Luke 1:5-25Amplified Bible
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the days of Herod [the Great], king of Judea, there was a certain priest whose name was [a]Zacharias, of [b]the division of Abijah. His wife was [c]a descendant of Aaron [the first high priest of Israel], and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They both were righteous (approved) in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they were childless, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both far advanced in years.
8 Now it happened while Zacharias was serving as priest before God in the appointed order of his priestly division, 9 as was the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter [the sanctuary of] the temple of the Lord and [d]burn incense [on the altar of incense]. 10 And all the congregation was praying outside [in the court of the temple] at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zacharias saw the angel, he was troubled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, because your petition [in prayer] was heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him [e]John. 14 You will have great joy and delight, and many will rejoice over his birth, 15 for he will be great and distinguished in the sight of the Lord; and will never drink wine or liquor, and he will be filled with and empowered to act by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel back [from sin] to [love and serve] the Lord their God. 17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous [which is to seek and submit to the will of God]—in order to make ready a people [perfectly] prepared [spiritually and morally] for the Lord.”
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I be certain of this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in age.” 19 The angel replied and said to him, “I am Gabriel; I stand and minister in the [very] presence of God, and I have been sent [by Him] to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 [f]Listen carefully, you will be continually silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe what I told you; but my words will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
21 The people [outside in the court] were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering about his long delay in the temple. 22 But when he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 When his time of priestly service was finished, he returned to his home.
24 Now after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she secluded herself completely, saying, 25 “This is how the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor on me, to take away my [g]disgrace among men.”
The Word of God for the Children of God.
Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus, Dominum!
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
When faithful men of the Bible are spoken of, Zechariah is not a name often mentioned.
He is only mentioned in the Gospel of Luke because he is the father of the great John the Baptist, the fore runner of the Messiah, Jesus.
While there are not books written about him or any other mentions in the Bible, he is definitely someone we can look to as a definitive example of faithfulness.
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were old in age and did not have children. (Luke 1:7).
In that day, being childless usually brought sorrow to the family and shame from those around them (Luke 1:25).
Outsiders would often think there was sin in the lives of the couple, and that childlessness was the means by which God is disciplining them.
During this though, Zechariah chose to remain faithful to God in his work as a priest and in his prayers for a child of his own.
Zechariah could have easily stopped praying, became bitter, and stopped working for the God who was not providing a child for him.
However, this is not how Zechariah’s story ends.
We know that God did in truth did remember him and answered his prayers and blessed him with a son, John the Baptist, who would cause hearts to remember.
We can be mightily encouraged that God hears our prayers, answers them in His timing for a greater, more abundant blessing than we could have ever imagined.
Today then, Let us remember to recall the story of God’s faithfulness to Zechariah and Elizabeth at moments in our lives when we too are tempted to give up on God.
It is all EASILY within our doing!
We can remember to be Prepared for His Coming!
We Can Remember to Be Ready … For God’s Surprises!
Grace and peace from God our Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen
Today, I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit for us to look at a series of surprise God Encounters surrounding the events of Advent and Christmas.
I would like for us to look at a series of times when people found themselves surprised in the presence of God Himself, in the presence of one of His Holy Angels or something revolutionary was revealed to them through a dream, a vision or through nature itself.
As we look at each encounter, I would like for us to examine how each person grew from their encounter with the LORD.
And then how we could in turn might learn something in 2022 from their experience and perhaps open a door for us have a God encounter ourselves.
How we can have an amazing experience with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as this Advent season comes to a close and as we enter into the Christmas season.
But in order for us to experience such encounters we have to do something.
We have to BE READY …
– and that is the theme I would like for us to look at the close of this Advent and the beginning of the Christmas Season
BE READY …
I. Be Ready … to Remember who God Is and what that Means
Our first encounter involves a priest who was named Zachariah – or “REMEMBERED OF JEHOVAH” – “God Remembers Me.”
That is what the name Zachariah means – “REMEMBERED OF JEHOVAH”
Each time Zachariah heard his name or meditated, thought about his name he was called to remember that he was in the presence of the God who remembers:
+ The God who remembers the names of His Children – who remembers that He created them in His Own Image
+ The God who remembers where His People are living and what they are experiencing
+ The God who remembers His People’s dreams, hopes and wishes
+ The God who is not distant but present – who remembers the struggles, trials and testing that His People are enduring.
