Luke 1:1-25 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Two Old Persons, Zechariah and Elizabeth
Comments for Study 1

Luke 1:1-25
Memory Verse: 13

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I. Luke's Gospel Introduction (1-4)

The Life of Christ Showing Coverage by Luke

* The chart to the right by Irving L. Jensen from his Self-Study Guide on Luke is used by permission. It shows the Life of Christ Showing Coverage by Luke.

>1. Was this the first written account of Jesus' ministry? (1)

* Luke 1:1 "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,"

* "Many have undertaken" -Luke was not the first to write what the disciples had been saying concerning Jesus' ministry. Mark and Matthew's account are believed to have been finished by this time. See introduction for more information.

The Bible that the church accepted (with much prayer and God's leading) in the third century and has been handed down to us to this day has four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Other accounts were rejected then and now by most scholars.

* "to draw up an account" -Luke, the author of this gospel is a historian that wrote a accurate, orderly, and factual account.

* "that have been fulfilled among us" -The first church came to know, accepted, and firmly believe that the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus and his ministry. Luke quotes a lot from the Old Testament to show that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Messiah. See link above "PROPHECIES JESUS FULFILLED" for a list.

* Using language similar to classical Greek, Luke begins with a formal preface, common to historical works of the time, in which he states his purpose for writing and identifies the recipient. He acknowledges other reports on the subject, shows the need for this new work and states his method of approach and sources of information. (NIV Study Bible)

>Was the author an eye witness? (2)

* Luke 1:2 "just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word."

* "just as they were handed down to us" -Luke himself did not know Jesus, but he was with Paul, John and Peter (perhaps other too) who were. At first the apostles repeated Jesus' teachings (the gospel). Then the gospel was written down in small pieces. Mark (with great help from Peter) is believed to have collected some of these accounts into what we know as his gospel. (Mark was a companion of Peter and on Paul's first missionary journey.) Matthew, it is believe expounded in greater detail what Mark had already recorded, especially many of Jesus' parables. Luke's gospel is different than those two in the fact that a historical account from before John's birth, through Jesus' ascension, into the beginnings of the church age had not been written down. (The book of Acts is a companion book to this gospel.) This is what Luke was lead by the Spirit to do. Luke was in the second generation of believers. Some of the apostles had died, a few were still living including John and Paul. Paul had been arrested (Acts 21:27-36) and shipped to Rome where he awaited to present his case to Caesar (Acts 25:1-27). Luke's gospel and the book of Acts were written while Paul was in his first Roman imprisonment (57-61 A.D.).

* "by those who from the first were eyewitnesses" -Luke uses a medical term meaning "autopsy" here translated as "eyewitnesses". Luke wrote mostly from what was told him by those who were in Jesus' ministry from beginning to end. Example: John, Mary, Peter, ect. However, Luke did take from what Paul said, who knew of Jesus' ministry. He was a young Jewish leader during Jesus' ministry. Yet we do not know if he ever meet or listened to Jesus. Paul was specially taught the gospel by God after his conversion. (Galatians 1:15-17)

* "and servants of the word" -Luke uses a term that is applied to rowing a boat and to the medical term for an intern here translated as "servants". All the first church leaders interpreted Jesus' life according to the word of God. Luke made sure that those who he quoted were servants of the word of God.

* Today, as in generations before false teachers and antichrist have presented a false Christ and twisted his teachings. (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:18) Some of these antichrist include Muhammad prophet of Islam, Joseph Smith writer of the prophet Mormon, Charles Taze Russell's Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Scientists. These religious sects and others like them promote their own writings and version of Jesus' words. How can we know who is right?

First and most important, is to pray for God to reveal the truth to you though the Holy Spirit. Bible study tips can be found here.

Second, is to reference a good translation and compare it to other translations. (Click here to see an article on Bible Inspiration.) The Old Testament was originally written in mostly Hebrew and the New Testament was originally written mostly in Greek. A good translation is important when studying the word of God. This site uses the NIV and offers through The American Bible Society links to other accurate versions and languages. Thus it is easy to compare what other Christian organizations and groups over the centuries have translated. This site also offers comments from myself and others to help in Bible Study. (Click here for information and FAQ on this site.)

Third, it is important to join a local congregation that teaches the Bible and lives for his glory according to his word. How can we know that a congregation is doing this? It might help to read The Westminster Shorter Catechism also found on this site.

Being raised up in the teachings and faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing. Life with God though his One and Only Son Jesus the Messiah is a personal relationship and daily experience. If you are not sure if you have a personal relationship with Jesus visit this page.

