Monday 23 December 2019

Bible Book:

'What will this child become?' (v. 66)

Luke 1:57-66 Monday 23 December 2019

Psalm: Psalm 97


This passage is drenched in traditional Jewish culture and piety.

Childlessness meant shame (Luke 1:24). A couple without a child (especially without a son) meant no blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5). In their great age (Luke 1:7, 18), the childless Zechariah and Elizabeth lived with a disgrace that was now beyond redemption.

Only a miracle of grace (a ‘great mercy’, v. 58) could change the plight of Zechariah and Elizabeth – as it had done for Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18). In this instance, God had acted through a promise from the lips of an angel (God’s messenger) while the priest Zechariah was on Temple duty. The eventual fulfilment of the promise was an occasion of great joy (Luke 1:14, 58).

Being thoroughly compliant with the law (Luke 1:7), Zechariah and Elizabeth have their son circumcised on the eighth day of his life (Genesis 17:12-14). It was the duty of the father to announce the child’s name.

The name given to a new-born typically followed family custom, to underscore continuity of identity. A novel name meant that a person had been granted by God a special vocation or character that was expressed in the new name (as happened to Abram and Jacob in Genesis 17:5 and 32:28).

However, Zechariah had been struck dumb, because his first response to the angel had been disbelief (Luke 1:19-20). He could communicate only in writing. To everyone’s surprise, he confirmed what Elizabeth had already suggested (though that did not count for much). The name was to be ‘John’ – a breach of family tradition. It means ‘God’s gracious gift’. Zechariah’s dumbness was now removed: he could join the chorus of praise (v. 64). But everyone was awe-struck. What could God possibly have in store for John (v. 66)?


To Ponder:

  • In our contemporary world, there are numerous options for adults to become parents when intercourse fails to produce a stable pregnancy, eg medical assistance, technology, surrogacy, fostering and adoption. From a Christian perspective, however a child is placed in the care of a couple, that child is a ‘John’, God’s gracious gift. How appropriately do families, local communities and churches celebrate every addition to a family’s life?
  • Many of us are hit hard at some point in our lives when deep longings and long-nourished hopes are dashed. In our disappointment or resentment, what ministry of the church has helped us? How may we use such experience to help dejected people today?
  • Have you ever thought that someone you know well is being called by God to a particular ministry? And if so, have you mentioned that possibility to them?
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