And each time that someone said his name – Zachariah; they were to remember themselves who God is – His Identity, His Characteristics and His Qualities. They were to remember that their God –the Good God of Creation – the God of the Exodus and the God of Rescue, Redemption and Restoration is:
+The God of All Creation – All things were and are made by Him
+The God of Love – not just loving but is LOVE
+The God of Covenant – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
+The God of Mercy and Grace
+The God who is the Only God that Exists – all else are false gods – fallen angels or statues made of stone, wood or metal. Ultimately, they have no power, they cannot give either physical life or everlasting life.
+The God who desires to be a part of people’s lives
Each time the name Zachariah was spoken it was to be a testimony to the LORD
+ God who remembers His people
+The God who is Faithful
+The God who is Truthful
Luke tells us that both Zachariah, his wife Elizabeth were excellent examples of people who both remembered God and lived lives worthy of God.
They were faithful in their marriage.
They were faithful in their love for one another.
They were faithful in their walk with the LORD.
The words that Luke chooses to describe this wonderful couple are words that speak of integrity, innocence, truthfulness and holiness.
Now, of course they were not perfect.
They were not sinless but they were lives that were pleasing to the LORD.
Over the years they had developed the habits of spiritual faithfulness.
They had grown in their walk with the LORD to the point where serving the LORD was not out of duty but became a walk of love and joy.
They had become the museum quality portraits of righteous and blameless.
They had become like some of the saints of old; Enoch, Job, Deborah and Hannah.
We do not know their exact age – only they are beyond their child rearing years.
We don’t know whether they were middle aged or were senior citizens.
Some have speculated since Zachariah was still serving in the Temple he had to be under the age of fifty going back to what Moses wrote in Numbers 8:24-26
“This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they1 shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. 26 They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”
Others have pointed out that since burning the incense was not a physically demanding task, then Zachariah could have been much older; perhaps even in his 60’s or even 70’s.
We just don’t know.
What we do know is that physically the time for them to have a child had gone.
Whether that meant Elizabeth had transition into another phase of her life or the fact both of them were in their upper 50’s or beyond we don’t really know.
All we know is that for decades this wonderful couple had been serving the LORD and had been faithfully praying for a child.
They had been praying for a child that would take over for Zachariah one day emulate his father, and be a righteous priest before the LORD.
When Gabriel shows up and starts sharing with Zachariah it was meant to be a message that reminded him that he serves a God who remembers.
The God who loves him and Elizabeth and the God who remembers their hopes, their dreams and their prayers.
Today, we serve the same God – the God who remembers our fear, faults and our failures and offers us mercy – remembers dreams, hopes and our desires.
The first thing we can do each day is to remember who we are and whose we are.
The 1st thing we can do is to remember we serve the God who remembers us, who loves us beyond what we deserve, redeems us, wants the very best for us.
II. We need to Be Ready … to Receive Good News
We need to Be Ready to Receive Good News from the LORD!
We know that we need to be righteous and blameless.
We have been taught that all of our lives.
Over and over again we have been taught that we need to live right.
That we need to live according to God’s commandments and rules.
We need to be blameless.
But how many of us have been taught to “tie a string around our finger” to look at and remember to prepare ourselves, be ready to receive the goodness of God?
How many of us cause ourselves to remember, to remember to truly believe that God, our Father, through Immanuel wants to do what is best for each one of us?
How many of us cause ourselves to remember to truly believe God is in Heaven doing all He can so we can have an abundant life here on this earth – right now?
Zachariah was not ready.
In verse 18 we read that this man who was righteous and blameless was not ready to receive the blessings that God had in store for him and Elizabeth.
Why wasn’t he ready?
+Perhaps there he felt too many years had passed since that first prayer for a child that he and Elizabeth had said together – that it was “just far too late.”
+ Perhaps too many Passovers had come and gone unremembered, with no little child of theirs to run and to open the door for Elijah and the Messiah.
+Perhaps they had watched too many of their friends’ children grow up and themselves become parents – and it was simply far too painful to remember.
+Perhaps they were now comfortable looking forward to their golden years and having a quiet home.
+Perhaps Zachariah was looking at this as his last opportunity. He would offer the incense. He would go home and rejoice with God over all the things that he and Elizabeth had done. Now, it was simply time to prepare the next generation.
If you have ever prayed for something it is easy after a few years to pull your sights down a little.
To become comfortable with the status quo, things as they are and begin to wonder if we truly wanted God to remember, answer prayer in the first place.
Do you and I really want to leave the desert and go into the Promise Land?
