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Part of the Plan

Key References: Luke 1:67-79; The Desire of Ages, chap. 10, pp. 97-100; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 7, pp. 18-22; Our Beliefs nos. 9, 22, 18

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“The rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78, 79).

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God is personally interested in my salvation.

Have you ever looked forward to something with so much eagerness that you thought you’d burst? How did you feel when it finally happened? Was it so great that it made you feel like singing? Imagine how Zechariah and Elizabeth felt.

The time is near, Elizabeth thought. I know it can’t be too much longer until this baby is born. In another week it will have been nine months since Zechariah served at the Temple and the angel told him I would have a son. Nine months since Zechariah doubted the angel and questioned God’s messenger. Nine months since Zechariah has spoken anything.

Elizabeth sighed. Their made-up sign language and pitiful attempts at lip reading were getting old. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out what Zechariah was trying to tell her. Writing messages was a better way of communicating, but it was so slow. It will be over soon, Elizabeth thought. The angel said he wouldn’t speak until the baby was born. And I’m sure that will be any day now.

And so it was. Just as the angel said, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. The child was strong and healthy; the neighbors heard and came to offer congratulations and share her joy. And still Zechariah was silent.

One, two, three days went by. Zechariah still didn’t speak. Six, seven, eight. The day of the baby’s circumcision, according to Jewish law. The day the child would be named.

And again the friends and neighbors gathered. It was a happy, joyous occasion. The neighbors gathered and chatted, mostly about the baby and his father.

“What are they going to name him?” someone asked.

“I would assume they’re going to name him Zechariah, after his father,” answered another.

“Maybe they’re going to name him after his grandfather,” someone else chimed in. “The baby is always named after someone in the family. Elizabeth, what are you naming the baby? Zechariah?”

“No,” Elizabeth spoke firmly. There was no question. She and Zechariah had learned their lesson about doubting what angels had to say. And the angel had told them what to name the baby. “He is to be called John,” she said resolutely.

Silence followed her declaration. Every face held the same question.

Finally someone spoke. “John? Why John? There’s no one in your family named John.”

“Are you sure, Elizabeth? Are you sure you don’t want to name him Zechariah, after his father?”

“It’s such a nice name, Zechariah. Elizabeth doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Someone, ask Zechariah what he wants to name the baby.”

Zechariah was sitting quietly, unaware of the commotion around him. Someone tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. Sign language followed. Zechariah’s eyes brightened with understanding. His writing tablet. Where was it?

The neighbors gathered around and watched as the tablet was placed in his hands. He picked up the writing instrument and began to form the words. His . . . name . . . is . . . John.

And suddenly Zechariah could speak! After nine months of silence, the words came tumbling out of his mouth in a torrent of excitement.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,” Zechariah exclaimed, “because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David . . . : to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:68-75).

Zechariah’s eyes were shining. His face was aglow with the presence of the Holy Spirit. He took John in his arms and looked tenderly at the child. He obviously had more to say.

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (verses 76-79).

Zechariah kissed the baby’s tiny forehead. It was over. The long months of silence, the long hours of quiet thought and reflection. But now there was one thing Zechariah knew for sure. God’s first concern had always been the salvation of His people. He had a grand, loving plan to make sure it happened. The birth of this child was part of that grand plan, and with the eyes of faith he could see its fulfillment.