Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her. And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. (Luke 1:57-63 NASB)
I was told when I was young by some old Baptist minister that, “The will of God can be overturned by a simple majority in a Baptist business meeting.” I chuckled because it was supposed to be funny, but honestly, I didn’t get it. I do now. I learned it the hard way. Elizabeth and Zachariah probably already knew it. But, in spite of the risk of offending their well-meaning neighbors and relatives, they named their son John.
There are a few elements in this description and exchange that I think need to be pointed out in order for rather important lessons to emerge. They are elements true today as they were then; true because they are founded on God and His word, and for today because humans are much the same in mind and soul today as they were then. I believe we need the lessons as much now as they needed them then.
The Majority Didn’t Have a Clue
Why wasn’t Elizabeth’s pregnancy enough of a clue for the ‘relatives and neighbors’ to realize God was doing something outside the normal course of their lives? She was advanced in years, to the point this was compared to Sarah being pregnant. The finger prints of God should have been easily recognizable, but these people first off fought what didn’t fit their ‘paradigm’ (naming the boy Zachariah), and were then astonished when Zachariah reinforces the name John.
The Majority Didn’t Read the Sign
Why wasn’t Zachariah’s miraculous ‘muteness’ enough of a sign that God was doing something out of the ordinary? Yet when he speaks after affirming the name of John, everyone in the surrounding region hears and is amazed. Shouldn’t they have been expecting something amazing? Why would they be so insistent to name this child of surprising origins in line with established family names? Shouldn’t they have been expecting something out of the ordinary in his name?
The Minority Followed Clues and Signs
Why would these relatives and neighbors push back on the child’s mother about the name of this miraculous child because no one else in their family (i.e. among these relatives) had the name John? Was it common in their family for the elderly to bear children? Was it common in their family for fathers to be miraculously struck mute in their temple duties? Was it normal to have this child among them at all? So why insist on a normal name? Why seek a familiar name for an unfamiliar child?
Lessons From Examples
When the neighbors heard that the Lord had mercy on Elizabeth they joined her in rejoicing. But then want to hijack the event in naming the child. I don’t know why they did that then, but I think the above questions can help us avoid such errors today. They provide two lessons for those witnessing the activity of God, and one for those experiencing it.
1. Notice the Extraordinary
When the extraordinary happens, look for the continued work of God. If something happens which is not normal, not expected, not in line with how everything has been done; if God draws outside the lines, then move or remove the lines. It’s a sovereignty issue. We like the the familiar, but when that becomes and idol, we run the risk of missing the work and hand of God, our Master. When the extraordinary happens, let’s run with it and see where it goes.
2. Pay Close Attention to Miracles
When the miraculous happens, let it set the tone for what happens next. If something impossible happens, God is clearly at work, and we should assume that His work will continue. We can’t assert the ‘status quo’, the comfortable, the usual suspects doing the usual work. If we miss this, then we are rejecting God, His work, and His calling on us. If we witness the miraculous it is because God wanted us to witness His work, to have that sign, that marker, in our lives; and it’s for a purpose. If we miss that purpose we miss it because we let ourselves get in the way of God. And such myopia is more often the deception of the enemy than simply an entropic human tendency.
3. Do Not Follow A Crowd Instead of the Extraordinary Miraculous
When the miraculous extraordinary happens to us, do not submit what happens from it to some majority public opinion. Considering the previous two lessons, is this one clear enough? Even if we go on alone into whatever God has for us, let’s go! No family, rejected by neighbors, whatever, just go! People around the events of John’s and Jesus’ birth had no idea what was happening, nor what it meant. It’s possible that even the parents really didn’t know. There’s no point in bowing to such ignorance, why would we? Conform? In the face of a miracle pointing to a completely new direction? Don’t you dare! Here’s the lesson: When presented with a miracle from God, follow that illuminated path.
Life isn’t filled with extraordinary miracles, hence the term. They are not ordinary, they are not explainable, and they are not common. So when we witness one, let’s follow God’s lead to see what happens next! I doubt it will look like anything we’ve ever seen before.
What’s your view through the knothole?