“‘He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened sceptics – he’ll get the people ready for God.'” Luke 1:15b-17.

What went through Zachariah’s mind while he was listening to this prophetic word from Gabriel? What would you think?

Not only did the angel tell him that he and Elizabeth would have a son after all these childless years, and Elizabeth long past menopause, but he also told him what kind of a son he would be; a Nazirite, Spirit-filled from birth, a powerfully effective prophet when all the others had failed – Israel had never fully returned to the Lord to be the nation He wanted them to be – healing family rifts and successfully reuniting God’s people with himself. They were going to have a dream kid alright!

He would be a Nazirite according to Numbers 6:1-21, taking a vow of separation and dedication to the Lord and indicating his vow by drinking no wine or fermented drink, eating nothing from the vine, not cutting his hair, and not going near a dead body which would make him unclean.

He would be Spirit-filled from birth. That does not guarantee that he would be sinless. He would have the potential to sin like everyone else but he would also have the privilege of the Holy Spirit’s inward ministry of grace and power to overcome temptation, and the boldness to carry out his ministry fearlessly – and how he would need that when he confronted Herod and Herodias, and those indomitable Pharisees!

His ministry would be powerful and successful. God’s faithful prophets of the Old Testament never enjoyed that reassurance or experienced the blessing of permanent fruit. On the contrary, many of them, knowing that they would achieve nothing but antagonism, opposition and persecution, laboured with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Jeremiah was called “the weeping prophet”. He was hated, hounded and bullied by both king and people, but he stuck to his calling anyway.

The final prophetic words of Malachi 4:5,6 pointed to this day, after 400 years of divine silence, when God would send His last prophet before Messiah to herald the day of permanent transformation:

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

How desperately we need John’s message of reconciliation between fathers and children to offset the destruction that is happening in families and to our youth. How many children have fathers in their homes who are not fathers? Fatherless children are a disaster and a hazard, and yet fathers have not learned to father because they themselves were not fathered.

It takes a courageous man to take his fathering role seriously when he had never experienced a father’s love. There is no better role model than the Father of all fathers. He is willing to be the perfect Father to anyone who will come to Him and submit to His embrace. He will teach you the love of a Father and how to be a true son.

Luella Campbell

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