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Monday, December 16, 2013

Learning from Zacharias

The Christmas story in the gospel of Luke begins with another miracle child, John the Baptist. He was the child of Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth. This birth was announced by the angel Gabriel, just as Jesus’ birth was announced. Only this time, the father got the message.

Zacharias was a priest. The Jewish priests were Levites. So, Zacharias’ job was to serve God in the Temple in the way God prescribed. We’re told that Zacharias and his wife were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:6).

They only had one problem: they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years (1:7). They had no children. I find it interesting that God let us know, through inspiration, that it was Elisabeth who wasn’t able to have a child. In that culture—indeed in many cultures—a woman’s ability to have children defined her worth. This is a woman who couldn’t have children. Maybe it’s because God wanted to do something special that was much greater than giving them a child.

Zacharias was in the Temple, doing exactly what he was supposed to do in the way God had ordered it. He was burning incense (symbol of prayer going up to God), and an angel appeared to him on one side of the altar. Zacharias was afraid, and the angel said what many angels in Scripture say: Fear not, Zacharias (1:13). Obviously, as Zacharias offered prayers for the people, he offered his own.

The angel tells him, thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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 (1:13-17).

This baby was going to be very, very special indeed. I think it’s amazing that even his diet is prescribed from before his conception. What a curious concept—that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb! This is a special baby.

Zacharias then shows his humanity. He wants to know “how.” And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years (1:18).

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings (1:19). God had sent His messenger to Zacharias, and he was not to doubt. He would pay a price for doubting: And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season (1:20).

In the meantime, the people outside are wondering why Zacharias hasn’t come out yet. Then, when he did, he couldn’t speak. They perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple (from 1:22).

After he went home, his wife became pregnant. Elisabeth says, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men (1:25). She must have been thrilled. She would finally be a mother, finally having a place among the mothers of Israel.

Somewhat later, Mary gets her own message of a miracle Baby. Hers would be the only Baby in all time, born of a virgin, born without a human father, and He would be the Savior of mankind. She went to visit her cousin Elisabeth, who by now was six months pregnant.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord (1:41-45).

What a wonderful scene! Mary already knew Elisabeth was expecting, because the angel Gabriel told her. I love that Gabriel’s announcement ends, with God nothing shall be impossible (1:37).

I love the next scene in this story. The baby has been born, and on the eighth day, Zacharias and Elisabeth go to the Temple for the baby’s circumcision and naming. The people there assume he will be named Zacharias after his father, and Elisabeth answers—since her husband can’t speak—Not so; but he shall be called John. Zacharias makes signs that he wants to write, and they furnish him with what he needs. Zacharias wrote: His name is John. The people marveled, and then Zacharias’ mouth was opened.

The first thing he did? Praise God.

What can we learn from Zacharias?
Do your job. Do it well and conscientiously.
Be blameless.
Be righteous.
Have a sweet relationship with your spouse in the good times and the bad.
When the Lord tells you something, don’t doubt it.
Obey God’s commands.
Enjoy God’s blessings and surprises.
Praise God. 


  1. Si es un buen ejemplo, la verdad es que no nos solemos fijar en todos los personajes que aparecen en la Biblia como secundarios. Eso nos enseña que todos por muy pequeños papeles que tengamos somos parte de algo que el Señor nos tiene preparado.


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