The Son of Zechariah
Comments for Study 3
Memory Verse: 69
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I. The Birth of John the Baptist (57-66)
>1. What was the response of the relatives and neighbors when Elizabeth gave birth to a son?
* Luke 1:57-58 "When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy."
* "Her neighbors and relatives heard" -Good news should travel fast. Gossip should not travel at all.
* "the Lord had shown her great mercy" -A barren woman was considered curse as was discussed in the previous study.
* "they shared her joy" -When others are blessed and happy there is nothing wrong for us to rejoice for their sakes. It is good for both you and they.
>Why did they view it this way?
* Elizabeth was barren and both her and Zechariah was well along in years. (57) God's work in their lives was evident to all.
* Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her. They were probably some of the same people who made it hard for her to bear her previous childless life because of their gossip. However, when Elizabeth delivered the boy they all rejoice together. We may not personally like someone because we see a weakness in them (which is actually a weakness on our part), but when we see the work of God in their lives we should definitely shut-up and rejoice with them. I'm sure everyone has seen grumpy people even in congregations and petty rivalries that should not be. Love each other. Pray for those who are down. Rejoice with those who see God's work in their lives. (Philippians 2:17-18, 3:1, 4:4; James 5:16)
* I think some people gossip so much that they are not aware of it when they do it. Do a self check. Do you say nice things about others when they are not around and exalt people's strength? Or do you say negative things about others when they are not around and exalt their weaknesses? Guard your tongue for Jesus said, "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17)
* The painting to the right is by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1486-1490. Zechariah confirms that his son is to be named John. (Fresco Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence)
>2. What did it mean for the parents in Israel to circumcise their babies?
* Luke 1:59a "On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child"
* "On the eight day" -A son needed to be at least eight days old (and could be more) to undergo the covenant marker called circumcision. (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3)
* "circumcised" -Circumcision was the way to bring boys into the nation and society of Israel. It is and was for purification and a seal of the covenant made to Abraham. (Genesis 17:1-3, 9-11)
Circumcision is the removal of a penis' end skin. During the circumcision there is a lot of blood and pain when done as an adult. (Genesis 34:25) Not so true when done as an infant. The Lord God gave circumcision to Abram who had to be serious when he considered God's proposal for the circumcisions part of the covenant between them.
As far as I know Abraham's circumcision was the first time God ever presented this in the history of mankind. So to do this new act took a lot of faith. Other nations (Arabs) also practiced circumcision (Jeremiah 9:25-26; Ezekiel 32:18-19), but not for the covenant reasons that Israel did. Theirs was part of the right to becoming a man and thus gain full participation in the community.
Circumcision signified Abraham's covenanted commitment to the LORD -that the LORD alone would be his God whom he would trust and serve. It symbolized a self-maledictory oath (analogous to the oath to which God had submitted himself). Thus Abraham was to place himself under the rule of the LORD as his King, consecrating himself, his offspring and all he possessed to the service of the LORD.
Physical circumcision was a sign of circumcision of the heart, which is all we need now. Romans 2:29 states, "No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (See also Acts 15:1-21)
* Are you circumcised of the heart? Have you place the Lord Jesus Christ first? What does your relationship with him mean? Where do your thoughts go during the day and night? To him or things in the world? Do you love Jesus? Are you circumcised of the heart?
>How was everyone going to name Zechariah's and Elizabeth's son?
* Luke 1:59b "and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah"
* Naming a son after the father was the custom and in many societies is still practiced today. (61) So they didn't ask the parents. They just assumed.
>3. How did Elizabeth want to name the baby?
* Luke 1:60 "but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
* "but his mother spoke up" -Very unusual for the woman to speak during this procedure. Her words took faith and courage.
* Zechariah must have communicated to Elizabeth everything that the angel told 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 was the name the angel told them to name their son. It was God's will.
* Zechariah went against tradition and his own will to do God's will. This obviously wasn't easy.
* It meant that Zechariah and Elizabeth agreed to raise John according to God's will not their own.
>What did Zechariah write when he was asked about the son's name?
* Luke 1:61-63 "They said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who has that name.' Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, 'His name is John.'"
* "Then they made signs to his father" -Zechariah still couldn't speak. They assumed that since he was mute he couldn't hear either. Everyone had gotten use to using sign language with him.
* "writing tablet" -Probably a small wooden board covered with wax.
