The Importance of a Name – Luke 1:13
Such a day of contrasts it proved to be! On the one hand, Zacharias was faithfully discharging his duties as priest that day, offering incense upon the altar in the Holy Place at the Temple. Nothing much seemed different about the day, nothing extraordinary had happened as he carefully did what countless other priests had done for so long. In fact, for hundreds of years this practice had been maintained by the Levitical priesthood without any audible or visible presence from heaven at all. These years had been known as the “silent years,” time during which the Lord God had not answered the petitions of the Israelites, whether by the voice of a prophet or by any supernatural manifestation of His presence and power.
And on the other hand, God was set to declare the beginning of something mighty and miraculous that would ultimately signal the beginning of a brand new covenant. All of that silence would end this day while Zacharias quietly did what he did, probably expecting no more than any other priest had expected for such a long time. The contrast could hardly be more striking: God’s ardent intent versus man’s reticent reluctance.
In today’s Church, this same contrast is cause for great concern when it comes to fulfilling the will of God. Leaning on past experience and failing to ready ourselves for a quick reply to God’s present call and vision spells disaster for church leaders. Failing to readily recognize and understand the meaning of the message that God sends forth only brings continued stagnation and future failure. But in truly discerning the call and its deeper meaning, leaders find purpose and direction for true spiritual ministry.
In this life lesson we will look at the mistake a “blameless” priest made and then see how later he would realign himself with God’s eternal purpose. Today’s leadership would do well to see the import of both the mistake and its remedy.
Blameless, But Not Complete
There really is a big difference between these two adjectives. Verse six of Luke 1 tells us of the righteousness of Zacharias and his good wife, Elisabeth. They were truly what would be called “good people.” We can be sure that they were respected in the community for such blameless behavior. Zacharias was, after all, a man of the ministry, a high servant to God in His glorious house in Jerusalem. But being without blame does not signify being fruitful. In fact, the barren womb of Elisabeth served as a symbol of not only the want in their personal lives, but it also stood as a metaphor regarding the lack of spiritual fruitfulness in the nation of Israel–a nation that boasted of its devotion to its God and yet ignored Him at the same time.
The great apostle Paul in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians speaks of this dichotomous “relationship” with the Lord.
“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, blameless.” Phil. 3:4-6
But Paul wasn’t boasting at all. Instead, he was showing just how easy it is to lean on self accomplishment and familial background to substantiate personal worth, while failing to see that in God’s eyes it all means so very little. In other words, we can keep the rules and obey the standards while utterly failing to allow God to complete us in His righteousness and by His power. Settling for the “silent years” in lieu of always looking and expecting more in our spiritual growth is a common mistake to which too many leaders fall prey.
Not only does this pattern of living leave us in a compromised condition that prevents real maturity and true spiritual fruitfulness, it also leaves us helpless when called upon to readily and quickly respond when God does indeed call. Zacharias demonstrated this same fearful reaction to the calling of God when he failed to grasp the prophesied possibilities that the angel was dispatched to announce. In verse 14 of the same passage in Philippians 3, Paul went on to declare his real aim and objective: he would continue to “press” for the prize of the high-calling of God. The word “press” could also be construed as “pursue.”
Leaders in the Church should consider themselves as pursuers of God’s high purpose and calling. The prize ahead of the Church is too noble to ignore and too valuable to treat as ordinary. Forgetting what is behind us, like the silent years for Israel, leaders should be looking now for the next steps forward according to the will of God. And when the time is right, God will reveal what the plan enfolds.
Yahweh Is Grace
In Luke 1:13, that is exactly what the angel announced–Yahweh is grace. This was a stupendous declaration from this heavenly messenger to Zacharias and his wife of many barren years. The message was two-fold of course. It contained their personal promise that God’s divine provision was coming to their home in the form of a baby boy. But it also stood once again in the metaphorical sense as a symbol of what God was about to bring to Israel by His marvelous grace–a Savior!
Everything was now about to change for Zacharias as it was for Israel, but would anyone believe? From verse 14 to verse 17, we can see the extraordinary and prophetic revelation of the baby’s life and purpose. Greater words were never spoken heretofore regarding the powerful potential of a promised son. And yet, it was all a bit much for the aged priest. His response to the angel was pitiable. It rang of impossibility due to circumstance. It immediately challenged the will of the Lord through a lack of experienced faith. In a moment, after one of the greatest announcements of all time, the promise according to the grace of God was already in a compromised position. And the angel’s passionate response quickly and accurately addressed the issue:
“And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
Because Zacharias could not grasp the import of the prophetic announcement, he was stripped of his ability to articulate the promise. In other words, by being in a faith-lacking state of mind and therefore unable to respond, he would miss being an active part of the coming promise until nine months later. How often does this kind of mentality compromise today’s leadership? What do we miss as non-participants in the great master plan when we could have been part of the coming promise from the very beginning of the revelation?
