An empty cradle sat in a hidden corner, collecting dust and cobwebs. It had gone unnoticed for several years. Early in their marriage, the couple had longed for a child. They waited and prayed, but it was not to be. At least until much later in their lives. The woman was far beyond child bearing years and her husband had given up by this time. The stigma of not having sons to carry on his name, had become a fading dream. God’s timeline doesn’t often match up with our hopes and dreams, but it’s always good and produces the best outcome.
Zachariah and Elizabeth continued to serve God throughout their years. They were convinced He would send a Messiah to save the people of Israel. Zachariah served as a priest in the temple and carried out the duties of the division of Abijah, while Elizabeth eventually outlived the scorn of being barren. It was in their golden years that God answered their prayers. And what a child he would be – the forerunner of Jesus, who would come to save the world from their sins.
The blessed event was heralded by the angel, Gabriel, as he appeared to Zachariah in the temple and said.
“Do not be afraid, Zachariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 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 a people prepared.”
This fulfilled the prophesy in Isaiah 40:3 “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
John the Baptist would be born before Jesus. He would spend his life filled with the Holy Spirit and a desire to reveal the wretched condition of man and their need for a Savior. He lived in the desert, dined on locusts and honey and wore animal skins. His hair was long and matted by sweat and sand, and his skin dry and leathery from exposure to the elements. He would cry out in the wilderness and lay a highway for the Lord.
Of course nothing about the coming Messiah was the way you’d expect it to be. God used these ordinary people to accomplish the promise made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.