Home > Devotions > Daily Reading – December 15, 2018

His Name Is John

 

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

– Luke 1:57–66 ESV

The kerfuffle that took place at the naming of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s newborn son is intriguing. Scripture recounts that as their son was to be circumcised, family and friends were questioning Elizabeth’s announcement that the child will be called John. Convinced that she must be unaware of family lineage and history — no one in the family sported that moniker — the enclave turns to the mute patriarch for clarification. Zechariah called for a tablet upon which he writes the breathtaking words, “His name is John,” to the amazement of all gathered.

Surely, something must warrant such a dramatic response to a relatively small name. The next question is, to borrow a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?”

Now, according to the reading, the expectation was to name the child after his father, Zechariah. There we begin. Zechariah’s name means “God remembers.” How fitting. As a priest and parent, Zechariah’s responsibilities would include remembering the laws of God, the Scriptures and holy observances which invite Israel and her neighbors to recall God’s merciful and mighty acts. It was on such an observance that Zechariah was visited by the archangel Gabriel who delivered news of John’s soon-to-be birth. During that astonishing encounter, Gabriel revealed the child’s purpose (Luke 1:14-16); of note, the child would join the prophetic throng to “prepare the way for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). These were challenging words for this priest to hear. An injunction of silence, bestowed by Gabriel, prevented the priest from uttering the name of his son, reciting the Law, or from voicing ritual observances to God until the angel’s message to Zechariah came to pass.

What’s in this name, John? In its simplicity, the name John means “God’s grace.” In its complexity, “God’s grace” encapsulates all of the angel’s declarations about this boy, who would one day preach to viperous crowds on the bank of the Jordan and call them to repentance. His ministry would provoke hearers to ask this prophet, “Who are you?” John would then reveal his God-given role by explaining that he was “the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” He would also proclaim that all “flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Indeed, they would see “salvation;” John would be the one to point to Jesus and shout that He is, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:23-29)

Because of God’s grace, Zechariah was, once again, given voice; because of God’s grace, hopeless masses sought repentance; and because of God’s grace, salvation was near. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

Prayer: Almighty God, your grace abounds. Help us to see the blessing of this grace in the one whom John directs us to, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Start a Lutherans for Life chapter in your church, pointing your fellow members to find the face of Jesus in an unborn child, in the disabled, and in the elderly.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Melinda Jones, pastor of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Charleston, SC.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 1:1–21 (ESV)

The Continuing Conquest of Canaan

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. 10 And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.

11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. 12 And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. 14 When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 15 She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

16 And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people. 17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah. 18 Judah also captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19 And the Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. 20 And Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. And he drove out from it the three sons of Anak. 21 But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

Psalm 136 (ESV)

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

136 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10  to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

11  and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

12  with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

13  to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

14  and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

15  but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

16  to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17  to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

18  and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

19  Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

20  and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

21  and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

22  a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23  It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

24  and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

25  he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26  Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Acts 9:32–10:8 (ESV)

The Healing of Aeneas

32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Dorcas Restored to Life

36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Peter and Cornelius

10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

[Luther writes:] “Here the Spirit plainly ascribes to Scripture that it allumines and teaches, that understanding is given alone through the words of God as through a door for, as they call it, a first principle (principium primum) with which everyone who will come to light and understanding must begin. Again: “‘Principle or head of thine words is truth’ (Ps. 119:160). There you see that truth is here ascribed only to the head of the words of God, that is, if you learned the words of God in the rst place and used them as the first principle when you judged the words of all. And what else does this whole psalm do than to condemn the foolishness of our labor and call us back to the fountain (revocet ad fontem) and teach us that we should rst of all and alone spend our labor on the Word of God and that the Spirit is ready to come voluntarily and to expel our spirit so that we pursue theology without danger? … Therefore, nothing but the divine words are to be the first principles (prima principia) for Christians, all human words, however, are conclusions which are deducted from them and must again be reducted to them and approved by them. They must first of all be well known to everyone but not sought through men nor learned by them, but men must be judged by them. If this were not true, why should Augustine and the holy Fathers, whenever they contradict each other, go back to the holy Scripture as to the first principles of truth (ad sacras literas seu prima principia veritatis) and illumine and approve by their light and trustworthiness their own that is dark and uncertain? By doing so they teach that the divine words are more understand- able and certain than the words of all men, even their own … I do not want to be honored as one who is more learned than all, but this I desire that Scripture alone rule as queen (solam Scripturam regnare), and that it is not explained through my spirit or other men’s spirit but understood by itself and in its own spirit.” (77)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

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