* "to everyone's astonishment" -Sometimes our customs and routines go against God's will. Going against cultural and societal customs can cause quite a stir and fear. In times like these we need to be firm and follow God's will and way.
* The engraving to the right is by Johann Eck, 1486-1543. Zechariah confirms that his son is to be named John. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.
>What does this show about his faith?
* When John was born Zechariah still couldn't speak even though the angel said, "And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens." (Luke 1:20) God was faithful and kept his promise to Zechariah for a son even though he doubted. Yet when John was born what did Zechariah think and do even though he couldn't speak? He learned his lesson. He trusted and obeyed.
* According to verse 1:20 the angle said "'until this happens'", where "this" most likely refers to the baby's birth. However, when John was born Zechariah couldn't speak for eight days more. Zechariah could have become bitter about the eight extra days and forgot all what he learned during his training. Yet he did not.
>What do you think he learned through God's training?
* Luke 1:18-20 "Zechariah asked the angel, 'How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.' 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. 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.'"
* Zechariah learned to trust and obey.
* Zechariah's obedience this time enabled everyone to see God's hand in their lives.
>4. What happened to Zechariah as soon as he wrote his son's name and dedicated him to the Lord?
* Luke 1:64 "Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God."
* "praising God" -Zechariah could have become bitter when he received God's training. He accepted God's training and repented.
* How often do you praise God? When do you praise God? The apostles praised even when they participated in the sufferings of Christ. (Acts 4:21, 31, 5:41; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 1:29, 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:13, 5:10)
>How did the neighbors and the people respond to this event?
* Luke 1:65-66 "The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, 'What then is this child going to be?' For the Lord's hand was with him."
* "The neighbors were all filled with awe" -They clearly knew that God was at work in Zechariah and Elizabeth. After years of doubting God's love for them, they could not but accept that God was indeed at work in their lives, even more than anyone else that they knew.
* "throughout the hill country of Judea" -Running north to south, the Judean mountains encompass West and East Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah. The range forms a natural division between the Shephelah coastal plains to the west and the Jordan Rift Valley to the east. The Judean Mountains were heavily forested in antiquity. The hills are composed of terra rossa soils over hard limestones.
* The picture to the right is of the central Judean Mountains taken in 2008.
* "were talking about all these things" -God had arranged that the coming of the forerunner of the Messiah began his ministry before he could even speak.
>What does it mean by, "For the Lord's hand was with him"?
* "For the Lord's hand was with him." -Even before we are born God has a plan for us and moves events according to his plan. God was blessing John's life by ensuring people in his future would watch to see what he was going to do and say.
* Nobody can escape God's plan he has chosen for them, especially his children. We can chose to accept or reject it, but we cannot stop it. Jonah tried to escape God's plan for his prophet, but was unable to resist. If we resist we could end up in the belly of a large fish. If we live according to the Holy Spirit's lead we will see his plan unfold. John's life wasn't easy by worldly standards, but it was blessed.
II. Zechariah's Song (67-80)
>5. Who enabled Zechariah to sing the song of praise? (67)
* Luke 1:67 "His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:"
* "filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied" -Zechariah was filled with the Spirit after silent humble Bible study and prayer for over nine months. Every prophesy comes from the Holy Spirit. Peter wrote, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21)
* Most Christians are not joyful persons because they are not holy persons, and they are not holy persons because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit, and they are not filled with the Holy Spirit because they are not separated persons. The Spirit cannot fill whom He cannot separate, and whom He cannot fill, He cannot make holy, and whom He cannot make holy, He cannot make happy! (The Tozer Quotable II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge)
* J. Vernin McGee wrote, "The filling of the Holy Spirit is for service. The experience of the Day of Pentecost (and after) came from the filling of the Holy Spirit (not the baptism of the Holy Spirit). It is still the same today. The filling of the Holy Spirit is for service. This is the only work of the Holy Spirit that we are to do anything about-we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." (Eph. 5:18). Notice that before Pentecost the believers wanted this filling of the Spirit. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication..." (1:14) What would their supplication be about? About the promise of the Lord Jesus that He would send His Holy Spirit to them. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a command given to us. It is not an experience. It is an act of God whereby the believer in Jesus Christ is indwelt by the Spirit of God, sealed unto the day of redemption, and placed into the church, the body of Christ, by the baptism of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit of God is the ennoblement for service. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit.
