But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. – Luke 1.13-17
I have always found John the Baptist an intriguing character. He is in sense the last Old Testament prophet and in one sense the first New Testament preacher. He was a bit of a wild man? He lived the desert and ate locust beans and honey and clothing himself roughly.
Long before all that though, we are privileged to see the prophecy that the angel gave to John’s dad. The angel told Zachariah ‘your son will be named John. He will be full of joy and gladness. Many will rejoice in his birth. He will be great in God’s eyes…he will be full of the Holy Ghost even in the womb.’ All that was wonderful but then the angel said ‘many of the children of Israel will turn to God.’
That is surely enough. What great news for a priest to hear. It is the finish of this section though that is a real blessing – ‘he will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’
John was coming to prepare the world for the long awaited Messiah. He was the promised ‘spirit of Elijah’ These were the words that closed the Old Testament in the book of Malachi.
God used normal people like Zacharias and Elisabeth to do great things. He still does today.