Studying a Dead Sea Scroll

* The picture to the right is a scholar studying one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. Most were written before the time of Jesus (408 B.C. to 318 A.D.). They were found in caves about a mile inland from the north-west shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. The texts are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.

>How did the author come to know the events? (3)

* Luke 1:3 "Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,"

* "I myself have carefully investigated" -Luke did an accurate study of Jesus' life. He talked to those who participated, not only the apostles but many others Jesus' life touched.

* "everything from the beginning" -The beginning of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ (Messiah). Luke is the only gospel writer to start with shortly before and at Jesus' birth.

* "for you" -Luke wrote from a teacher to pupil point of view.

* "most excellent" -This may indicate that Theophilus, if a person, was a noble man or a Roman leader or dignitary.

* "Theophilus" -Theophilus means "one who loves God". He could be a person or some suggest that Luke was saying this account was for all who loved God.

* Deuteronomy 13:12-15 "If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock."

* Ecclesiastes 7:25 "So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly."

>Why was it written? (4)

* Luke 1:4 "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

* "you may know the certainty of things" -This tells us the intent of Luke's writing was to build up personal faith and firmly establish it.

* 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

* 1 John 5:20 "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."

* Bible Reading, if it is to be profitable, will not be the pleasant diversion sometimes pictured in the religious ads, a peaceful pastime with which to while away a tired evening. The Bible is a serious book, probably the most serious in the world, and it will not submit to being used for light amusement. The message of the Bible is strongly evangelistic, its tone is urgent, its claims are exacting. It makes sovereign demands upon the reader and will hear no excuse for his failure to meet them. The first work of revealed truth is to secure an unconditional surrender of the sinner to the will of God. Until this has been accomplished, nothing really lasting has been done at all. The reader may admire the rich imagery of the Bible, its bold figures and impassioned flights of eloquence; he may enjoy its tender musical passages and revel in its strong homely wisdom; but until he has submitted to its full authority over his life, he has secured no good from it yet. (The Early Tozer: A Word In Season)

II. Zechariah's Life of Faith (5-13)

New Testament Jewish Sects

>2. What do you know about Herod and his times?

* Luke 1:5a "In the time of Herod king of Judea..."

* "In the time of Herod" -Herod was not a Jew, though he claimed to be. He was a very ungodly man who worshipped Roman gods. He called himself "Herod the Great". He later elected to kill the Messiah, Jesus while Jesus was still a baby in order to protect his rule. In the process he killed the all males two years old and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. (Matthew 2:16) His kingdom was the most east part of the Roman Empire and included Idumea (south of Judea), Judea, Samaria (north of Judea), Galilee (north of Samaria), Trachonitis (north of Galilee), and Perea (east of Judea and Samaria). He eventually ruled his kingdom from the coastal city of Caesarea, a city he founded in 30 B.C.

* "king of Judea" -Herod was a puppet king of the Roman Empire from 37 to 4 B.C. Rome had made Judea a providence fulfilling Genesis 49:10 and Daniel 2:40, 7:19, 9:25, 11:2-35.

* Luke chapters 1 and 2 are about the remnant of God's people in a dark time in Judea's history. Oppressive and mighty Rome took control of the partially Hellenized territories, Judea and Galilee in 63 A.D. No battles were needed because the Jewish infighting in Jerusalem was so great that the religious and political leaders went to Rome and ask for their "help". The Roman Senate appointed Herod, an immoral and cruel Gentile (an Idumean whose ancestors were Edomites) king over Judea in 40 B.C. After some battles against the Parthians his rule was firmly established by 37 B.C.

Herod was friends of Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) who was given a mandate by the people to rule as dictator for life in 45 B.C. Herod was friends first with Mark Anthony and then with Octavian (27 B.C.-14 A.D.) when Octavian defeated Mark Anthony in 31 B.C. Octavian changed his name to Caesar Augustus (He was grand-nephew of Julius Caesar.) and was declared Rome's first emperor in 27 B.C.

Like most rulers of the day Herod was ruthless; murdering his wife, his three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle and many others - not to mention the babies in Bethlehem. In order to build many buildings and fortresses he imposed a high Roman tax, leaving many in poverty.

Antigonus Mattathias II coin

* The coin to the right is from Antigonus Mattathias II (40-37 B.C.). He was the last Hasmonean ruler. The debased prutah shows the Menorah but other coins did not. He lost his throne to Herod the Great. (Atlas of the Bible Lands, Harry Thomas Frank)

* Rome taxed the people highly. Those in Judea and Israel were not rich people so the tax made their life hard.

