Birth of John the Baptist

Elizabeth’s son was born amid much rejoicing, and eight days later was circumcised in accordance with the law of Israel. Circumcision was a minor surgical operation carried out on all Israelite baby boys, and was the covenant sign that Israel was God’s people. At this ceremony the child was usually given his name (Luke 1:57-60; cf. 2:21; Gen 17:9-14; Lev 12:3). When relatives tried to interfere in the naming of the child, Zechariah proved his obedience to God by insisting that the child be named John. In response God removed Zechariah’s dumbness (Luke 1:61-66; cf. v. 13, 20).

Zechariah then broke forth in a hymn of praise to God. His first words of praise were not for his son, but for the Saviour whom his son would announce. This Saviour was the Davidic Messiah and the redeemer of his people. In accordance with the covenant God made with Abraham, the Messiah would deliver God’s people from bondage so that they might serve him in reverence, holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:67-75).

As he turned his attention to his own son, Zechariah was reminded that John’s task was to lead people from darkness to light through repentance of their sins. In this way he would correct the false ideas people had of the Messiah and prepare the way for them to welcome him. A new age would dawn (Luke 1:76- 79). But before John could prepare others to receive the Messiah, he himself had to be prepared (Luke 1:80).

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