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Foundation Truth, Number 21 (Summer 2008) | Timeless Truths Publications

“His Name Is John”

In the first chapter of Luke, we are told of Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth. They were an example of what a couple should be. “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”* (Luke 1:6) This was a beautiful testimony of lives lived as lives should be lived, but God had also given them a great trial. “They had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.”* (Luke 1:7) In this day and time, barrenness is not necessarily regarded with the grief experienced in other times, but we can be sure that Zacharias and Elisabeth had been devastated by it. Their community valued children as a true gift from God, and barrenness was mourned and lamented. Furthermore, the existence of the entire Israelite nation was the result of the miraculous birth of Isaac in the old age of Abraham and Sarah (just as the existence of Israel after the spirit is the result of the miraculous birth of Jesus of a virgin).

We are certain that Zacharias and his wife had fervently prayed that God would give them a child for many long years. But it seemed that God had ignored their earnest supplications, and finally the natural biology of womankind exerted itself, as God has designed, and it ceased to be with Elisabeth after the manner of women. What a time that must have been for this God-fearing, loving couple! At this point in the story, we find some of the marvelous story “in between the lines,” which is undeniably there, yet is not told directly. We know it was there because of the penalty applied to Zacharias for his unbelief (Luke 1 20). We see that God expected him to believe; and, since God is always fair and just, we realize that there had been promptings, preparations, which were given to the brother for the purpose of helping him to not be afraid of the angel’s promise. And we find this pattern verified over and over in the Word of God. Even the most outrageous expectations of faith are reasonable service, after all, because God goeth before His own and winnoweth their path.

So, although we are not told in detail of God’s preparation of Zacharias, we can be sure that it happened because God is faithful. Zacharias was expected to believe, and the first thing the angel said was, “Fear not.”* (Luke 1:13) He said this because Zacharias was troubled and fear fell upon him. The reaction of the brother seems very natural to us. If he had not had the power of speech removed from him as a result of his unbelief, we would feel that he was entirely justified in his reaction. We observe in passing through this story that many are struck dumb with respect to something God has for them because of unbelief. They can still talk in a general way, perhaps, but they have no testimony in the trial God has appointed them. They just don’t have it. They just didn’t get it.

The good news is that Zacharias profited by his affliction. It was a chastening of the Lord for his profit, and he got the profit. When family pressure arose to name the child according to custom (and how strong an influence is human custom and tradition!), then both Brother Zacharias and Sister Elisabeth resisted and resisted successfully. We are given the details.

“Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.”* (Luke 1:57-61)

How many things are done for this reason! “I don’t know anyone else who sees this as you see it.” This avoids the all-important question of whether the matter is right or wrong. And, since they were unable to convince the mother of the need of respecting the ways of men (and what is wrong with naming him after his father?), they tried the father.

“And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.”* (Luke 1:62-63)

“His name is John.” This ranks right up there with the blind man’s statement, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see,”* (John 9:25) and many other hotly-contested stands for truth. Brother Zacharias had learned the lesson. God is always right, and I am going to do it God’s way regardless of the cost. The lesson is well worth the tuition. See also Proverbs 3:5-7.

“And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”* (Luke 1:64) We see that God took no pleasure in the dumbness affliction of His child (Lamentations 3:33), and just as soon as the lesson was completely mastered, God removed the affliction. The kinfolk test was the final part of the trial necessary to accomplish the purpose. We see immediately that the parenting of Brother John the Baptist and many others things depended on this mother and father getting the lesson that God had for them; and so it is with us.

How carefully and diligently our heavenly Father works with each of His children to mold us and shape us to the holy pattern! “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”* (Isaiah 30:18) “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”* (2 Corinthians 6:1)