* Rome ruled it's territories they considered a threat harshly. Once, according to Josephus (a Jewish historian of this time), Pilate (the Roman procurator who followed Herod's family rule of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee) had thousands of Jews crucified in order to squelch a rebellion. Their bodies were hung on crosses that lined a road leading out of Jerusalem.

* The word of God was scarcely taught. When John the Baptist grew up many people came to him to hear the word of God. They came from far distances because the word of God was not taught (or at least correctly) where they lived including Jerusalem. (Matthew 3:5-6)

* Malachi was the last word of God to come to the Jews. He lived 400 years before Jesus.

* The formally educated priests in Jerusalem were Sadducees who didn't believe in the resurrection and compromised the truth of God to maintain their political position. (Matthew 22:23;Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27) Because of deep divisions and hatred the anointed high priest was forced to leave Jerusalem and form a sect called the Essenes. The Essenes are believed by most to be the source of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered in 1946 A.D. Another religious group who did not agree with the Sadducees nor the Essenes was the Pharisees. They were formally educated in the Old Testament. The average Jew admired and loved the Pharisees because they supported equal rights, lived pious lives, and appeared to be devout Jews. All three groups opposed Jesus. (Matthew 22:34) See chart to the right. Jesus warned his disciples about their corruption. (Matthew 16:5, 11-12)

* God's people were without spiritual qualities because they loved the world and hated God. They had a form of religion while denying God. They went through the motions of religion while in their hearts they loved themselves and the world. They lived self centred lives, not God centred lives. Jesus said to the religious leaders, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!" (John 8:42-45)

>3. Who were Zechariah and Elizabeth?

* Luke 1:5-6 "In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly."

* "a priest" -Most formally educated priests at this time were members of the Sadducee sect. Zechariah was a priest. In such a dark times with so many corrupt religious and political leaders it was not easy to stay holy and hold onto faith.

* "Zechariah" -Zechariah means "Remembrance of Yah" or "God remembers". "Yah" is the abbreviated form of the Name of the Lord (Yahweh).

* "who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah" -The priests were divided up into twenty-four (24) divisions since the time of David. Abijah was one of the "heads of the priestly families". (Nehemiah 12:12, and 1 Chronicles 24:10) Only four divisions returned from the exile (Ezra 2:36-39) which were subdivided so that there were twenty-four (24) again. Estimates of the number of priests at this time range in the thousands. Each division was on duty twice a year for one week.

* "his wife Elizabeth" -They were a married couple. Elizabeth is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name "Elisheba" meaning "Oath of my God" or "his Oath". Together Zechariah and Elizabeth's names mean "God remembers His oaths". (Psalm 89:34-37)

* "was also a descendant of Aaron" -She was also a priest. A priest was required to marry an Israelite virgin (Leviticus 21:14), but not necessarily the daughter of a priest.

* "Both of them" -They worked together to serve God.

* "were upright" -Being upright comes from the heart. They lived with fear of God, hoped in his kingdom, and looked forward to the time of the Messiah.

* "in the eyes of God" -God saw their hearts and was pleased.

* "observing all the Lord's commands and regulations" -They lived according to the word of God. This means that they had to study it and change their life according to it.

* "blamelessly" -Blameless means perfectly, innocent of wrong doing. There was no reason for anyone to make an accusation against him. This doesn't mean that there weren't people who didn't like him and thus might make false accusations against him.

* Verse 18 says that they were an old couple.

* In God's eyes their life of faith was very important, even though in the eyes of man, compared to the Roman leaders, they were not.

* In such an evil time it didn't seem to make much a difference to obey God and live a life of faith.

* They are a good example to us of persistent faith.

* They would have been spiritual leaders in their community and must have had good influence because it says that they were blameless and upright.

>What was the problem in their family?

* Luke 1:7 "But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

* "But they had no children" -A common trait when life is hard.

* "Elizabeth was barren" -Being barren implies that God had shut her womb like he had done to Sarah and Rachel. (Genesis 11:30, 20:18, 29:31, 30:22, 49:25)

* Deuteronomy 28:15, 18a declares result of disobedience to God would be, "The fruit of your womb will be cursed..." Deuteronomy and Leviticus was the main books for a priest.

>How do you think this problem affected them? (25)

* Luke 1:25 "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

* Having no children was seen as a curse of God by many cultures. Zechariah and Elizabeth were probably hurt, ashamed, joyless, and sorrowful whenever they saw children playing. Having no children was a problem to both in different ways. If Zechariah didn't have a son his family line would be cut off. Because of this possibility the religious leaders considered childlessness as grounds for divorce.

