To Prepare the Way

Reading the Word

Luke 1:5–17 (ESV) — 5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today, we read about the announcement of a birth. It is not the birth of Jesus, but of John the Baptist. Why is this important? Because the prophets had said that there would be a forerunner who would come before the Messiah to prepare his way, much like forerunners for other kings. We read about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5. We also read about him in Isaiah 40:3. One of the things we read in those Old Testament passages is that this forerunner would be like Elijah. Luke 1:17 describes John the Baptist as this promised one.

There are at least two things we learn from today’s reading. The first is that God keeps his word. He always has and always will. He may not keep it in our timing, but his plans and purposes are always fulfilled. We can trust him for our future because he has promised us one of eternal glory in a new heaven and new earth. He will not fail us. The second thing we learn is that God works in ways that surprise us. Elizabeth and Zechariah were unable to have children and were both elderly. No one would have guessed that they would be used in such a wonderful way by God, but that is exactly what happened. In fact, God often uses the one who seems least likely so that he receives all of the glory in the end. When Elizabeth had her baby, no one doubted that God was involved. What an amazing God!

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