Two Sundays ago we looked at:
How Luke wrote with God’s help and led by the Holy Spirit...
A narrative of Jesus life, meaning in order of how the events and accounts actually unfolded
Two points that helped us see Christ in the text were:
God’s Word is in perfect order
God’s Word is inerrant, and infallible without error or flaw
All of this to help his brother Theophilus who was struggling with his faith and specifically with the teachings of Jesus being accurate and real
These 3 points from the text led us to Christ who is in order, and who is perfect without sin, error or flaw, able to atone for sins.
And Theophilus's can now have full assurance of his faith in Christ
This Sunday we continue in the “Orderly Account“ of the Gospel Of Luke
This Sunday we continue in the “Orderly Account“ of the Gospel Of Luke
Some key themes throughout our text this morning :
- God's providence (protection and care)
- God’s provision in prayers (him giving us what we need in His timing)
All of this we will see from reading about the birth of John the Baptist foretold: in Luke 1:5-14
Let us read our text this morning then pray to our Faithful God:
Please stand for the reading of God’s Word
Passage: Luke 1:5-14
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
So if you have been in Church for awhile then you know the story of John the Baptist:
You know John was the one sent to prepare the way of the Lord
We know John being the one eating locust and wild honey and wearing camels hair
So we will today read of the announcement of John the Baptist
Let’s learn a little bit about John the Baptist before we begin to hear of his birth story:
Though not born yet in our text so, what do we know from history?
“John the Baptist may be the most underrated person in the whole New Testa- ment. That is, he is underrated by us, but certainly not by the biblical writers, and above all, not by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said of John that none greater has ever appeared than John the Baptist and that the Law and the Prophets ruled until John (Matt 11:11-13 “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one 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 suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,”
So lets jump into the text:
Verse 5 “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
So we begin with a King, a mighty and ruthless one “Herod, king of Judea”
In the rule and reign of King Herod, so these times were not ones of ease for the Israelites (God’s Chosen People)
“these days were days of darkness for the people of Israel.” - R.C. Sproul
History on Herod:
Herod was not a Jew and ruled for 36 years
Herod also a king of many temples, while he did rebuild the Jewish Temple
He also erected temples of many pagan god’s “initiating pagan worship” in and around the Jews and Judea and surrounding cities (as we know worship of anything or anybody except Christ is wicked and idolatry)
It is recorded that Herod was in love with the power he possessed so much so, that when family tried to rise up and “show as competition” he would have them executed and killed.
R.C. “He was to the Jews what Nero was to the Romans.”
So not the most ideal time for the Jews surrounded by a king who was evil and out of control
But also many other pagan god’s being worshiped, and there temples being seen throughout the land (He also had his own Temple to himself
So not the friendliest of intro’s into the start of the Gospel of Luke
And I would go onto say in our culture today, and world so darkness seems to be rising it’s evil head (as we just prayed for our schools and our young people)
So I pray this Word encourages us and reminds us of the power Christ has over darkness, and how this power lives inside of us.
“In the days of Herod, king of Judea…there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
Introduce Zechariah who was a priest in Judea
Priesthood in this time - was a class of individuals responsible for maintaining the integrity of ecclesiastical institutions and performing official rituals of a religion (new definition)
A priest is required to act as a mediator. He is one who represents the Divine being to His subjects and in return from them to their God. He acts as an ambassador, a chosen vehicle through whom Yahweh has chosen to serve the people and represent Him, on His behalf.
and Zechariah the priest is from “division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
Knowing Zechariah is a priest and he being from the division of Abijah which we can see mentioned in 1 Chr. 24:10 “the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,” ?
So we can see Zechariah is also married to Elizabeth who happens to be from Aaron, one to whom back in the OT would offer sacrifices of incense to God daily as priest’s currently did in Zechariah’s day.
So I find the Lord to have sense of humor both Zechariah and Elizabeths backgrounds being from priestly families.
Verse 6 “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord.
So as we can see Zechariah and Elizabeth both being raised up in Godly families or at least where God was respected, worshiped and held at the highest standard
So now in their marriage they both are seeking to glorify the Lord with their life in the way they were raised.
It goes to say we should be thankful us who have been raised with a high view of the Lord and His truth
“both righteous before God walking blamelessly...”
