Thursday, December 2, 2010

For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way

Luke 1:56-66 NLT  
  56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home. 
  57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son.  58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 
  59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” 
  61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.”  62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 
  65  Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. 

In ancient Israel, as in many eastern cultures the naming of a child is a very big event. It is not a private thing with the parents and the hospital records clerk as today. The whole family had a say in the child's name. And, a first born son was surly to be named after his father or a more significant grand father. The extended family was present for this 8th day circumcision celebration. The event was much like 'christening' ceremonies are or dedication ceremonies are in more modern western cultures. In fact those are most likely modeled after this old testament Jewish tradition.

You recall that Old Zechariah had been rather thoughtless and very "Jewish" in his conversation with Gabriel and dared to ask an Archangel to prove what he was saying was true. The consequence, the proof, if you will, came in making Zechariah speechless until the birth and naming of John. Sometimes we must endure challenges that we have called down upon ourselves when we don't fully and immediately trust and obey what God calls upon us to accept in His strength.

As the family members came to the part in the ceremony when they spoke the new baby's name, it was as though they would be speaking him into existence in the presence of the whole world. Normally it would be the dad who would speak this part but he was silenced by Gabriel. He humbly accepted his role and they asked Elizabeth to name the Baby. Everyone was expecting her to say 'his name will be Zechariah. But she said  firmly and with joy in her heart that his name is John! They couldn't believe their ears so they turned to the silent dad asking him. He had to write his answer to them, probably rather perturbed at them refusing to acknowledge his wife's pronouncement of the name. Someone produced a tablet and Zechariah wrote "His name is John."  Instantly his tongue was loosed because of his faithful obedience to God's plan. He started by praising God.

This turn of events made it clear to all present that this baby was more than just a very unusual child of old-age parents. He was announced by an angel, and it was told then that he would be a profit of the Most High and would be the one introducing the coming Messiah. That made John special and everyone knew it. Their comment was that "the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

That could be the way people speak about you or me when we are living in complete obedience to our Lord's will. God has promised that His hand will be upon us when we believe and obey. How about today? Can the hand of the Lord be upon you today in a special way?

Your Servant in Christ's Love

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