Do you and I really want to be surprised by God, remember those memories?
Do you and I really want to leave the comforts of Babylon and go back and spend your last good years rebuilding the walls, the city and the Temple of Jerusalem?
Do you and I really want to embrace our once heartfelt desires or is it time to finally, ultimately let the dream die?
Is it time to just “shrug our collective shoulders” accept the new normal as the “new normal,” to no longer bother God or put ourselves through any bother?
While all of this was going on, there is suddenly right there in the Temple; while Zachariah was offering the incense an angel appeared.
An angel named Gabriel.
An angel of the Lord that seems did not have a great deal of patience or at least it appears that way.
Gabriel’s job was to come down and speak to Zachariah.
His job was to deliver God’s message.
His job was to make sure that Zachariah knew what God wanted him and Elizabeth to be ready for in their lives.
His job was to make sure they remembered Jehovah God, remembered, accepted Jehovah God’s infinitely better plan for the long concourse of their lives.
Yet, we read in the narrative, this day, he was not up to any counseling session.
He was not ready for any man to enter his personal space and to question him.
Somewhere, somehow, you and I have got to appreciate Angel Gabriel’s sass –
“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.”
In other words; surprise! surprise! surprise! – Zachariah – God has heard you.
“Jehovah God who remembers – has remembered to remember you this day!”
And God has sent me to tell you to “Remember! Be Ready for some Good News.”
Gabriel didn’t want Zachariah to trifle with him.
We see this same attitude in the book of Daniel where Gabriel appears to the Prophet Daniel.
Daniel too is taken aback as well.
In fact, Daniel 8 tells us not only did Gabriel give Daniel quite a fright but it was so much a fright that Daniel became ill for a brief period of time.
Seeing the majesty and power of Gabriel must be overcoming.
Remembering the sight – quite another, must become overwhelming for us.
The Bible and other ancient Jewish resources tell us Gabriel is a warrior angel.
In other words he is not to be taken lightly.
He has been sent by God to “kick start our memories” into high gear, to bring us Good News and he does not appreciate it when it is not so readily received.
These were not his words but God’s words and as far as Gabriel is concerned they are to be heard, favored and received and remembered, without question.
From what we read in verses 20ff he was not very tolerate either.
He was not happy with being questioned by Zachariah.
And he was not happy with what he took as Zachariah’s lack of faith and doubts and unwillingness to remember Jehovah God, and to receive God’s Good News.
Like a captain who tells a soldier to get in line and keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself, Gabriel has the authority, power to shut Zachariah up for the next nine months or so – that he should remember the God who remembers.
“Always Remember God” – human. I came from the presence of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. Jehovah got something to say – Just listen, receive it and obey it!”
Even though Zachariah was holy, blameless and righteous he had laid down restrictions before the LORD.
Maybe they could have years ago but no longer.
Sorry, but Gabriel, you will need to go and tell God thanks but no thanks.
And after all could God really do this?
Could God really give an older couple a baby?
You go back, Gabriel and tell God that I have problems with all of this, okay?
You see, this is where Zachariah’s name should have helped him – Jehovah God remembers.
We need to remember all the good things that God has done for His People – things that people thought were impossible:
He forgot to remember that God created the heavens, the earth and him too.
He forgot to remember Jehovah God does not care that he was too old, His wife was too old, and they could not bear a child, they could not take care of a child.
He forgot to remember God remembered 99 year Abraham and his wife 90 year old Sarah – who had both questioned God and even laughed hysterically at God.
Until nine months later when God returned, and their son – Isaac was born!
+The crossing of the Red Sea.
+The crossing of the Jordan River.
+The boy David taking the head of Goliath.
+The Prophet Elisha causing an axe head to float.
Zachariah should have just said his own name and remembered that he serves Jehovah God who will do the impossible and who loves to do the impossible too.
Jehovah God loves Prayer!
Jehovah God loves a challenge.
Jehovah God loves to surprise His Children.
God loves to do something which causes people heads to shake.
Remember the words of Isaiah 43:18 – 19
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Remember the words of Isaiah 40:31 –
“but they who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Dreamers have to die because they are human but dreams do not have to die.
Visions, dreams, goals and plans given to us by God will come true I believe if we stay in faith, if we stay ready to receive God’s dreams and visions for us.