As it says righteous so we can refer back to Noah in this sense to Genesis 6:9 “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” - And we know Noah, to whom built the ark.
But it almost sounds like Zechariah and Elizabeth were completely perfect, as their is no more need for sanctification; the way this reads.
This is not meaning they were without sin as Romans 3:10-11 “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
R.C. “We find this couple, two people who manifest unusual, extraordinary godliness.”
Think of the couple that you know best reflects Christ in their marriage and life.
Well Zechariah and Elizabeth are this couple but 20X times more devout and in love with God, His Law, Statues and Commands to an extraordinary, devout love for God.
But as we read on not all things were going their way, for this righteous couple
Luke 1:7 “But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.”
This word “but” shows that even though they were righteous there were still somethings in their lives that were not perfect…but...”
It’s like when someone says everything was going well but…
“but…they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.”
So two things stand in the way of them conceiving a child:
One Elizabeth is barren
Two they both are old and “advanced in years”
You ask me these to ingredients don’t sound very promising to whip up a child, am I right?
R.C. “They keep the law; they love the law; they are devoted to the things of God, and God is pleased with them. But they have no children.”
And in the culture they were raised in, to be called barren was brought with the assumption that “there had to be some dark sin that lurked in the souls of the childless couple.”
While their was sin in their lives, we can see they sought to live holy unto the Lord, extraordinarily so
So this thought from culture can ultimately be debunked that their was some secret sin invading their position for a blessing (a child)
Gosh if this were true of what the culture said then this world would be empty and barren because we love to hide in sin
Also it goes to show no matter how spiritual we might be so everyone struggles in the flesh. No, not because of what they have done or brought upon themselves alone.
But what Adam and Eve brought upon human nature, in disobeying God, so in our flesh and nature corruption rules
So because of the fall yes Godly women and couples may not be able to bear children
Or God forbid they bear a child and that child passes on
“See while they are righteous they still struggle with outcomes and dealings of the fleshly, sinful nature in their redeemed lives. Zechariah & Elizabeth were in the midst of waiting.”
Not only barren but “advanced in years”
There bodies have been completely spent and they are unable to procreate.
See our Flesh screams:
See in our carnal, sinful and fleshly minds, so we think, “well this isn’t fair! That these extraordinarily unusually righteous people don’t have a child?”
Come on Lord! They do all you command them, they love you, love your law and seek to keep your Statues and commandments walking blamelessly so why is there a “but”
I know couples today that are Christian and cannot have a child
But have prayed for one (and maybe, just maybe, the Lord in His providential timing is waiting for His moment, to show and demonstrate His power. And in the waiting teaching them to trust His will for their lives?
I would encourage them to keep seeking the Lord:
Not because they want something from Him but out of genuine love and thought, that if they never received it so their heart is content and at peace with His Will.
And even if it was because they just wanted a baby so we learn from Hannah’s story and her longing to conceive and have a child, so the Lord can do as He pleases.
See if this is you barren don’t stop praying for a child, but you praying the Lord’s will which is already made up for you and I. Then in His timing a child will be given If it’s in His will.
Because we can see in the OT it is very clear that children are from the very providential hand of the Lord, every child.
No child is conceived only upon man’s will, but only God’s will
Genesis 4:1 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.””
From the beginning we see it’s all with the help of the Lord
So despite their love for the Lord, so the Lord doesn’t work on our timeline we can see, but on His as we begin to see in our text
Just because they are righteous doesn’t mean all they wanted was handed to them on a silver platter.
Luke 1:8-9 “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”
So we can see Zechariah is serving as priest before God in his division
And he is on “duty”
He is carrying out the requirements for his position as priest
But he was not alone in this duty.
So we can see as it says “he was chosen…” So their must of been other men to choose from right?
R.C. “Isreal had eighteen thousand priests, divided up among the different groups. Fourteen priests of those 18 thousand were given the privilege of offering the incense on the altar during the course of a single year. And only once could a priest have the opportunity to offer the prayers of intercession for the people by means of offering incense.”
So Zechariah was one of the 14 chosen out of the 18.000 to enter into the temple to burn incense.
