes I feel so disappointed and discouraged when things do not go the way I expect or want. I wonder if you are really present, hearing the deep cries of my soul. Remind me, Lord, of your majesty and greatness as I approach you in prayer. Help me to remember all the ways you have blessed me, from my first breath to the moment I woke up today. I cannot wait to encounter you today, Lord.