* They could have reacted many ways to this problem. They could have blamed each other (Rachel and Jacob did something like this), God, or ignored the problem. Living by faith would have been hard. They could have easily doubted God and his love for them. They had to overcome this fatalistic element by turning to God for help every day. For Elizabeth her whole life she would have desired to care for and lavish love on an infant. Having no children would have been an emptiness in their hearts.

* Many times they tried but when Zechariah looked at Elizabeth's stomach there was no work of God.

* Zechariah and Elizabeth could do nothing to change their situation. They longed for thier situation to change, but could do nothing about it except pray, wait, and keep faith in God.

* Why do bad things happen in righteous people's life, especially things that they have no control over? One is discipline and training. Another is to prove our love for God. God is looking for someone to have a mutual love relationship with. He is willing to shower love one anyone. Yet how does he, us, and others know that we love God. If we obey his commands and trust in him we can reciprocate God's love for us back to him. What do we have to give God except trust and obey? Adam and Eve failed in these two things. They did not obey his command not to eat the fruit and they did not trust in God's love and blessing. In everyone's life comes times of testing our love for him. Noah's test was in building the ark. Abraham's test was patience and being willing to sacrifice the son he loved. Job's test was the troubles that came to his life. We should not be surprised when bad things happen to those who are seeking God and his kingdom. Jesus taught, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) When the disciples asked Jesus why a man was born blind he told them, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:3)

* I am at a point in my life where I have no income and many bills and debts to pay. Relationship which were good in the past are strained to the point of breaking. People whom I have loved are cursing me and calling me a failure. People who I thought loved me because of who I am are turning out to only love me when I pay the bills, give them gifts, and supply health insurance. My generation is not seeking God and many are slowly walking away from faith in God. My faith in God has been mocked and I have experience persecution, hate, and violence. I know what it is like to be in plenty and need. I can do nothing to change these things expect pray, hope, love others, and apply for jobs. Psalm 34:15-20 says, "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken."

>In what respects might they be called upright in the sight of God? (see Psalm 1)

* Psalm 1 "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

* Having children is a blessing. Yet we should not assume that if someone does not have children then they are cursed. The same logic can be applied to any blessing.

>4. What special opportunity came to Zechariah?

* Luke 1:8-9 "Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense."

* "Zechariah's division was on duty" -Each division was on duty twice a year for one week. Thus each year a priest served in the temple for only fourteen days. The daily jobs required where few so many priests who came did not do anything. See question three for more information.

* "he was serving as priest before God" -According to Numbers 4:3 the eligible age to serve as priest was 30 to 50 years old. To serve before the Lord would require that he be ceremonially clean. With so many priest's available and being so old, Zechariah could have not taken the time to serve as priest in the temple. He could have stayed home.

* "by lot" -The priests used lots to assure God's guidance in choosing the person to offer the incense. A group would go into the temple with the one chosen, then leave to allow him to offer the incense.

* "to go into the temple of the Lord" -The Lord was in the most holy place in the temple, called "The Most Holy Place" and "Holy of Hollies". A curtain separated this place from the table of incense. That place was called the Holy Place. (Exodus 26:33-35, 30:7-8) The incense represented the prayers of the Israelites going up before the Lord God. According to Josephus the priest who offered the incense would have a rope tied around his waist so that as he was in The Holy Place to long, indicating something went wrong or he had seen God and died, then they would pull the priest out. They pulled the priest out by rope because the only way a priest could go before the Lord in this place was to burn the twice daily incense and annually put blood on the altar's horns. (Exodus 30:10) There was no law to allow a person to go in and take a dead dead body out. No one else at any time was to go into The Holy Place other than these two times.

* Around two thousand (2,000) priest were in each of the twenty-four (24) divisions in those days. Burning incense happened every morning and evening. According to the rules of the priesthood a priest could offer the incense only once in his lifetime. Many priest died without ever offering incense. Offering incense was a rare blessing. It was the highlight of a priest's life of faith.

* I believe that the resurrected will be arranged like this during the Millennium. Each will have their given territory to live and judge in. Then at arranged times we will be required to serve in the temple where Jesus will rule the earth from. The time allotted to be in his presence and the service we will have will be determined by what we did in this life; whether we served him and his church or lived selfish lives. Eternal life and resurrection is a gift by faith alone. The honour of being in the presence of the Lord during the Millennium will depend on our service now before he comes.

Priest making an offering at the temple.

* See a drawing of the priest making a offering at the temple altar to the right.

>What did it mean to burn incense at the altar while the people prayed outside?

* Luke 1:10 "And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside."

* "burning of incense" -The incense represented the prayers of the people. Exodus 30:7-10 records the command to burn the incense.