Power In The Name
While Zacharias missed the reality of the promise of the child, he also missed the important connection between the name given for the baby by the angel and the will of God that was already on its way to fulfillment. Throughout the Scripture, names were tied to the will of God. Moses’ name meant “taken out,” the very mission that he would fulfill for the Israelites. Gideon signifies “a destroyer.” Though he came on the scene as a timid farmer, Gideon lived up to his name as he fell in line with God’s will at God’s time. David meant “well-beloved,” and his life in so many ways served as a type of Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God. Even men that worked in opposition to the Kingdom had names that foretold their destiny. Jereboam’s name meant “he that opposes the people.” And many, many more examples serve this truth.
The greatest name of all, of course, has one of the clearest destinies attached. Jesus, the name chosen by God to reveal Himself in the flesh to humanity meant “savior,” or more precisely, “Yahweh the savior.” Even as far back as the exodus from Egypt, this name stood out in symbolic meaning. While Moses had taken the people out of slavery, he was not the one to take them into the land of promise. It would take a “Joshua” to lead them. Once again, Joshua meant “savior” or “deliverer.”
So, when Gabriel not only announced the coming child but also revealed the chosen name for the boy, the angel was clearly declaring the mission ahead. God would now by His grace bring forth a man that would clearly call Israel to turn to the Savior that followed him. The time had come for Israel to listen, and John would be the voice crying in the wilderness.
The People Of The Name
This is what true apostolic saints are sometimes referred as. We have understood the importance of the name of Jesus. We baptize in the name of Jesus. We pray in His name. In fact, we are instructed by the Apostle to do all things in that name. But what does that really mean?
Remembering that His name was and always will be directly tied to His destiny or His will provides true clarity on the significance of the name which is above every other name! God, saving people from their sins, is the will and act of God that is greater than anything else. To pray in the name of Jesus, or to work in the name of the Lord is to connect ourselves to the will of God that is dedicated to saving the lost. To be disconnected from the will of God is equal to being disassociated from the name of the Lord. Not every prayer that ends with the well-used closing, “in the name of Jesus, Amen” means that we have prayed according to the will of God! While saying the name, we may be acting outside the will of Jesus and His eternity-based mission of saving the lost.
There really is power in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But that power is always connected to the will of God behind the given name. It is no wonder then that Jesus promised His disciples in John 14:14, “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” He was in no way giving us license to ask for any selfish or carnal desire to be fulfilled, thinking and declaring that it would be given accordingly. Instead, He clearly was revealing that, when we pray according to His will and are intricately tied to His purpose, good things would happen! Zacharias’ ultimate liberty from his speech inability would only come upon full agreement to the promise–not simply the birth, but in attaching the name and calling that God had given to the child. But to do that, the old priest would be tested yet again.
Friends And Neighbors
Just as prophesied nine months earlier, the time came and Elisabeth delivered a baby boy. The friends, relatives, and neighbors flooded in, rejoicing to see that her barrenness had been removed and the reproach of being childless had been taken away as well. They were happy for Zacharias and his wife, but they had no insight at all as to the importance of this particular baby’s birth!
On the eighth day after the birth, it was the given time to circumcise the baby boy and it would be the time to officially name him. As Zacharias had been afflicted in voice for so long, the relatives and friends took it upon themselves to assume that the boy would naturally be called by the father’s name. They were prepared in every way to pronounce his name, “Zacharias Jr.” But Elisabeth was quick to refuse, trying to remind everyone that there was a name that had higher meaning for the child. As the dispute raged on, the father asked for someone to bring him a tablet to write upon so that he could express his paternal and final decision on the matter. In these few seconds of time, the priest would make a momentous declaration.
Now, there would be no unbelief. Now there would be no hesitation in the face of the family and friends’ opposition. Now there would be no reticence when cooperation with God’s will was called upon. In verse 63, Zacharias wrote firmly and clearly, “His name is John.” While the others marveled on the choice of the name, Zacharias’ tongue was loosed and he began to praise God as never before in his life. For perhaps the very first time, he was certain of his place in the will of God. He could see it for himself, and he could see it for his son. To have named the baby anything else would have meant to compromise everything that he stood for. He was a priest for the Lord of Israel. He was a servant of the Almighty God. He was now the father of a promise, and nothing would stop him from total cooperation in the divine scheme.
There is indeed “power in the name.” But it also means that finding the power comes by finding the will and letting nothing supersede that. Today’s church leaders know that they are called to the divine plan by a great heavenly Father. To participate with God in His Great Commission requires leadership that doesn’t swerve or shrink from the task. While others are ready to name the baby by their own traditional standards, we must rise to the God-given occasion and accept the responsibility on calling our promise by its destined name.
From verse 67 on to the end of the chapter we read one of the greatest prophesies in the entire Bible–all from the newly opened and anointed lips of a proud father. Zacharias became not only the father of a baby boy that day, he became the father of a promise and the guardian of the grace of God. Real, anointed church leaders are nothing less. They hear the promise of God when it is declared. They grasp the will of God when they find it. And they hold to its purpose and ensure its fulfillment. “The grace of God” was the only divinely-inspired name for that boy, and his mission would be nothing less special. As guardians of such grace, leaders, like Zacharias, must be ready and committed to become fathers of similarly impacting promises. If we fail, the baby promised will be given a traditional name and a traditional role in carrying on the silent years of ministry. For Zacharias, it all changed in a moment of decision making. What will it mean for us?
by T. D. Grosbach
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