GOD SHARES HIS HEART WITH ALL WHOSE HEARTS ARE TURNED TO HIM
“’The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” – Malachi 3:1 –
400 years of silence… God had not spoken through His prophets to His chosen people since the anointed prophet Malachi four centuries earlier. Malachi prophesied that a Redeemer would come. The Old Testament prophecies all pointed to the long-awaited Messiah. Where was this Promised Hope of Israel? Would God’s people be ready for Him when He arrived?
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” – Malachi 3:1
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” – Isaiah 40:3
These prophecies speak of a messenger of God… a prophet like the great prophet Elijah… who will herald the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist is this messenger who will clear the way for the coming Christ, turning hearts back to God. This prophet will initiate a spiritual renewal… convicting people of their sins and exhorting them to repent.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is the first person privileged to learn of the imminent arrival of the Messiah. The long-promised One’s incarnation… His entrance into human history… is an event anticipated by all creation. Yet this plan of the ages is first revealed to Zechariah, a humble man of God.
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are “righteous in the eyes of God” (Luke 1:6). Their hearts are loyal and turned toward Him. They are faithful in following all His laws and decrees. Yet they are without children.
“Do not fear, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John…. he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” – Luke 1:13, 15
One day, Zechariah receives by lot the most honored duty of any priest… to enter the temple’s Holy Place and offer incense before the Lord. While performing this privileged task, he is approached by the archangel Gabriel. The angel shares the good news with him that he will soon have a son, one anointed by God…
“He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born… and he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1:15, 17
Imagine how this devoted priest must have felt to learn such incredible news… a profound revelation and prophecy from the Lord Himself through His angel. Zechariah ponders this cherished message: the Messiah is coming at last… and a son of his own will herald the arrival of the Christ Jesus… preparing the way before Him.
Yet Zechariah’s faith falters. How could he have a son? For he and his wife are well past the age to bear children. Although he doubts the angel’s promise from God that seems impossible, he does not let his doubt quench his faith or hinder his obedience.
Because of his disbelief in the angel’s words, Zechariah is left unable to speak. Even as his faith wavers for a time, soon thereafter, when his wife comes to be with child, his faith surely soars. Upon the birth of his son, Zechariah is asked what the new child’s name is to be. In faithful obedience to God, he unhesitatingly writes “John”. Immediately, he regains his speech and proclaims the glory of God.
God saves His deepest and greatest revelations for those who love Him and are closest to Him. When we seek to love and obey our Lord… when our hearts are turned toward Him… He will open His heart to us. Our faith may at times waver. Yet our doubts are never to quench our obedience and our faith in the One who is always faithful.
Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, pours forth with a beautiful prophecy of praise… a prophecy given to this humble priest expressly from God… a prophecy known as Zechariah’s Song…
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember His holy covenant, the oath He swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” – Luke 1:68-75
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” – Luke 1:76-79