Zechariah and Elizabeth have a son! This couple, who had been childless for SO many years, were finally blessed with a baby.
OH I have some questions for today! Let’s start off by backing up to the moment Zechariah came out of the temple. After he doubted what Gabriel told him he was “unable to speak” to the people and “he kept making signs to them and remained mute” (verse 22). When I looked at my bible helps, it tells me that the Greek word used in this verse can mean “deaf”, “mute” or both. We are not specifically told which of the three alternatives it was. So that raises even more questions for me.
Since we are told that for the first five months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy she stayed hidden in her home, how did her home function? We know Elizabeth remained sequestered and didn’t tell anyone about her pregnancy. Zechariah couldn’t tell anyone because of his own condition. Who did the shopping? Who paid the bills? Were there any visitors during this time? What did Zechariah do for money on a regular basis? Did the others from his priestly division care for the family because of his “on the job injury?” Did he have a regular job outside of his semiannual ministering in the temple? Did he have to serve his second week that year, even though he couldn’t speak (and hear?)? Was he treated as mentally damaged by the people from his town?
We know that he was somehow able to communicate to Elizabeth a few of the details of Gabriel’s visit; otherwise she wouldn’t have known to name the baby John. How much was Zechariah really able to share with her? Did God reveal the information to her or did she get it all from her husband?
When the time comes for the baby to be born, friends, family and neighbors come calling. They are all overjoyed for this couple. Elizabeth is no longer wearing the shame of being childless. On the eighth day the circumcision ceremony takes place in the synagogue. Because of our story, I was curious who was supposed to name the baby and when, so I looked it up. Before the ceremony it is customary for the parents not to share the name they have chosen before the ceremony. They are not even to call the child by the chosen name until it is officially bestowed on him. Check out the links to the circumcision ceremony and the naming of the baby, if you are curious like I was.
The name is chosen by the parents, but there is a chosen person who will bestow to bestow the child’s name upon them. My source says it is often the mohel, ritual circumciser, who performs this honor. I’m wondering why Elizabeth didn’t communicate the baby’s name to this person before the ceremony started. In our baby’s instance, Elizabeth interrupts the proceedings to give the honored person the baby’s real name. This was very unusual. First of all, women are to be silent and submissive. Second, because Zechariah couldn’t communicate his wishes, the person bestowing a name on the baby didn’t even consult the parents. Third, the name Elizabeth chose didn’t make sense to anyone else. They expected her to be naming the baby after someone, not throwing out a name they saw as unusual. Finally, when they finally did consult Zechariah, they treated him, in my mind, as less than competent. If they had believed him capable of participating in this process they would have consulted him BEFORE the ceremony and found a way for him to participate. They only consulted him because they were objecting to Elizabeth’s choice of a name.
Had Zechariah “discussed” this situation before it arose? Was she already prepped to step in and announce John’s name? Why wasn’t she chosen as the one to bestow the baby’s name on him? Was it because she was a woman? Why didn’t Zechariah bring the name of the baby in written form with them? Did they expect this would be an issue? Gabriel told Zechariah what to name the baby. What would have happened if Elizabeth hadn’t stepped up?
As soon as Zechariah confirmed Elizabeth’s choice he was able to speak (and hear?) again. We will look at what he said tomorrow, but the result of his speech leaves the people attending this ceremony speechless. Zechariah’s miraculous recovery signifies to them that God has something special planned for this baby. I wonder how many of those in attendance knew of the circumstances that rendered him speechless in the first place. Who were the attendees at this ceremony anyway? Was it just the official people or were friends and family also present?
Father God, You certainly made a statement that morning. Everyone in attendance would remember this event at John grew up. They would watch to see what You had planned for John’s life. How many of them would say, “We knew he was special” when John started his ministry?
You chose his parents with such care. Elizabeth had to be both physically strong and sure of herself. She was elderly, yet she was tasked with raising a baby. Most of us are worn out looking after grandchildren and here she was, old enough to be a grandmother (I assume) becoming a new mother. She would be spending sleepless nights with a new baby, chasing a toddler, dealing with the needs of a young boy, identifying with the anxieties of a teenager, and preparing a young man for his future. Either You gave them and incredibly well behaved child or You gave them unprecedented stamina in their old age.
You leave nothing to chance. When Gabriel closed Zechariah’s mouth, You knew what lie ahead for Elizabeth, including the naming difficulties. I wonder if closing Zechariah’s mouth was necessary for the correct name to be bestowed on John. I am so grateful that You can see the end LONG before it arrives. Nothing surprises You. I can trust You with my future too. Thank You for showing all of us that fact so clearly. Help me remember it more often. You hold my future secure in Your hands.