* Don't be impressed that you or someone else is filled with the Holy Spirit at a service or religious event. 1 Samuel 11:6 says, "When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger." This means that either the Spirit of God was not always in Saul, or more likely the Spirit's influence in his actions and life varied. The Spirit eventually left Saul for good and he tried to kill people. The fact that the Spirit's influence varies in believers today is the constant use of the term "filled with the Spirit" used in the Acts to refer to someone who the Spirit of God came in power one day and not so much the next. So the question is, "Are you filled with the Spirit, or just muddling along? Do you seek the Spirit's filling every day or just once a week at your regular weekly congregational meeting?" Job said, "I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." (Job 23:12) Psalm 30:8 says, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread." Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3) Daily the Israelites were to collect manna, enough for only one day. (Exodus 16:15-16, 21) Jesus said that he is the bread that came down from heaven? (John 6:27, 32-33, 35, 48-51, 53-58) Do you got Jesus today? Did you seek the Spirit's filling today?
>What are the two main point where Zechariah refers to Jesus in his song? (69, 78)
* Luke 1:69 "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David"
* Luke 1:78 "because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven"
* "a horn of salvation for us" -See questions below.
* "in the house of his servant David" -The angel had told Mary that Jesus will rule over the house of David. (Luke 1:32) Mary must have told Zechariah and Elizabeth his words.
* "the tender mercy of our God" -God's mercy helps us in our misery.
* "the rising sun will come to us from heaven" -"The rising sun" is not the disc in the sky. Rather, this sun comes from heaven. Malachi 4:2 states, "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." Malachi 4:5-6 is the prophecy about John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit helped Zechariah to see the significance of and identity of the "sun of righteousness" is the Messiah, Jesus the Lord. (Isaiah 60:19; Matthew 3:16; 1 John 1:5; Revelation 21:23)
>What does, "horn of salvation" mean? (69, Psalm 148:14, Dan. 8:21, Hos. 5:8, Ex. 27:2)
* "horn of salvation" -Horns are the symbol of an animals strength and power. Jesus defeated our enemies through his death and resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:55-56) Ancient Israel used rams horns (shofar in Hebrew) as trumpets.
* Psalm 148:14 "He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord."
* Daniel 8:21 "The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king."
* Hosea 5:8 "Sound the trumpet in Gibeah, the horn in Ramah. Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven; lead on, O Benjamin."
* Exodus 27:2 "Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze."
* Jesus would fight for his people. He is our strength and glory.
* See a picture of a ram's horns to the right.
>6. What was the main thing Zechariah prayed for in verse 68?
* Luke 1:68 "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people."
* "he has come and has redeemed his people." -Redeemed means to recover ownership of by paying a specific agreed amount. Israel, Greece and Rome had laws of redemption in Zechariah's day. The term "redeemed" applied to the legal transaction that took place when a slave was purchased from his slavery into freedom. The Lord commanded the Israelites to redeem their first-born son and livestock. (Exodus 13:11-13) God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18; and 2 Samuel 7:23)
* The Old Testament provided for the redemption of land and people that had passed from their original owner to become the property of another. (Lev. 25:25-27, 47-49; Num. 18:15)
* Israel was essentially a redeemed people. They were slaves in Egypt, redeemed from slavery by obeying the first Passover, the smearing of lamb's blood on their door posts and eating its meat and unleavened bread. Later, when they were in Babylon captivity, the Lord brought them back by overthrowing Babylon with Cyrus the Persian. (Ex. 15:13; Deuteronomy 7:8; Isaiah 48:20, 52:9)
* Jesus has redeemed us through the sacrifice of himself. (Titus 2:14) Galatians 3:13-14 states, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Ephesians 1:7 states, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace"
>Why did he use the words, "He has come"?
* "He has come" -Jesus was already in the womb of Mary.
* Mary had told Zechariah and Elizabeth what the angel told her. With both angelic messages Zechariah began studying the Bible and understood.
>7. Who was regarded as the Israelites worst enemy in Zechariah's time? (70-71)
* Luke 1:70-71 "(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us"
* "salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" -Rome was considered the enemies of the Jews by many in those days. Through the centuries Israel had many enemies. They are not the true enemy of God's people. Death, fear, and sin are our enemies. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26) Satan uses these to keep of from redemption thought Jesus.
* 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 "For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death."
* Satan is strong. We need a strong Savior. Jesus is the strong man who saves us from Satan's grip. (Matthew 12:29-32; Mark 3:23-29; Luke 11:21-23)
>Who is mankind's worst enemy from God's point of view? (Rev. 17:3)
* Revelation 17:3 "Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns."
