As we read in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1, when the eighth day came for Zacharias and Elizabeth’s new baby boy to be circumcised, it was assumed that he would be given his father’s name, according to the custom of the times.Such was not the case here—not even close! When Zacharias had been struck speechless for his unbelief regarding his fathering a son in his advanced age, we are told, “They all marveled” when Zacharias wrote: “His name is John” (Luke 1:63).
Granted, this isn’t your typical Father’s Day Scripture passage, yet what John’s father Zacharias did on that day is a wonderful reminder of the type of Father we have in God Himself! It was certainly understandable that all those who came to the eighth-day ceremony would expect Zacharias’ son to be given his earthly father’s name.
Turning to our own experience in the human family, we too are born “in our father’s image” (Genesis 5:3). From our earthly fathers comes that inherited sinful nature passed down from one generation to the next. That is the natural way of things–we have no one among our relatives who is called by any other name, for not one of those born into the human race can be called anything other than “sinful.” John, son of Zacharias, was sinful too–but God wanted him to be called John, meaning ‘Jehovah has been gracious.’ And just as John was given that special name, so it is that our heavenly Father gives us a special name–calling us “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
What a marvelous surprise of grace that is! Not a one of us would dare to expect that such an adoption would take place! But that is the love of God for us through His Son! “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:4-5)
We earthly fathers have not had an angel come to us with a special God-given earthly name for our children. But we have had our heavenly Father give us His own name which He would have us pass on to the next generation–a name which is (as God Himself proclaimed it to Moses): “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…” (Exodus 34:6).
God help us as Christian fathers to give our children His name–so that both we and our children will remain among those who “call upon the name of the Lord and [are] saved!” (Joel 2:32)