When Elizabeth was six months into her pregnancy, she and her husband Zachariah had a very special visitor: her relative Mary who was pregnant with Jesus. Mary stayed with the couple for approximately three months. She left Zachariah’s household before Elizabeth gave birth to her son – possibly to avoid drawing undue attention to her own pregnancy.
As member of the priesthood, Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth were public figures; so the birth of their first son was no minor event, it was practically the talk of the town. Needless to say, the circumcision ceremony held in the Jerusalem temple was well attended and drew the crowds – especially because of the unusual circumstances leading up to Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Everybody knew that Zachariah had not uttered a single word ever since Elizabeth got pregnant, and rumor had it that this was a God-ordained event.
Then, in the middle of the circumcision ceremony there was confusion! It was tradition that the first male child carried on his father’s name; “Zachariah” would have been the logical name choice. But then Elizabeth interfered; she insisted that their son’s name was supposed to be “John”. Immediately the attention turned to her husband Zachariah.
Meanwhile, Zachariah had been a silent witness of extraordinary events. For the past nine months he had witnessed his wife’s and Mary’s pregnancy – both announced by angels, both a miracle. Zachariah had initially doubted God’s messenger, and he had been silenced by God because of it. His predicament, however, gave him plenty of time to contemplate, which over time seemed to have softened his heart; as a result Zachariah rose up to the occasion a much humbler man; and when publicly addressed with the question of how to name his son, His answer on the writing tablet was very clear: “John”, just as God’s angel had requested in their earlier encounter.
It was then and there that God broke his silence, and the first words coming out of Zachariah’s mouth was heartfelt praise. He then uttered a prophecy. Interestingly enough, Mary’s son came first and his own son came second when he prophesied about the events that were about to unfold (Luke 1:68-70):
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised.”
And then, in his closing remarks, he addressed his firstborn (Luke 1:76):
“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord.”
Zachariah’s profound transformation is a great example of how God can change a human heart. Looking at countless examples similar to Zachariah in biblical records or in our own lives for that matter, it seems that changing hearts is the Lord’s specialty. And once we’ve decided to submit our hearts into the Lord’s hands, He can also change yours and mine.