Jilly, my lovely wife pointed out to me the power of two in this story. To my mind it’s a great thought. You’ve got Zechariah and Elizabeth backing each other up as they take their stand on God’s truth (57-66). ‘’It’s better to have a partner than go it alone…And if one falls down, the other helps…’’ The Message (from Ecclesiastes 4).
When the Holy Spirit is active, doing a ‘new thing’, he may cut across cherished traditions. There was nothing inherently wrong with naming the son after the father (traditions aren’t necessarily sinful). But this new day required a new approach. God was doing something new and the ‘new wine’ required a ‘new wineskin’. At times, those who seek to keep in step with God’s Spirit will find that they have to be prepared to go against the norm, the accepted ways of doing things (61). People, almost by default, have a tendency to question change and even resist it. But if the Lord has given us insight into what He is doing we must be prepared to stand with Him against the tide of public opinion. There comes a time to say, as it were, ‘’His name is John’’. Here is something that is no longer up for grabs because God has revealed His mind on it. We know what He thinks, and though the entire world should be moving in the opposite direction, we will stick with God. For every believer, there comes a time to firmly take our stand and say, ‘I believe this is how it is because God says this is how it is!’ (I would add the point from verse 66, that people may well notice when ‘’the Lord’s hand’’ is with someone, but that won’t necessarily make them popular.)
Looking at (63, 64), you see something of the liberating power of obedience to God. It does not bring you into slavery. Well, in one sense it does; yet in slavery to Christ there is true freedom. The hymn writer, George Matheson, captured something of the paradox when he wrote, ‘’Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.’’ When Zechariah firmly took his stand on what God had revealed, he was ‘’Immediately’’ set free.
The ‘Magnificat’ of Mary (46-55) and the ‘Benedictus’ of Zechariah (68-79) share this feature in common that both express continuity with the Old Testament. Yes, God was doing something new; but He wasn’t going off at a tangent. Everything that was now about to happen in the ‘new’ was a fulfilment of the ‘old’. For a time, I went once a week to pray with the clergy at a local Anglican church. We shared some beautiful liturgical prayers, and these words of Zechariah were at the core of every prayer time. We always stood for this part. I couldn’t help but feel that there was something especially powerful about words that reminded us that Jesus came into the world in fulfilment of prophecy, and that He came for ‘’the forgiveness of…sins’’ (77).
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the amazing way the Bible hangs together.