And we see in 1 Chr 24:19 that their was duty and procedure that had to be carried out
1 Chr 24:19 “These had as their appointed duty in their service to come into the house of the Lord according to the procedure established for them by Aaron their father, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded him.”
Us knowing Zechariah on duty and serving the Lord so what was Aaron doing in his service and duty?
Ex 30:7-8 “And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations.”
1 Ch 23:13 “The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart to dedicate the most holy things, that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the Lord and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever.”
We can see how Aaron one of the sons of Amram was set apart to dedicate the most holy things and to burn an incense offering to the Lord
And now we see this same service and duty, Zechariah taking part in and married to Elizabeth to whom is a daughter of Aaron.
So Zechariah is serving and on duty, before the Lord and for God’s people
Church this next part is crucial for us to understand when it comes to knowing God’s providence in our message today:
“he was chosen…by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”
Zechariah who mind you “on-duty and serving” so one time would be able to enter the temple, so his time was now!
How did he get chosen to enter the temple of the Lord?
By the casting of lots
What is the casting of lots?
Casting of lots is nothing new as we see this often in the OT & NT
Casting of lots - The practice of discerning answers from God by the use of small objects and a jar.
And the order that the pieces fall out of the jar determine what the will of God is
This is how the casting of lots went
And this casting of lots on this day, God chose Zechariah to “enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”
Remind you of this amazing fact there were 18,000 priest out of 18,000 so 14 were chosen and out of that 14 so the casting of lots would fall on only one, this is AMAZING.
Now in our culture today some would call this “luck” some would call this “karma” or some would say its just a coincidence that he was chosen.
But let it be said, God has no hand in the false, foolish claims of luck, karma and coincidence.” Our God is a God who chooses all and who is providential over all, even the casting of lots to enter the Temple.”
But this casting of lots, the way the objects would fall out of the jar was exactly, perfectly how God intended them too.
This didn’t take the Lord by surprise. He knew and Zechariah was in His care, as we all are In His care, as well
We see the casting of lots in the OT: Specifically with Zechariah:
1 Ch 26:13-14 “And they cast lots by fathers’ houses, small and great alike, for their gates. The lot for the east fell to Shelemiah. They cast lots also for his son Zechariah, a shrewd counselor, and his lot came out for the north.”
This in Chronicles where they were casting lots for their “gates”
1 Chr 25:8 “And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.”
So we know Zechariah is on duty and serving and we know also he is going to burn incense
And that this casing of lots is nothing new to Zechariah for God to choose and bring about His will.
So why offering incense?
The offering of incense was to represent the prayers of God’s people, a sweet aroma to God.”
Incense - An aromatic substance consisting of various gums, spices, and scented woods that produce a fragrant smoke when burned.
Psalm 103:2 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,”
Luke 1:10 “And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.”
So this burning of incense - an offering involving the smoke from incense.
That which we can see has been carried on from the OT as Aaron began this as a sweet aroma to the Lord, now needing to be carried out by Zechariah
An incense offering unto the Lord, for His people
So there was “multitude of people praying outside at the hour of incense.”
This in Jewish culture was no small thing, but a very important moment of worship and intercession before the Lord
As this process would put the priests life on the line (Zechariah having to enter into the Temple of the Lord) to lite the incense to make intercession before God before the sins of His people (morning and evening)
Mind you in our text Jesus hadn’t yet torn the veil so God’s presence was in the Temple in the ark of the covenant.
This was a huge task and ultimately a crazy one set apart for God’s extraordinary righteous; and a task the people relied on to be reminded of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness towards them sinners
But what would the “many and multitudes be gathered for?
R.C. “Prayers were offered for the nation on these occasions, both in the morning and the evening, but the vast multitude of people came in the late afternoon, at dusk, for the offering of these prayers.”
R.C. ““They gathered outside the temple to pray and watch the smoke that came out of the temple, because when the incense burned, the smoke spiraled up through the roof of the temple, and that was the signal for the people to fall on their faces in the courtyard, in thanksgiving that the prayers of intercession on their behalf had been offered.”
and after they would see the smoke begin to arise out of the top of the Temple
So next they would look for the priest to make his way out of the Temple and they would rejoice, pray and praise together.
As Ps 141:2 “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”
But Zechariah didn’t come out of the Temple of the Lord as soon as they would of liked.
