The interesting thing is that Zechariah drew the straw so he got the privilege of going into the temple of God to burn incense. At this exact time the people gathered to pray. Why? Our prayers are like incense that goes up before our Father in heaven. Prayers are like a sweet-smelling aroma to him as they reach His ears. We see in Revelation 5:8 that the incense is the prayers of the saints. Then in Revelation 8:3-5 that the angels add ‘much’ incense to the prayers of the saints and this smoke goes up before the Lord.
You see, you and I offer up our frail prayers but God takes that which we offer and He adds the punch to them! You may feel like your prayers are hitting the roof and bouncing back. But I assure you they are going into that golden bowl to which incense is being added to make them ascend to the Lord. How exciting!
So, on this day that seemed like any other day, Zechariah is mirroring ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ and an angel shows up! Zechariah sees him and is filled with fear. I’ll bet he was! Think about it, you are going about your day and suddenly standing beside your desk at the office is an angel. This angel came with a purpose and that was to deliver a message.
The first thing he tells him is “don’t be afraid” (too late! Already trembling!). His prayers have been heard. This is so reassuring. We need to know that our prayers are being heard. They don’t just go up into the ‘cosmic realms” and float in a void. They land somewhere – on the Father’s ears! We need to be assured of this God hears and answers prayer. He is a rewarder of those that seek Him. This is where faith comes in. Without faith it is impossible to please God. You come to Him, you believe that He is, that He actually exists and is interested in all the details of your life. Check Hebrews 11 verse 6.
Now, the angel begins to prophesy to him or deliver the message from God. He says first your wife is Elizabeth. I like this detail – I am sure that Zechariah knew who his wife was but somehow this validates what he is about to say. I was with Jim in San Diego and my mom was taking care of our twins. I was desperately trying to get a hold of her to see how things were going. We were at the pay phone (no mobile phones in those days) and this man came up to us. He said your mother is on the phone to her sister and the twins were both doing well. He then said the Lord also told him to tell us that we would have another child. It would be a son and then he prophesied into his future. I started to laugh because at that point I had the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, and was not even considering having another child. It took several years for me to be willing and we had 2 more children. The first of them to be born was a son. The fact that God took the time to confirm all the other information to me eventually opened my heart to receive healing from the trauma of the late stages of pregnancy and the birth of the twins.
The angel goes on to say the child she will bear is to be called John. This was a bone of contention with the relatives because no one had this name before. But names are significant and the name, John, means ‘precede’. The verb, precede, is to go ahead of, in front of as in rank, sequence or time. John needed to precede Jesus as he was given the task of going on before the Lord to make a people ready for the Lord.
John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, going in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah. He would bring many people back to the Lord, winning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.
John is a type of New Testament believer. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and work in power. God will use us to prepare the people to meet the King. He will use the foolish to confound the wise. John didn’t look the part of the religious but he caught the hearts of the people.
Let us be the ones that act with the authenticity of our convictions. In this way the world will see something powerful displayed as we allow the King to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Let the spirit of Elijah come!