* Leviticus 16:12-13 "He is to take a censor full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that he will not die."

* Philippians 4:18 "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."

* Leviticus 9:1-7 records what was needed so "that the glory of the LORD may appear to you."

>What should be his prayer topic at a time like this?

* Exodus 28:9-10 "Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth -six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other."

* He should pray for:
     1) the kingdom of God.
     2) the coming of the Messiah.
     3) his nation to be a nation of priests before the Lord.
     4) his nation's sin problem.

* They prayed for a lotted time. (21) So there was not much time to pray for a lot of things.

>5. What happened?

* Luke 1:11 "Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense."

* "Then an angel of the Lord" -The original Greek is "De angelos Kyrios".

* "angel" -Angels are spirits (Hebrews 1:13-14; Psalms 104:4) created by God (Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1;16) before the creation of man (Job 38:7).
    Angels comes from two Hebrew words. The first is "ben." It means; "a son (as a builder of the family name), in the widest sense (of lit. and fig. relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition, etc."
    The second is "elohiym." It is plural of the Hebrew word "elowahh" which comes from the Hebrew words "el", "ayil", and "uwl". "Elohiym" means; "gods in the ordinary sense; but spec. used (in the plur. thus, esp. with the art.) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: -angels"

* "appeared" -The angel was most likely there all the time, but the priest were kept from seeing him.

* "the altar of incense" -Exodus 30:1-6 describes this altar. It says, "Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high--its horns of one piece with it. Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold moulding around it. Make two gold rings for the altar below the moulding--two on opposite sides--to hold the poles used to carry it. Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony--before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony--where I will meet with you."

An angel visits Zechariah and Mary

* The engraving to the right is by Matthias Scheits (1630-1700). It depicts an angel informing Zechariah (front) and Mary (back) that they will have children. The Holy Spirit appears over Mary's head in the form of a dove. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.

>What was Zechariah's reaction?

* Luke 1:12 "When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear."

* "When Zechariah saw him" -The angel would have been within touching reach.

* "he was startled" -His toes curled, his knees quaked, he drew in a deep breath, his chest tightened, his heart pounded fast and hard, and his eyes bugged out. The rope around his waist suddenly became aware to him.

* "gripped with fear" -Fear of the wrath of God. Fear and awe go together.

>Why?

* Offering incense before the Lord was frightening and exciting enough. He did not expect the angel to suddenly appear. If the priest made a mistake he would die. (Num. 3:2-4) In the past many times when angels appeared it was to execute judgement; for example when the angles came to Sodom and Gomorrah.

* Zechariah must have thought he done something wrong while making the offering of incense. Or perhaps he felt guilty for offering a personal prayer for a son (13) at the time when he should have been praying for his nation.

>What had evidently been his secret lifelong prayer topic?

* Luke 1:13 "But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John."

* "Zechariah" -The angel knew his name.

* "your prayer has been heard" -God answered his personal prayer for a son and his prayer for the nation at the same time.

* "Your wife Elizabeth" -The angel knew his wife's name too.

* "you are to give him the name John" -Most parents had the right to name their children. Naming someone shows dominance and authority. John would be God's.

* "John" -John means "The Lord is gracious and merciful".

>What can we learn from him about persistent prayer?

* God hears and blesses life long prayer.

* Never give up. Have an intense Biblical desire, direction and goal.

* Pray continually and consistently.

* Do not be discouraged and if we are keep praying. David's psalms are a great example to us. He was often discouraged and yet prayed and praised the Lord.

>About the importance of holding on to one prayer topic?

* Faith is needed to pray continually for one prayer topic when nothing seems to happen. Just because it seems God is doing nothing and never will answer the prayer doesn't mean that he says, "No, I won't do that." It may mean that he wants us to wait for his time, the right time. Then when he answers the persistent prayer, we can taste God's victory.

* Luke 18:1-8 "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up... the Lord said, 'And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'"

* James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

* We have no word from God indicating that long prayers will make everything right. (The Tozer Quotable II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge)

* Jesus' disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. (Luke 11:1) He gave them and us what we call "The Lord's Prayer" and taught us parables. I believe to many books have been written about prayer. I know that there are to many false teachings about prayer. Tozer wrote, "True prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else. Everyone must pray as if he alone could pray, and his approach must be individual and independent, that is, of everyone but the Holy Spirit." And he wrote, "The artless little child is still the divine model for all of us. Prayer will increase in power and reality as we repudiate all pretence and learn to be utterly honest before God as well as before men." (The Tozer Quotable II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge)

>6. What can we learn here about the kind of people God calls and uses?

