|Luke 1:57-80||Read Online|
So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: “His name is John.”
This time last year, we were busy picking out a name before the arrival of our new baby boy. Two of the most popular questions I fielded as I was expecting were the following: “What are you having?” Then this question usually was immediately followed up with, “What are you going to name him?”
We care about names. They’re important. It’s the first gift bestowed upon us as we make our arrival on the scene, and it will accompany us for all the days of our life.
For some families, there’s a tradition involved with naming the child after a family member. My husband is named after his grandfathers. I’m named after my mother’s favorite characters in the book Little Women.
For our son, we chose the name Scout—mainly because I read Numbers 13 while leading a Bible study about the godly, true leaders God wanted to scout out the Promised Land. When I read that, it confirmed our prayer for our son. We wanted him to always scout out where God was leading him and do his best to lead others there.
Names are important, and the story behind how someone gets their name is always a crowd-pleaser.
In the verses for today’s reading, we arrive at the naming of John the Baptist. If you recall from the reading on January 4, we discovered the beautiful account of how John’s father, a descendant from the priestly family of Aaron, received word from an angel of the Lord about his son’s name during his providential priestly assignment (see Luke 1:13).
At the circumcision ceremony of the baby, it was customary to make his name public before family and friends. In today’s reading, we also discover that it was assumed John would carry the name of his father, as was also the tradition. So imagine this beautiful moment to share with friends and family, when all of a sudden the family bucks tradition.
I feel for Elizabeth as the pressure of family and friends mounted. I can only imagine the frustration Zechariah felt as he’d been struck mute for the entire pregnancy. People looked to him to refute Elizabeth’s desire to name this baby anything other than after her husband. But Zechariah’s silence was broken after he wrote, “His name is John.”
So what’s so important about this name? In Hebrew John or Johanan signifies “graciousness,”and several commentaries state that it means“Jehovah is gracious.”
When this story broke into the news cycle for God’s people, they hadn’t heard a word from God in 400 years. Can you imagine? You and I just see a blank page from the last words in the book of Malachi until we turn to the first page of The New Testament. It’s hard to comprehend that from the last word in the book of Malachi, they lived through 400 years of silence from God.
Then, finally, all sorts of things began happening with this amazing series of events when a baby was born bearing the name: “Jehovah is gracious.” And since we’re already talking names, it’s not by chance at all that Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh remembers.”
Zechariah, filled of the Holy Spirit upon naming John, lives up to his name and begins praising the God who remembers in a prayer that’s known as “The Benedictus” (Luke 1:68-79).
His prayer praised Yahweh for remembering His oath and sending the Redeemer, and it prophesied regarding the ministry of John the Baptist. His son, John, would grow into a man and spend his days preparing the way for the Messiah, who was gracious to take away the sins of the world.
Today, as we focus on the miraculous account of God’s broken silence in the series of events that led to the naming of this child, let’s celebrate that our God lives up to His name! He STILL remembers His people. He still hears our prayers. And Jehovah is gracious and faithful to His promise to redeem.
- In Zechariah’s Spirit-filled prophecy, his prayer contains Old Testament references from Genesis to Isaiah to Malachi, reciting what God said and how it is coming true (Genesis 22:16-18, Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1). Why do you think God brought the Old Testament prophecies into this prophecy?
- How did family, friends, and neighbors react when they observed the Old Testament silence of God broken and were reminded that God’s at work?
- Can you think of a time in your life when you’ve experienced moments of silence from God? How does this account challenge and encourage you?
- As you reflect on names today, how does it impact you to know God lives up to His name? What are you going through that you need to remember that God (Immanuel) is with you?
- Reflect on Isaiah 43:1. The same God who bears the name Immanuel, is the same God that calls us by name. He wants desperately to call you His. Is there something in your life that you’ve claimed with your name that needs to bear His name? Spend time this day looking at your heart and life with Him. You can trust in His name.