No Zechariah had a divine, providential and important meeting with Gabriel an angel of the Lord.
Luke 1:11 “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.”
R.C. Sproul “Luke begins not with the birth of Jesus, nor with the appearance of John the Baptist and his public ministry, but with the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Of all the Gospel writers, Luke is the only one who starts at this point”
In the Temple where mind you knowbody was physically except Zechariah, so appears to him an angel of the Lord “standing on the right side.”
We know when the Scripture refers to the right side, it means He can be trusted. - Just as Jesus is at the right hand of the Father
Now in Scripture when we see an “Angel of the Lord”
So in all of these encounters with angles in the Scripture, lies a message that the angel has from God to his people
But also the Angel strikes a fear and troubling of ones soul to whom he appears
Gabriel the angel who “stands in the presence of God.” Luke 1:19
Luke 1:12 “And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.”
troubled - meaning to be characterized by distress, affliction, danger or need
“when he saw” - to perceive by sight
“and fear fell upon him.” - panic, a need to to flee, as this moment pressed against him.
Another instance in Scripture when Gabriel appeared and brought trouble to ones soul:
Gabriel appearing to Mary
Luke 1:26-29 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”
We see with these encounters of angels, comes a realization of how small and weak we really are.
with Mary comes a troubling
So trouble and fear comes upon Zechariah as well in front of this standing Angel Gabriel
So this God to whom He and Elizabeth were righteous before, so in the presence of this angel he was brought to nothing.
But let’s keep reading...
Luke 1:13 “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”
And so the Angel seeks to bring comfort where their was once fear and trouble “do not be afraid”
And as we track along with Zechariah’s encounter so we must continue with Mary's encounter as well
Luke 1:30 “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
As their is a message that waits to be spoken to both Zechariah and Mary, so first peace comes upon Mary and Zechariah both.
“But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid,...Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard,
Wait angel of the Lord, What prayer are you referring too?
I have prayed many a prayers and I am still at wait with a few, what prayer are your referring to?
...and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”
Can you imagine the joy in Zechariah’s heart in this moment?
A mixture of joy, awe and complete reverence.
As this news came forth from Gabriel the one who stands in God’s presence
The message was delivered that a Son they would have and this message being an answer to Zechariah’s prayer
First, had been praying for a long time a son
Second, chosen out of 18,000, then narrowed down to 14 men; to be the one chosen
Then troubled, and fearful as the angel appears
Then Peace and comfort come upon him
Hearing a message that would change His and Elizabeths life forever
The season of barreness is no easy season. But as we can see in God’s providential timing it sounds like a son is on the way.
and you shall call his name John.”
R.C. “The naming of the Child was a privilege of the parents, particularly the father, to to name their child.
R.C. “All the way back to creation, the giving of the name indicated an expression of authority. When God set Adam and Eve over the whole creation and gave them dominion, He tasked Adam with naming the animals. This was not just an exercise in zoology or taxonomy but an expression of mankind’s authority over the animals. “So, throughout biblical history, it was the custom and the tradition for the parents to name the child because it indicated their authority over the child.” &
“When God named a child, the child was set apart for a specific purpose, under his authority and rule”
John, soon to be born to Elizabeth and Zechariah, named by God , for a specific purpose
The one sent to prepare the way of the Lord as he enters the narrative of Luke
Isaiah 40:3 “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
And what else does it say in verse 14?
Luke 1:14 “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,”
John will bring joy and gladness to many, and many will rejoice at him being born.
It’s been a long time praying, worshiping, serving and waiting
And now the Lord has answered Zechariah’s prayer for a son whose name is John.
We see a many providential moments in this text:
One, being in the midst of evil and a time of deep wickedness and sin under the rule of King Herod - both Zechariah and Elizabeth were not harmed nor killed for their faith in God - This is the providential hand of the Lord.
Two, being In a place and a season of bareness and old age for Elizabeth and Zechariah - So they still served and worshiped the Lord in the waiting
Three, having to be chosen to enter in the temple - So God allowed this to be through the casting of lots which He was in the details of. From 18,000 priests, only 14 chosen out of the 18,000 and he was the 1 out of the 14 chosen to enter the Temple of the Lord
giving Zechariah a 0.0056% chance of being chosen out of the 18,000
And where their was once a place of fear and waiting in the temple and in Zechariahs heart, so now their is peace and good news in their life.
