When Christ came into the world, Israel was in a very dark place spiritually and politically. They had not heard from God for four hundred years. They were subjects to the Roman Empire and forced to submit to a “puppet king” known for his paranoia and jealousy. Herod was a wicked man. But the Jews clung to the promises they had been given.
Malachi 4:2 says, “But to you who fear My name they Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves…Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
In fact, there are multiple passages of Scripture that speak about this prophet who will prepare the way for the Messiah. His story is the prequel to Christmas. But unlike some fictional prequels that disappoint us, this prequel is beautiful, inspiring, and it only heightens our anticipation for the main event of Christ’s birth.
In Luke 1:5 we meet Zacharias and Elizabeth, an elderly couple serving the Lord faithfully. But they have no children. In that day and age it was commonly believed that barrenness was a sign of sin. But the Bible makes it clear in verse six that wasn’t the case: “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
Now Zacharias was a priest and at his appointed time he went to Jerusalem to serve the Lord in His temple. While fulfilling his duties and burning incense to the Lord, an angel appeared to him.
“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13) They had probably prayed for children for twenty plus years. And it probably seemed as though God didn’t hear. We have to remember that God always hears our prayers, but He answers them in His timing.
Zacharias has trouble believing this promise from the Lord, and so the Lord makes him mute for a time. But Elizabeth does conceive and bear a son. And when they name him John in obedience to the Lord’s command, Zacharias’ voice returns and he praises the Lord!
Their prayer for a child, which seemed neglected for so long, was answered in a miraculous way that only God could accomplish. And their son would be the last prophet before Christ, the one to prepare the way for the Messiah.
It’s worth noting that Zacharias’ name means “God remembers” and Elizabeth’s name means “my God is an oath.” God remembered this faithful couple and fulfilled His oath to Israel through them. Whatever you may be struggling with, whatever prayers have remained unanswered, keep praying. God hears you, and He will work His perfect plan in your life if you remain faithful to Him.