How John the Baptist Bridges the Old and New Testaments by John Stonestreet and Glenn Sunshine for Christian News Headlines
In this time of Advent, as we look back to Christ’s first coming and await His second, we should recall the prophesies that pointed to His forerunner, John the Baptist.
By the time that Zechariah entered the Holy Place to offer incense upon the altar, the number of priests had grown so large that most were never granted the same opportunity. To be chosen, which was done by casting lots, was to be considered highly blessed. Zechariah, we might say, got more than he bargained for.
An angel appeared and, as usual in the Bible, his first words were, “Do not be afraid.” Zechariah’s prayers had been answered. He would have a son who would be named John. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb, set apart by God from the day of his birth.
While it is natural to assume that the prayer the angel referred to was for a child, the reality may be more complicated. Zechariah and his wife were childless and doubtless had prayed for a child in the past. Now past the normal age for such things, Zechariah likely did not pray for a child this time. Rather, as he offered incense and acted as the priestly mediator for the people of Israel, he called upon God to fulfill His promises to His people. Zechariah’s prayer for God’s salvation became the answer to his earlier prayers for a child. Consider how the angel described the work Zechariah’s son was to do:
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 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. (Luke 1:16-17)
Here, the angel is citing the last words spoken by Malachi, the last prophet of Israel, 400 hundred years earlier: