But the angel told him, “Stop being afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy, and many people will rejoice at his birth, because he will be great in the Lord’s presence. He will never drink wine or any strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring many of Israel’s descendants back to the Lord their God. He is the one who will go before the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and to prepare the people to be ready for the Lord.”
While burning incense at the altar, Zechariah was also praying. Reading that the angel told him that his prayers were answered, and that he would have a son that would pave the way for the Messiah, must have been an amazing feeling. What amazing news to hear and that Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord told him, left him speechless, because he did not believe the angel. It was not until the child was born that Zechariah was able to speak again. How many times has God blessed you, and left you speechless because you couldn’t believe it was happening? I know it has happened to me, but my faith in God’s words got me back on track. Zechariah’s doubt in the word given to him from God left him with consequences just like it does today.
In this scripture, the Lord said to name the child John or “loannes” which means “Jehovah is a gracious giver.” John’s name was given to him by God and not his human parents. In biblical days your name was extremely important and identified who you were and your character. This is why in the old testament our Lord changed so many names like Abram which means “high father” to Abraham which means “father of a multitude.”
John’s name was given power by the Lord and he was set apart for a special service for God. His father was told that he must not drink alcohol. This could be part of the Nazirite vow of consecration just like Samuel in Judges 13. The Lord had great plans for John and gave him the power of the Holy Spirit before he was even born. Just like Elijah paved the way for Elisha, John was to pave the way for Jesus Christ. What an amazing task to be given and what an honor it was to be compared with the great prophet Elijah. This is an honor because Elijah stood up to evil rulers and encouraged the people to turn away from sinning and turn their lives back to our Heavenly Father.
When the Lord told Zechariah that John would be recognized, it meant that his life would have purpose and his life would be a blessing to all mankind. Also when it was told that John would be great, this meant that he would be a distinguished preacher or speaker. He would be sanctified and guided by the very Spirit of God. What an amazing purpose to live your life for!
During the time of John the Baptist, the Jews were separated into many different sects or branches and a lot of them were at war with one another and others just hated their neighbors. John was called to unite his people and show them that they all had only one true master and that would be the coming Messiah.
The reason why I wanted to share so much detail about the background of John the Baptist in the beginning of the story is because he was always humble and never turned anyone away who wanted to know more about God. John knew his place in life and was content with his purpose. Many times in life we may feel that we are not where we need to be in life or our ministry. We may even feel that we deserve more and that is just our pride getting in our way. Please remember that our Heavenly Father never makes mistakes. Sometimes we are called to be like John to pave the way for another and plant the seeds for future generations to come. We never know who we are paving the way for next, so please be content with where God currently has you at this place and this time. Your life has a purpose and each and every one of us has been set apart for God. Each one of us is called to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us just like John the Baptist.
I pray that this lesson about John’s life helps you seek out your purpose and be humble enough to be happy with it. God bless you all!