* God uses faithful and prayerful people.

III. Great Before the Lord (14-17)

John the Baptist Sees Jesus from Afar by James Tissot

* See a painting of John the Baptist Sees Jesus from Afar by James Tissot to the right.

>7. Why would this baby be a blessing to his family and to the world?

* Luke 1:14-15a "He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord."

* "He will be a joy and delight to you" -Answered prayer brings such joy, especially when we have prayed for it such a long time.

* "many will rejoice because of his birth." -He will be a great man of God and others will see a great work of God because of his parent's faith and God's love.

* "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord" -God's answer to Zechariah's prayer was far beyond what he imagined.

>Why was he great?

* Luke 1:15a "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord..."

* "in the sight of the Lord" -John was sent by God as the prophets before him. Jesus confirmed that John was a prophet and more. (Matthew 11:11-15)

* John did God's work for his life. (John 1:6-8, 18-28)

* John was close to the Messiah. (John 1:29-34)

* He would be great in man's eyes because he was great in God's eyes.

* John was not great because of life style, food, clothes, social status, or where he lived.

* Matthew 11:11-15 records Jesus says, "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear."

* The average Jew believed that John was a prophet. The religious leaders knew this. Yet they were so jealous of him that they did not acknowledge him as anything important let alone a prophet. (Matthew 21:-2526)

>What did the angel name him?

* Luke 1:13 "But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John."

* "John" -John means "The Lord is gracious and merciful".

>Why?

* One of the reasons God gave John's name was so that they would remember John's mission and raise him up according to God's plan not their own ideas. Also, they knew God's promise for a son was concrete because the angel even gave him the name.

* Prophecy in the Scriptures spoke of John and they could learn of it. (Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6)

>What would be special about his way of life?

* Luke 1:15b "He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth."

* "He is never to take wine or other fermented drink" -Why? So he would be reliable, preach a fire and brimstone message, and have an intense spirit lead ministry.

* John would be a Nazirite, a child dedicated to God and God's mission. The mission of a Nazirite is found in Numbers 6:1-21.

* Samson was a Nazirite. His mother was also barren. Judges 13:4-5 records, "Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."

* Samuel was also a Nazirite. His mother was also barren. (1 Samuel 1:2, 11)

John the Baptist

* See an actor rendering John the Baptist clothes to the right.

>Why should God's servant live a pure life?

* "he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth." -Our heavenly father is holy.

* 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil."

* 1 Corinthians 10:7 "Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry."

* 1 Corinthians 10:21 "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons."

* Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit."

* 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9 "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."

>8. What would be his mission?

* Luke 1:16 "Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God."

* "Many of the people of Israel" -Not just the Jew. Israel here means also the grafted in Gentiles.

* "will he bring back to the Lord their God" -The Jews did not have a personal relationship with their God.

>How would he carry it out?

* Luke 1:17 "And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

* "Lord" -Lord here in the original Greek is "Kyrios" or "Kurios", the translated word for "owner" and "master". Jesus is the owner of everything as master and owner. Isaiah 45:18 states, "For this is what the Lord says-- he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the Lord, and there is no other." And John 1:1-3, 14 states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

* When the early Christians confessed Jesus as Lord, they protested against the religious claims of the state but not against the rule of Caesar as such. On the other hand, the Jewish rebels denied the political authority of the Caesar. Being exempt from the cult of the Caesar, Jews could easily call the Caesar: lord.” Christians had to dispute the Caesar claim to be lord when that claim was understood to mean the Caesar was divine. (Holman Bible Dictionary)

* The two words, “Kurios Jesus,” composed the first Christian confession of faith (1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9). The decisive reason for transferring the divine title Lord to Jesus was His resurrection from the dead. Before His resurrection, Jesus was addressed with the Jewish title of honour Rabbi (“teacher”, Mark 9:5; 11:21, for example). Luke always, and Matthew usually, translated this title into Greek as Kurios (“Lord). According to Mark only once did a non-Jew address Jesus as Lord (Mark 7:28), but even that was simply a polite and courteous way of speaking (equivalent to our sir). Jesus was also addressed with the Aramaic mari (lord, John 13:13). The resurrection changed the respectful student/teacher relationship of the disciples with Jesus into the believers servant/Lord relationship. The designation of Jesus as Lord in the Gospels (esp. in Luke) is an indication of this shift in relationship. Paul said that God honored Jesus with the title of Lord as His response to Jesus obedient suffering (Phil. 2:6-11). Jesus in the form of a Servant is the humbled One with the marks of the cross, before whom the entire world will bow down. Thus the Crucified One will experience an act of homage like that due God Himself (Isa. 45:23-24). His church already gives Him such homage. He has been seated at the right hand of God, which demonstrates the elevation of Jesus to the position of Ruler next to God Himself (Ps. 110:1; see Mark 12:35-37). (Holman Bible Dictionary)

* "And he will go on before the Lord" -Jesus is here refereed to as the Lord. John's ministry was before Jesus' ministry. John introduced Jesus as the promised Messiah.