So as we read of all of these providential ways the Lord has worked in our story:
Church this birth story of John is a foretelling of Christ our Savior to come.
See it comes to no surprise how Mary’s story, with the encounter of Gabriel ends:
Luke 1:31-33 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Sounds alot like Zechariah’s story leading up to announcement of John?
So what can we see from this text and Mary’s encounter with Gabriel?
See, John was announced from heaven, such was Christ who John came to "prepare the way for."
God providing John that which brought joy and gladness to Zechariah, Elizabeth and "many.” Vs. 14
So through Mary’s account we can see God providing Christ, His one and only Son.
To whom which brought light into darkness; and hope of eternal life and salvation, to us who were dead and trapped in sin
As good as the beginning of John’s birth announcement sounds, so the Good News, Christ the Lord is what His birth story foretells.
John brought rejoicing and gladness to his parents and to many
This foreshadows Christ and how He is going to bring life and resurrection power to the sinful and dead, Through His death, burial and resurrection from the grave.
If you sit here, today this is because of God’s providential hand in and over your life:
If you sit here today and you don’t know Christ, in a sense you feel barren and and dead in sin, this might be your time on the providential timeline of God to walk into the Temple.
Know that the Lord restores broken lives and hears our prayers and answers them in his timing.
And if you don’t know the Lord today then your prayer needs to be only this Lord have mercy on me a sinner, and save me “from my sins. I repent before you, and before this body of believers, I have sinned against a holy and righteous God, Lord have mercy.”
Romans 10:10 “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
From this text:
John doesn’t save you from your sins, wickedness and shame but Christ does.
And right in the midst of your brokenness and sin is where Christ will meet you as you call upon Him as Lord and Savior of your life to bring you the gift of His Holy Spirit. (regeneration)
John 14:16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Pray and ask Him to remove the spiritual barreness you have and to bring upon you a faith, a child like faith to save you from your sins.
For the Christians in the room:
Some having prayed a many of prayers, and have continued to pray those prayers, have been waiting for years for answers to those prayers.
Know this, you as a child of God are righteous because of Christ blood, chosen in Him not because of anything you‘ve done or continue to do
Chosen to have the Holy Spirit be your helper in this life that is riddled with trial and sin
And In the waiting remain as Zechariah and Elizabeth were, blameless, zealous for the Lord serving him walking in all the commandants and Statues of the Lord.
They could of moped about because their prayer hasn’t been answered for a son. They could of used their age as an excuse. But no! What did Zechariah and Elizabeth do? They Worshiped and served the Lord as they waited upon His providential hand and will to be revealed.
Yes Church we all have “our prayers,” we want answered and in His timing He will act according to His providential will in and for our lives.
Because in His will we find all we need for peace, knowing He is in complete control and providential over all never turning a blind eye to a lot casted.
God’s providence in this story and in Zechariah’s encounter with angel of the Lord, should be of a great encouragement to us. Encouraging, in that God doesn’t forget His promises to His people.
What were the people of God waiting for?
The Messiah, the Christ the one who would deliver them from evil And give salvation through the Holy Spirit.
Do you know what Zechariah's name means - "God has remembered again"
Meaning God keeps His promises to His people
One thing we didn't point out at the beginning about the context of this book is. Church; God had been silent for 400 years since this point.
Matthew 11:13 “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,”
This was a long time, 400 years since they had heard from God, a prophecy or anything relating to God sending messages and direction to His people. (They were waiting)
And many were getting restless and wanting for the Messiah to appear to rescue His people Isreal
And in this encounter with the angel of the Lord to Zechariah to deliver the message of John, so we see God break the dark, cold, evil silence with His presence
We see him offer peace, comfort and Good News where their was once evil, wickedness, barrenness, fear, trembling and waiting.
God was keeping His promise of a Messiah to come & John was in His providential plan to prepare the way for the Christ to enter in.
And for the presence of God through Christ to change the narrative, to give us hope, life, victory and power over the darkness and sin.
We know God in this story is providential and so as His will is done in our lives so we have peace in Christ as it unfolds.