“When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.”
Luke 1:57-80 NLT
Mary is now three months pregnant. Jesus is growing inside her. My daughter-in-law will tell you the baby is the size of an orange. She is keeping up with these things these days. According to Whitney’s research, Jesus’ eyes and fingers and toes are becoming distinct. If they had sonograms in those days, Mary could have seen the Hand of God being formed inside her. I got to see pictures of me new grandchild this weekend. I saw the head and the arms. I think the baby was waving. The pictures were taken when Whitney was around three months pregnant. I think about those pictures as I write. This is what Jesus did for us! He who walked on streets of gold, wrapped up His majesty and glory into a vulnerable innocent baby and placed Himself inside a young peasant girl’s womb for nine months. “God became one of us so we could become a child of His.” That blows my mind. Whitney was still running five miles a couple of times a week when she was three months pregnant. That first Christmas, Mary packed up and traveled the same arduous journey back to her home in Nazareth, through valleys and hills, past bandits and thieves, she traveled the 100 or so miles on foot while carrying the Son of God in her womb. She is a courageous woman, this young child is. No wonder God chose her!
But back in the hillsides of Judah, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was experiencing the pains of childbirth. She gave birth to a son just as the Lord had promised her husband Zachariah. It was cause for celebration. The cousins and relatives, family and friends, neighbors and villagers, all came out to party with Elizabeth and Zachariah. They came to celebrate because the had heard that the Lord had shown great mercy on her. They came to rejoice with her. For that is what we do as a people group. We rejoice over the blessings of God. And all were gathered on the eighth day of this baby’s life.
“Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth.” Genesis 17:9-12
This is that day. Elizabeth and silent Zechariah are gathered to honor the generational command God gave Abraham. Thousands of years earlier, the LORD GOD appeared to their ancestor Abraham who at that time was named Abram. God revealed to Abram that He is “El Shaddai – God Almighty” He was saying to Abram, “Nothing is too hard for Me!” And on that day God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, “Exalted Father to Father of many” God Almighty made a covenant with Abraham on that day so long ago. The Only One who can keep a covenant because He is the Only One with all the covenant keeping power, made an unbreakable covenant to Father Abraham. It was an everlasting covenant. This was God’s part of the covenant, “I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” God made this unbreakable promise to an old man who had no descendants, but He had just told Abraham, “I AM GOD ALMIGHTY AND NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR ME!”
A covenant refers to two or more parties bound together. Usually a covenant is made between two equal parties, but this is not the case with this covenant between Abraham and God. God initiates this covenant. He determines the elements, and He is the One who confirms this covenant. He is the One with all the covenant keeping power. He signs this covenant with His name “El Shaddai.” The only mark required by Abraham is circumcision. Abraham’s circumcision and all future male descendants will be circumcised. This is done on the eighth day of the male child’s life.
This is the day for the male child of Zechariah and Elizabeth. All have gathered; the knife is laid out; the age old ceremony begins. The baby boy’s foreskin is removed while all are watching. I can’t tell you what it would be like to watch a knife being taken to my son because Landry was taken from me at three days and the doctors surgically performed this procedure. He was brought back to me with chin quivering and tears still in his eyes and I cried. Elizabeth heart had to have broke as she heard her baby cry, but this was the children of Abraham’s part in this covenant. It was a ceremony performed for every male descendant. It was an honor to the covenant. Elizabeth would have stood stoic beside her husband. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both righteous before God. And because of their righteousness and faithfulness to El Shaddai, they didn’t yield to peer pressure. I don’t get why the crowd thought they had a right in naming Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s baby, but that is exactly what this pressure group had in mind. They were intending to call him Zechariah after his father! Really of all the nerve. But this faithful couple didn’t bend; they didn’t yield. They held their ground and obeyed God in the face of peer pressure.
“No! His name is John.” Elizabeth told them with an exclamation point. The gathering must have thought that name came from left field, but little did they know the name came from the heavenly field. They turned to Zechariah. Poor old Zack, still living in the “Sound of Silence.” His hearing was nill and non-existant for they had to use gestures to find out the baby’s name. This scene had to have looked like the game of mimes… “first word…” Can’t you just picture how ridiculous this crowd must have looked like trying to act out how the couple must name this child after his father. Really what would these gestures look like. I gotta believe God was up in heaven having a good ole time watching this parody being played out before Him. Was he just sitting at the edge of His throne saying, “Wait for it! Wait for it!” as Zechariah was gesturing for a writing tablet? And as he wrote, “His name is John,” the world of silence was broken for Zechariah. At once his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed! For the first time in nine months, Zechariah could speak; Zechariah could hear! El Shaddai – God Almighty had kept His promise once again!
Zechariah and Elizabeth had a choice to make: Obey or yield to peer pressure. They chose obedience. What they got in return is blessing for there is always God’s blessing in our obedience.
“And at once Zachariah’s mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak, blessing an praising and thanking God. And awe and reverential fear came on all their neighbors; and all these things were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. And all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “Whatever will this little boy be then? For the hand of the Lord was so evidently with him protecting and aiding him.” Now Zachariah his father was filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit and he prophesied…” Luke 1:63-67 AMP
“And the little boy grew and became strong in spirit;…” Luke 1:80
Elizabeth’s and Zachariah’s obedience tipped the chalice of God’s blessing. God poured out the covenant blessing onto Father Abraham for his obedience and a whole nation was blessed as the wine of blessing sloshed out onto them. As God poured out the blessing onto Elizabeth and Zachariah for their obedience a whole village was blessed as the wine of blessing was sloshed onto them. For that is how God’s blessing rolls. When his people decide to obey, the blessing of obedience sloshes out for all around.
Peer pressure or obedience. You weigh the scales. El Shaddai has the blessings at the ready to be poured and sloshed out to all. We just have to choose to obey.