Monday, December 17, 2007

Merry Christmas, Zacharias

In the first chapter of Luke we are introduced to Zacharias who was a priest married to a woman named Elizabeth. They were both righteous and blameless in their obedience of God (v5-6). They were also both advanced in years and had no children due to Elizabeth being unable to conceive (v7). When Zacharias’ division of priests was on duty in the temple, he was chosen by lots to be the priest who would offer the incense on the altar (v8-10). Each division of priests were on duty at the temple twice a year for one week at a time. Due to the enormous number of priests (some estiuamte 18,000), this would be the only time in his life that Zacharias would be able to fulfill this sacred task. The incense he offered symbolized the prayers of the entire nation so Zacharias became the focal point of Israel that day.

As Zacharias fulfilled his duty, the angel, Gabriel, appeared to him and he was filled with fear. This was the first revelation of God given to man in over 400 years (v11-12). The angel announced that the prayers of he and his wife had been heard and that she would have a son and his name was to be John (v13). The angel revealed six descriptions of this son to be born (v14-17). He would bring joy; He would be great in the sight of the Lord; He would drink no wine or liquor; He would be filled with the Holy Spirit; And he would turn many Israelites back to the Lord. John was the forerunner of Christ announcing that He was the Messiah coming in the Spirit and power of Elijah. Luke quotes two passages from Malachi (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6) and affirms that John (the Baptist) was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. Zacharias expressed doubt due to being beyond child-bearing years (v18). The angel reminds him of “Who” it was that sent him and struck him with muteness until the prophecy was fulfilled (v19-20). When Zacharias came out of the temple he could not speak and the people realized he had seen a vision (v21-23). Elizabeth became pregnant just as the angel had said and stayed in seclusion for five months (v24-25)

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel is sent to Nazareth to a virgin named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph (v26-27). The angel tells Mary not to be afraid but that she had found favor with God and would give birth to a son and she is to call Him Jesus (v28-33). The angel states that He would be great (v32). He would be called the Son of the Most High (v32). He would be given the throne of His father David (v32). And He would reign over the house of Jacob forever. The angel communicates that this child would be conceived through the Holy Spirit, not through an earthly father (v34-35). The angel also tells Mary about the pregnancy of her cousin, Elizabeth, to show that nothing is impossible with God (v36-38). Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visits Elizabeth and spends the final 3 months of her pregnancy until John is born (Luke 1:26-56).

After John was born, they took him to be circumcised when he was 8 days old and the people were calling him Zacharias, after his father (v57-59). Elizabeth insisted that he be called John which made the people question because there was no one named John in their ancestry (v60-61). John took a tablet and wrote the name “John” and that very moment he was able to speak and he began praising God with a prayer filled with Old Testament quotations and allusions (v64-66). John grew up and became strong in spirit (v67-80).

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