Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 3 2020 - Luke 1:57-80 – The birth of John the Baptiser

The child born to Zechariah and Elizabeth was an answer to prayer. No doubt they had long asked for a child, though Zechariah’s disbelief seems to suggest he may have given up all hope. But he was offering incense in the temple when the angel told him that his wife was to have a child. The incense was a picture of the sweet prayers of God’s people ascending to him. And the offering of incense was accompanied by a praying crowd in the outer part of the temple. Many, no doubt, were praying that God would come again to redeem his people. God had heard the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the prayers of his people Israel.

When at last her child is born, Elizabeth’s relatives want him named after his father, but she wants him to be called John, which means, ‘The Lord is gracious’. Zechariah still cannot speak, but he takes up a writing tablet and writes on it, "His name is John." At this Zechariah can speak once more and his first words expressed blessing to God.

What God had done for Elizabeth and Zechariah became the talk of their whole region as people asked one another “What then will this child be?” (Luke 1:66). But Zechariah has no doubts concerning this child’s future. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he pours out his praise to God in the form of a prophecy concerning this new-born baby. His song is full of the most wonderful imagery as it prophesies concerning John's ministry and of what God will do through the one for whom John is just the warm-up act. This is not only God's answer to the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth and of those who had been praying at the temple when the angel appeared to Zechariah, it is his answer to the cries of his people down the centuries, and his answer to the cries of a desperate world.

Zechariah recognises that the birth of this child marks the beginning of a new work of God. God is now remembering his covenant with Abraham (1:72-73). Promises which had seemed long forgotten will now be fulfilled. This child will prepare the way for the Lord to come to the rescue of his people (1:76). God is about to restore the kingdom to his people; John will herald a new king like David who will deliver God's people from their enemies (1:69-71). As in the days of the Exodus of old, God has come to rescue his people from slavery so that they might serve him in holiness and without fear (1:74-75). Yes, God is about to do a new thing through this child – and through the child whom Mary is carrying. It will be a new dawn as the mercy and grace of God flood a dark world with the light of his presence (1:78-79). Those upon whom this light dawns will know the salvation of the Lord through the forgiveness of their sins (1:77).

I used to drive eastwards in the morning on my way to work. A few miles from my home, the road took me up a steep hill overhung by trees and often gloomy and dark. As I came to the top of the hill, the rising sun hit me in the eyes and, as the road levelled out, the world before me was bathed in light. It was a dramatic experience, bringing home these images from Scripture.

God acts for the salvation of the world in response to the heartfelt prayers of his people. Today, as the sun rises around our suffering world, let us pray that many may know the Sun of Righteousness shining upon them and that they may know his healing power. A new day has dawned. We continue to live in the dawn of that new day. We long for the time when the Day shall shine in all its brightness and fullness.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Peter Misselbrook