>How would he be like Elijah? (Mark 6:18)

* Mark 6:18 "For John had been saying to Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.'"

* "the spirit and power of Elijah" -John had a ministry like Elijah. Neither were great disciple makers like Jesus was. Instead they had a fiery and strong ministry in dark times. They were men of passion and zeal. They were not afraid to stand up to the corrupt political and religious leaders.

* One man of faith can make a difference in evil times.

>What does verse 17 tell us about the people of John's time?

* Luke 1:17 "And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous -to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

* "to turn" -Repent means "to turn" away from sin and turn towards God and his righteousness. John preached repentance. (Matthew 3:7-8, 11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:1-3, 8-7-8)

* "the hearts of the fathers to their children" -In those days there were many broken families. When fathers don't care for their children they don't care for anybody.

* "and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous" -Those does contained really sinful people who responded to John's ministry.

* Many different people in the world means that there are many different messages to be given as we preach the gospel. During corrupt, ungodly, and immoral times the message of repentance should not be shied away from. A preacher and teacher who wants to be accepted by people, make money, or fill the pews is tempted to shy away from the message of repentance. Neither John nor Jesus refrained from telling people to repent.

>About the real focal point of John's holy mission?

* "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" -John readied people's heart for the Messiah.

* John is a good example for us to follow in our days. We are to prepare people to receive Jesus into their hearts as he did.

* Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32)

IV. God Trains Zechariah (18-25)

>9. How did Zechariah respond?

* Luke 1:18 "Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

* "How can I be sure of this?" -Zechariah doubted. He wanted a sign to confirm the message. John had wanted and prayed for years to have a son. Now when man considered having children impossible he needed a sign to confirm the message. He doubted either it came from God or God could actually do it. The later seems to be confirmed in the angel's rebuke. Weak faith asks for a sign. Asking for a sign shows doubt in God's love and power.

* "I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." -Abraham said a similar thing. (Genesis 15:2-3, 16:2, 18:11-12)

* The Old Testament shows others asking for a sign to confirm a message from God. (i.e. Gideon, Judges 6:37) They are a bit different then Zechariah's case. Zechariah was in the temple's inner court. There was only one way in and with God's presence there no demon would give the message given to Zechariah. There should be no doubt in Zechariah's mind that the angel before him was an angel of the Lord and his message was from the Lord God Almighty.

>Why did he find it so hard to believe the good news?

* Zechariah had a lack of faith in a crucial time. He forgot Abraham's life of faith. Maybe the angel's appearance startled him out of his mind temporarily. Yet, he regained composure enough to doubt.

* Zechariah had theoretical understanding instead of faith.

* How many times have I feared when I should not have been calm? To many. How many times have I doubted when I should have just believed? To many. How many times was I ashamed when I should have boldly preached? To many. How many times did I bring trouble on myself and others because of a lack of faith? To many.

* He prayed for a son, but he really didn't believe God was going to answer his prayer. Perhaps he did their first few years of their marriage. But as the years went by and they had no children he kept praying, but began to accept that God wasn't going to answer his prayer with a yes. He told him that so much that when he was told in a miraculous way he did not believe. How many times am I like him? There is a cycle we go through when we have prayer topics that aren't answered in our time frame. From belief, to doubt in our relationship with God, to doubt that our prayer is a good prayer, to believing that God's answer is wait, to believing God's answer is no, to believing that God doesn't think a yes to our prayer is a good thing, to doubt that either God doesn't exist or we don't have a good relationship with him.

>How did the angel rebuke him?

* Luke 1:19 "The angel answered, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.'"

* "Gabriel" -Gabriel is an angel that looks like a man. (Daniel 8:16, 9:21) He is assigned to the ture nation of Israel.

* Michael is the only other angel name in the Bible. (Daniel 10:13, 10:21, 12:1; Jude 1:9, 12:7)

* The Bible does not say much about angels. Sadly today more interest and information is supplied concerning angels than the Lord God to the point where some pray to and even worship angels.

* "I stand in the presence of God" -Standing in the presence of God establishes his authority.

* "I have been sent to speak to you" -One of the mission of angels is to deliver messages to mankind, especially when there are so few people dedicated to God.

