There had been a week-long celebration happening in that mountain town of Judah. She-who-was-called-barren was now called mother. And everyone rejoiced with her in a technicolor show of unity and fellowship. And her husband who was told of all of this by an angel inside the temple still had no voice.
The eighth day had come and it was time for the circumcision – a rite instituted by God through Abraham as the sign of covenant He had just made with him. A promise that his descendants would be as vast in number as the stars in the sky. But there was a requirement of obedience on Abraham’s part. It wasn’t just the circumcision of all male children on the eighth day. It was an act of physical obedience that represented a spiritual change. A condition of the heart. A cutting off of the flesh and the desire to sin that will ultimately enable you to love God the way He asks. Because when that part of our heart that desires sin is cut off, we are free to love Him with all of our heart. And all of our soul.
There’s an interesting cross-reference particular to the eighth day that is worth noting. It’s not outrightly explained as the why behind the timeline. But it does provide some promise for new parents and their fresh-from-heaven babies.
In Leviticus 9, Moses calls Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel together. It was after eight chapters of instructions for the offerings. And the laws of the offerings. After Aaron and his sons were consecrated and dressed. After Aaron was anointed with oil that poured over his head and down his beard and onto the edges of his garments. After the offerings were made, and they stayed at the door of the tabernacle of meeting for seven days.
And on the eighth day, they offered more offerings. Because on that day, God was going to allow Himself be seen by them. Appearing visibly. Just like the angel did with Zacharias. And Mary. And Joseph. So they offered all their offerings again. And Aaron lifted his hand toward the people – blessing them in the way that the people expected Zacharias to when he came out of the temple that day in Luke 1. The day he lost his speech.
And then, after the offerings had been made and the people had blessed, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people on the eighth day. And when they saw it, they gave a ringing cry of collective and overwhelming joy. And fell on their faces in awe. And worship.
Ezekiel goes even further to describe the-day-after-the-Sabbath. The day after He created the entire world. The day after He rested. And the day after the priests completed their week-long sacrifices that were the first steps of dedication for newly built temples. “From the eighth day on,” God says, “I’ll accept you with pleasure. Gracious acceptance. Like a sweet-smelling-incense-aroma.”
There was a commotion in the house on the eighth day of this promised-baby’s life. The day of the circumcision was part of the traditional Jewish naming ceremony. For one reason or another, everyone assumed that the name assigned would be Zacharias, after his father. But his mother said no. And not just a “I’m thinking about it” no. The kind that’s a little high-pitched and has a couple of extra o’s in it. Her “no” was much more intense.
he will be called john
It was a name that their tightly-knit community hadn’t heard before – at least not among their friends or family. It surprised them. But Elizabeth was adamant. So they turned to the still-speechless Zacharias, communicating to him with signs and gestures – indicating that he was not only mute, but also deaf. They asked him what he wished to name the baby. And he asked for a writing table. And was also resolute. As everyone at the ceremony looked on, he wrote four definitive words: his name is John.
And they marveled. The same way they did when they waited for him to come out of the temple that day so many months earlier. The day he emerged newly speechless, unable to deliver their blessing. They marveled at how long he was in there. Wondering what, exactly, was taking place inside. And now, they were astonished again in his choice of this miracle baby’s name. A choice that confirmed his wife’s decision. And Gabriel’s prophecy.
Zacharias first encountered that angel-sent-by-God inside the temple. As he burned incense that was sweet to the LORD. And he didn’t believe the words of truth that were spoken. And now, on the eighth day, as his son was being circumcised, Zacharias likely thought of these things in his heaven-forced-silence. Of the glory of God appearing to Moses and Aaron and all the people of Israel, accepting them with pleasure. And he probably prayed in faith that God would accept his brand new miracle babe with pleasure. And this belief combined with obedience was about to open the door for his voice to return powerfully. Just as quickly as it left.