“A rope. We shoulda put a rope around that old boy, so we could haul him out like Moses dragged out Nadab and Abihu.”
“Rope? You old fool. Don’t believe every moldy tale your buddies in the market tell you. We never tied a rope around a priest. Not in Moses’ time. Not ever.”
“Well then, age limit. When that old geezer dragged in last night, I took one look and knew he’d never make it through the incense. Fifty! Fifty is as old as we should let any priest go in there.”
When Zechariah saw the angel, the tiny altar shovel slipped out of his hand and clattered on the floor. Hot coals bounced into his sandals and onto his toes.
“Ai-yah!” He kicked them away.
The angel picked up the coals and put them back on the fire. He laid the shovel in the hand of the old priest. “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. You and Elizabeth are going to have a baby.”
Zechariah set the little shovel down by the altar fire. “Baby?”
Women in Hebron said Elizabeth would make a good mother, and she would, if they could only get pregnant.
“You heard right. You’ve got a baby coming—in the spirit and power of Elijah.”
Zechariah’s knees wobbled, but he spread his feet, stood straight, and stared at the candelabra.
We could never get enough.
He wrote no book, braved no lions’ den.
Yet we loved the shaggy look, the in-your-face.
We hid with him at the Kerith, and then we marveled with him at the bottomless flour barrel.
And we peeked over his shoulder. Dogs drink Ahab’s blood? Jehoram’s bowels drop out piece-by-piece? We cringed. We snarled. We loved it all.
His fiery chariot? When Nebuchadnezzar knocked down our temple and roped us like cattle and marched us 900 miles north, we seriously looked for his fiery horses to break through the clouds.
I didn’t happen, but would we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? By the rivers of Babylon we hung our harps on a weeping willow tree and dreamed about the young man in goatskin.
Then Cyrus sent us home! On the road back to Jerusalem, we told stories about that long-ago boy who stepped out of the crowd and faced down a king. Would such a brave lad hide from soldiers? Oh, yes. After the horrors of exile, we understood. [A tiny bit of detail RE horrors, please?]
We were so ready to hear what he learned from that still small voice.
And then Malachi—Malachi promised the Lord would send us Elijah.
The old priest blinked. “Did you say, ‘Elijah’?”
“You will call him John.”
“John, okay. So we name the baby John, but you need to realize you are talking to a very old man about having a baby. And my Elizabeth, well… Are you for real?” Zechariah reached over to touch him, but the angel took a step back.
“You want real, old man? Here’s real. You’re going to be mute until the big event.” The angel disappeared.
Zechariah stumbled out and did a little charade. He hung around just long enough to complete his temple duties, and hurried home to Hebron. Elizabeth became pregnant. She hid away for the customary five months and then stepped out and sang.1
“Look what the Lord has done for me!”
The baby arrived, and eight days later, Zechariah welcomed people into their home for the circumcision.
The guests looked at Elizabeth. “What’s this child’s name?”
They looked at her mute husband. “But your family has no such name.”
Zechariah took a slate and wrote, “His name is John.” As he handed it to them, his face flushed, and he spoke. “The Lord has come to his people!”
1 Imagine being struck mute for 9 months when your wife is expecting your first child. You and she are late in your years and you thought you weren’t going to have any. You’re unable to share the joy of this miracle, this unexpected son. https://www.facebook.com/vmidave81