* "good news" -Good news is "euangelizo" in Greek which is also translated as "gospel" and "tidings".

>What special training did he receive?

* Luke 1:20 "And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

* "And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens" -Zechariah didn't think correctly before he talked. So now he would be given time to correct his thinking. When we came to the correct thinking he would be allowed to speak again.

* "because you did not believe my words" -The angel's words came from God and therefore should have been accepted without doubt. Even though he was righteous and blameless it didn't mean he was exempt from training. God is not pleased when we doubt his words.

* "which will come true at their proper time" -God has a time for everything. Malachi spoke of John's coming hundreds of years before this. (Malachi 4:5-6) Yet he did not come right away. He came in God's time.

* Zechariah's hard training lasted nearly ten (10) months.

* Zechariah asked, "How can this be?" Thus he was asking for a sign. God's sign was very interesting. The sign personally affected his life for nearly ten months. People sometimes talk about "putting out the fleece" referring to Gideon and meaning to test to see if something they have in mind is God's will for their life or not. When Jesus was tempted he quoted the Old Testament, "Do not put the Lord God to the test," meaning to prove God's love and protection. Zechariah wasn't testing God's love and protection. He doubted and so asked for a sign. We can learn from him this is not wise for his sign brought hardship. God takes certain words and actions very seriously. We should be very careful of what we say. James wrote that the tongue is hard to take. (James 3:1-12) Be careful what you say or God could train your tongue.

* A man who is an elder, a Bible teacher, and a prominent leader had a stroke last year. He lost his ability to speak. He knows what he wants to say. However, whenever he speaks his words are an assembly of words that do not make sense. This frustrates him greatly. I can see how Zechariah must have dealt with his training.

* Waiting for God's time is not easy. Trusting in God when all seems impossible is exactly the time that faith should maintain hope. God trains us to have faith, hope and love because these are the three that we will be judged by. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Every soldier is trained to hone his skill. Every musician is trained to perfect their art. Every scientist is trained to establish their skill. Every athlete is trained to effectuate their talent. Why should be we surprised when God trains us so that our faith is larger than a mustard seed?

* We should all expect to be trained in all and any aspect of our life, especially faith. Do you have a gift or a talent? Good, expect to be trained in it.

* The more we grow in faith, the more intense our training becomes. God trains us in areas we need it most.

* Pessimism is not good because it ignores God's love. Optimism is good because it involves faith in God's promises.

* 2 Samuel 22:35 and Psalm 18:34 "He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze."

* 1 Chronicles 25:7 "Along with their relatives--all of them trained and skilled in music for the LORD--they numbered 288."

* 2 Chronicles 2:13-14 "I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and with those of my lord, David your father."

* Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

* Hosea 7:15 "I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me."

* Luke 6:40 "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher."

* 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

* Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

* Titus 2:3-5 "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

>10. Meanwhile, what was happening outside the temple?

* Luke 1:21 "Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple."

* "the people were waiting for Zechariah" -The temple was built in a way that the inner sanctuary was hidden from the outside. There was no windows in it and only one door.

* "wondering why he stayed so long in the temple" -The duties in the temple would not take long. All the priest who entered had to do was take care of the lamp and burn the incense. Something that Zechariah finished before the angel appeared. The smoke in the temple was visible to the people outside, a sign to begin to pray. So Zechariah would have appeared right after the smoke was visible and proclaimed the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:22-27. They may have started to wonder if he had died, especially since he wasn't blessed with a son.

>What did they come to learn?

* Luke 1:22 "When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak."

* "They realized he had seen a vision in the temple" -The last time that a vision or miracle was recorded to happen in the temple was when the oil in the lamp did not go out during the Maccabean wars.

* "for he kept making signs to them" -He tried to invent sign language but failed. He wasn't very good a charades either.

>Why would Elizabeth remain in seclusion?

* Luke 1:23-25 "When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

* "When his time of service was complete" -The two weeks were over. See above for an explanation of the priestly divisions.

* "After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion" -She went into seclusion perhaps due to a combination of joy, fear, embarrassment, reverence, and amazement. Having a baby at an old age was not easy and in those days the chance of dying in labour was high even for young women. After five months she and Zechariah who could not speak would need help.

* "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." -Elizabeth had given God the credit. She rejoiced in the answered prayer. These words seems to be what she told people when she came out of seclusion.

* Can you imagine their house during these five months? Zechariah couldn't speak. Elizabeth did all the talking and all she kept saying was, "Zechariah, we are having a son!"

>Has people changed since then?

* Not really.

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