8 “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:8-15)
With the angel’s surprise appearance, God’s messenger also had a surprise announcement to give to the faithful and fervent priest.
The angel told Zechariah that his prayer had been answered. We presume that the prayer was for a child, even though the text does not explicitly say so. This is because what the angel continued to say to Zechariah. Elizabeth will bear you a son. What a miracle! The one whose barrenness was common knowledge will be delivered from her affliction.
Even the very sex or gender of the child was indicated by the angel. The name of the child will be John (Luke 1:59-63). This is a command from God. No discussion. John’s name means Yahweh has shown grace.
The angel then promised that Zechariah’s joy would be full and that he would have joy and gladness. Additionally, many people will rejoice at the birth of John. Through John’s ministry to multitudes, God will turn many from darkness to light. John would also be a prophet (Luke 7:29; Matthew 21:26-32).
Even more so, John would be great. How? He would be great in the sight of the Lord. “Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). He would not drink neither wine nor strong drink.
Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “This was a key element of the Nazirite vow (Num. 6:1–21) and would probably have been understood as such by Zechariah. Usually such a vow was temporary, but Samson (Judg. 16:17) and Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11) were subject to it from birth. The language here is reminiscent of the angel’s instructions to Samson’s parents (Judg. 13:4–7).”
He would also be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. He would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. The Lord will also go before Him In the spirit and power of Elijah in order to turn the heart of the fathers to the children (Malachi 4:5-6).
What a wonderful announcement. What was Zechariah’s response? That will be examined when next we meet.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!