* Ephesians 6:10-13 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
* Man's enemy is anything that keeps us from God.
>How does Satan's horn impale people? (Hebrews 2:14-16)
* Hebrews 2:14-16 "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants."
* Satan temps us to sin. When we sin we are separated from God.
>What are the results? (Rom. 1:29-31)
* Romans 1:29-32 "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
* When we are separated from God we continue to sin and our sin escalates to greater degrees. So we grow farther and farther from God and our heart grows colder and harder.
* God is our peace and joy. The farther we are from the source of peace and joy, the more restless and sad we become.
* Anger follows the sinner. Pride accompanies the wicked. Anger and pride together bring destruction to ourself and others. Today the world is filling up with sin made destruction.
>8. What is God's holy covenant with Abraham? (72-74a; Gen. 12:2)
* Luke 1:72-74a "to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies"
* Genesis 12:2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing."
* "his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham" -God would be the God of Abraham. Abraham would be the servant of God.
>How has it become a great blessing to us?
* Jeremiah 31:31-33 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
* Luke 22:20 "In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
* 2 Corinthians 3:6 "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
* Hebrews 8:13 "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear."
* Hebrews 9:15 "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
* We can be heirs of covenant of Abraham through Jesus' new covenant.
>What is the immediate results of God's rescuing us from the hands of our enemies? (74b-75)
* Luke 1:74b-75 "and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."
* "to enable us to serve him without fear" -God is holy and those who serve him must be holy.
* "in holiness and righteousness" -Holiness is being set apart. Righteousness is being right with God.
* "before him all our days" -Eternity if implied.
>Why is this a great blessing to us?
* Jesus made a way for us to be pure so that we can have an eternal relationship with God. God's presence is the greatest place in all creation. Jesus brings us the the nexus of life and love.
>9. Who does the rest of Zechariah's song refer to? (76a)
* Luke 1:76a "And you, my child"
* "And you, my child" -Zechariah addresses his son in the rest of his song.
* See an actor rendering John the Baptist clothes to the right.
>What will be the special mission of Zechariah's son? (76b-77)
* Luke 1:76b-77 "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,"
* "will be called a prophet of the Most High" -Jesus said John was the greatest prophet.
* "for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him" -John is great because of he close relationship to the Messiah, Jesus.
* "to give his people the knowledge of salvation" -One of a prophets duty was to teach the source of salvation.
* "through the forgiveness of their sins" -We are saved when are sins are forgiven.
* The duties of the prophet are divided up amongst Jesus' congregation.
>10. What does Zechariah's song tell us about the nature of the salvation God is giving us through Jesus? (78-79)
* Luke 1:78-79 "because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."
* "because of the tender mercy of our God" -God's mercy is to help and rescue us from the misery of sin.
* The world has a wrong understanding of God. They believe he is impersonal, harsh, and aloof.
>How does Jesus, the rising sun, dispel the darkness of the shadow of death from our hearts? (Psalms 37:6; Malachi 4:2)
* "by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven" -John would tell people about Jesus' coming. Jesus' coming in the flesh was like the sun rising. First their is complete darkness. Then a small and gradual light at dawn. Colors of the rainbow appear on the entire sky. When the sun appears over the horizon the world comes to life. Birds sing, animals dance, flowers open to reveal their colors, trees release their fragrance, the dew melts away, and the hearts of men rejoice.
* "living in darkness and in the shadow of death" -Without Jesus mankind gropes around trying to find the nature of their surroundings in vain.
* Psalms 37:6 "He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun."
* Malachi 4:2 "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall."
>What does he give us?
* "to guide our feet into the path of peace" -In darkness no one can see. We stumble and hurt ourselves and others. Jesus brings light so that we can see the source of people. God guides us, we don't guide ourself.
>11. How did God bless baby John?
* Luke 1:80 "And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel."
* "And the child grew" -Physically grew.
* "became strong in spirit" -Spiritually grew.
* "he lived in the desert" -His parents would have died when he was still young, for he was born when they were old. He chose not to because a priest in Jerusalem. Rather, he chose to follow God's plan for his life. Later he realized that the was "a voice in the desert".
* "until he appeared publicly to Israel" -John waited until he was old enough. The priest started to serve at the age of 30. So John may have waited that long. The generation of his parents might have forgotten all about his miraculous birth.
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