+That person you have been praying for – don’t give up – Remember Jehovah God is hearing, recalling your prayers and is at hard at work in the background
+That marriage that is not good – do not give up – continue to be a person of character, loving, praying, staying faithful – Remember Jehovah God is hearing and recalling every single one of your prayers and remember He is now at work!
+That dream; those plans – don’t give up – continue to press on – continue to believe and to sow seeds – continue to be faithful and remember God as God is right now remembering you and please allow God to work in His own time table.
Zachariah had no clue that day that he went in to the Temple to offer incense.
As far as he knew this was the last day of his noble service to the LORD.
For at the time it was rare if a person got to offer incense in the Temple more than just one time.
This was his one time.
He could do other things but this was the highest most noble position of all – to stand as a mediator on behalf of all the people of Jehovah God and offer up the incense bringing the fragrance of the prayers of the people before the LORD.
He had no clue that day would be the beginning of the biggest dream of his life.
He had no clue that God would answer his and Elizabeth’s long held prayers.
They would have a successor.
There would be another priest in the family line.
What they didn’t fully realize was that their dream, their blessing was going to be infinitely greater and abundantly bigger than they could ever have imagined.
Today, as long as we are drawing breath – we can still pray, dream and hope.
Today and every day, as long as we are still drawing breath then we need to recall, understand that God still wants to work through us, in us and with us.
In the natural time, having children had passed for Zachariah and Elizabeth.
In the natural course of their time, the best that this aged couple could do for Jehovah God was to just once offer up the incense for prayers in the Temple.
In the natural course of time, their names would no longer be mentioned.
Except in the Gospel of Luke ….
And by the Holy Spirit of God, Jehovah God caused Dr. Luke to remember.
And now their names are mentioned, their lives remembered by generations.
But we need to Prepare …
But we need to Be Ready …
III. Be ready …. For God to Out Do Himself
I believe part of the reason Zachariah struggled was in the words of Gabriel.
Go back to verses 14 – 17 and you will see what I mean.
Verse 14 is great – after all who doesn’t rejoice over the birth of a baby.
But starting with verse 15 things take a sudden and surprising shift
Gabriel begins to talk about Nazarite vows – the boy not drinking wine or strong drink – that sounds a great deal like the vows that were given by the Lord God Almighty for such men as the ancient Judges Samson and Samuel.
Both were men of great power.
They were judges and Samuel held the office of prophet as well.
Gabriel goes on to say that the Holy Spirit would do something unique in this boy’s life.
The Holy Spirit had fallen on many people in the Old Testament.
Joseph was seen as having the Holy Spirit.
Moses had been filled with the Spirit to carry out the Exodus from the land of Egypt.
King Saul had been filled with the Holy Spirit after Samuel had anointed him as the first King of Israel.
But this boy would receive the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb.
This boy would be radically different.
He would be the forerunner not only for the Messiah but the forerunner of all those who would repent, be baptized and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
This boy, John would be the forerunner of that Pentecost experience.
He would be a mighty evangelist.
That was not the usual job description of a priest.
A priest would work in the Temple or sometimes near a synagogue.
A priest would help teach, write and work around holy things.
Gabriel is telling Zachariah that his boy would be a rather unusual priest – he would be a priest that preached.
A priest that would go out and help people come back to faith.
He would be a priest that would go out and help people mature in their faith.
He would be both priest and prophet.
John would go out in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Now, that had to cause Zachariah’s heart to skip a beat or two.
Nazarite, images of Samson and Samuel.
Evangelist. Spirit of Elijah? Power of Elijah?
Images of battles with false prophets,
pulling fire down from heaven and raising people from the dead had to be flooding into Zachariah’s heart, mind and soul.
Such an overwhelming array of images and visions of having the same spirit as one of the greatest prophets to have ever tread the hills, roads and streets of the Promise Land had to take him back a step or two through the pages of scripture.
And finally, John would be a person who would bring reconciliation to families.
He would help families come back together again. He would be able to smooth the waters that existed between parents and children and children and parents.
How many ways can Zachariah say and shout and shriek – “By Jehovah, Wow!”
All Zachariah and Elizabeth were looking for was a boy that would be one of the next priests in the division of Abijah.
They were looking for a son who would be one of the 7,000+ priests that would be called upon at some time to work in the Temple and serve the people of God.
But Jehovah God had much more in store for Zachariah and Elizabeth.
Their promised son would be more than a priest.
He would be the first prophet of Israel in nearly 400 years.
He would preach a message of repentance.
He would move around in the power of the Holy Spirit.
He would be the forerunner of the Messiah.
