John the Baptist was born and in accordance with the law of Moses they brought him forth to be circumcised on the eighth day. At this time he was to be named and the people inquired as to what he should be called. Elizabeth said that he was to be named John, but the people thought this to be wrong as none of the child’s family or kin were named John. When they inquired of Zechariah, for they wanted to name him after his father, Zechariah still unable to speak wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” (Verse 63).
His parents were following the instructions given them by the angel Gabriel of which the rest of the people were unaware. But we see their astonishment when Zechariah had written these words that his tongue was loosed and he began to speak and prophesy by the Holy Spirit. All the people seeing and hearing these things wondered and considered just what this child would become.
The prophesy of Zechariah is interesting. In it we see the Spirit speak of the blessing of the Lord and the role of this child, John the Baptist. We see his ministry described saying in verses 76-79:
“76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
John came to prepare the way for the Lord. He came to give knowledge of the way of salvation and the forgiveness of sins to the people. The people were not receiving this knowledge through the Law as it was being taught by the religious leaders of the time but the people were like sheep without a shepherd. They did not know where they were going or which way to turn.
But when John came he put their feet on the right path and showed them the direction they needed. He pointed them to God saying for them to believe in the one who was to follow him, Jesus Christ. And through the message of John the people did indeed receive light where they previously sat in darkness. They received the light of the knowledge of the truth about salvation and forgiveness of sin so they could learn to live as God wanted them to live. And as he taught them they received direction and were truly guided into the way of peace.
The work of John still rings true today. People are still in need of a Saviour and the way of truth. His contribution was enormous, so much so that we see here he was called, “the Prophet of the Most High.” Add to this the words of Jesus who said, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28) The message of repentance and the message of baptism in water still resounds as part of the New Covenant. The purpose may have changed with the introduction of the Covenant, but the underlying truth that we should repent and turn to God has never and will never change.
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