Title: The birth of John the Baptist
Scriptures to Read: Luke 1:57-80
Zechariah’s punishment is lifted because of his act of obedience
A theme that will develop in this course is “what happens to the herald will happen to the King.” The day of John’s circumcision and naming comes, on the 8th day as it is even until modern practice. It is now called Bris, or Brit Milah. It was the Jewish practice of the day, and even in some sects today, that the child must be named after a family member. The rabbi who is doing the circumcision (the mohel), gets ready to name the child after the father, but Elizabeth states “his name is John.” The rabbis make signs to Zechariah. Why is that? Making signs not only shows that Zechariah was unable to speak, but that he was also unable to hear. Zechariah confirms the name, which is an act of obedience, and so the punishment that was placed on him is lifted.
The prophetic utterance of Zechariah and the covenants
He is filled with the Holy Spirit and gives prophetic utterance. Zechariah’s prophecy recognizes the fulfilment of three covenants:
1. In Luke 1:69, the Davidic Covenant
2. In Luke 1:73, the Abrahamic Covenant- Read Luke 1:72, the second part, and note that taken with verse 73 we see “God remembers His Oath,” the combination of Zachariah’s and Elizabeth’s names in Hebrew. This play upon their names is a part of the prophecy.
3. In Luke 1:77, the New Covenant
John will be like the morning star that proceeds the Son of Righteousness
The term “sunrise” or “dayspring” means the rising sun and it refers to Malachi 4:2, to the “Sun of Righteousness“. The picture is that just as the morning stars signal the coming of day, even so Yochanan will be like the morning star that will proceed the coming of the Son of Righteousness. This statement will benefit two groups of people in verse 79: “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Notice the change in pronouns. The “those” are the Gentiles who sit in darkness. They did not have the divine revelation of Scripture and Messiah as being the light to the Gentiles. Isaiah twice describes the Messiah as the light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). The “our” refers to the Jewish people (v 80).
John the Baptist remains in the wilderness until his public ministry
We don’t know when John’s life in the desert began, but perhaps one reason for it was to separate him from the Judaism of that day. We will see how that could be important later in this course.