Talk about God reaching down and out doing Himself. Talk about God just deciding to not just give Zachariah and Elizabeth a son – but what a son!
John would be more than a priest.
He would be a one of a kind of evangelist, Nazarite, family reconciler and prophet – He would be Samson, Samuel and Elijah all them mixed up in one.
Little wonder Zachariah had problems believing it.
But it all was true – by Jehovah, John became all those things and more.
You see that is the Jehovah God we serve.
The God who loves to do more than we can think or imagine in our lives.
The Jehovah God who:
+Takes a spoiled son – Joseph – who has big dreams and does not quite know how to deal with them, is betrayed, in the end leads him to become the Prime Minister of Egypt and saves not only Egypt but his own family as well – Joseph.
+Takes a slave and allows him to learn under Moses and then propels him into the 1st leader of God’s people, cross the Jordan, to the Promise Land – Joshua.
+Takes an older man and has him fall in love with a widow from a cursed land and their child who becomes the grandfather to King David – Boaz and Ruth.
+Takes a rich young man and leads him away from his father’s farm and has him become the helper and successor of the great Elijah – Elisha.
+Takes a young man who many thought was a coward and a failure and molds him into a disciple of Peter, who writes the first Gospel – the Gospel of Mark.
Zachariah had been waiting for God to show out and boy did he show out.
The next 30+ years of this boy’s life were going to be amazing.
This boy was going to be amazing, was going to surprise many, many people.
Did Zachariah and Elizabeth deserve it?
But, since when does Jehovah God care about what His children deserve?
There were other people that lived at that time that were righteous and blameless.
They were two devout people that could not procreate, birth a baby.
That is until Jehovah, the God who remembers – finally remembered them.
The God who wants to surprise – surprised them.
The God who still fulfills answers prayers, came knocking on their door.
Today, by Jehovah God, where does all of this take us right here, right now?
We need to Be Ready … for the God who remembers – and we need to remember the God who loves us, wants the best for us and is always working for our good.
We need to Be Ready … to receive from the Lord – Good News.
We need to be ready to receive from God anointing and answers to our prayers.
We need to know that God has not forsaken us, that God has us in the palm of His hand, Jehovah God is doing what is necessary for us to live an abundant life.
We need to Be Ready … for Jehovah God to do something more surprising, even ever more miraculous than we can even dare allow ourselves think or imagine.
We need to Be Ready … for Jehovah to use us in ways we can’t even conceive.
We need to Be Ready … remember to accept Jehovah, the God of the impossible, and remember to be open to the impossible and to be a part of the impossible.
So, as we close today – Are you prepared? Are you ready?
So, as I close this devotional effort, Am I Prepared, Am I ready?
+Are we ready to remember the true God – the God who loves you, forgives you, accepts you, anoints you and approves you?
Are we ready to remember the God who hears our prayers, who knows our name who remembers our heart’s desires and is doing everything possible to help you and me to fulfill those things which bring to us the most abundant life possible?
+Are we ready to open up and receive from God Good News? Are we ready for Jehovah God to share a surprisingly new revelation to you and to me?
Are you and I ready for Jehovah God to reveal Himself, His plan in a new way?
+Are you ready for God to do something in you and through you that will cause surprise to everyone around you to whisper: “by Jehovah God, what happened?”
Or are have you settled?
Have you decided that time has passed you by.
That there are no more dreams, revelations and visions?
There are no more high moments.
There are no more God encounters?
Let us remember not grieve the Holy Spirit.
Let us remember to believe in the God of the Impossible.
Let us remember to be determined to believe, to receive and to join with God as Jehovah God does the impossible in us, with us, through Jesus, thru us, today.
Let us Pray we will remember to surprise ourselves and a whole host of others;
+Remember who we are and who Our God Is
+remember to open our hearts, our minds, our souls and our spirits to Receive Good Things from Our God
+remember to allow God to Out Do Himself in our lives and through our lives.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Psalm 24Amplified Bible
The King of Glory Entering Zion.
[a]A Psalm of David.
24 The earth [b]is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For He has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the streams and the rivers.
Who may ascend onto the [c]mountain of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to what is false,
Nor has sworn [oaths] deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation (description) of those who diligently seek Him and require Him as their greatest need,
Who seek Your face, even [as did] Jacob. Selah.
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And lift them up, ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in.
Who is [He then] this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory [who rules over all creation with His heavenly armies]. Selah.
Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum!
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.