002 - Life of Christ - Lk 1:1-23 - Gabriel and Zacharias

In the Fullness of Time Gabriel and Zacharias
“He was sent to show unto him these glad tidings.”
Luke chapter 1, verses 1- 23.
Our very dearly beloved brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ, and our young people who are gathered here with us on this glorious weekend, what an opportunity we have, brethren and sisters, to revel in the revelation of God’s word concerning the sending of his Son into the world. A marvellous section of Scripture it truly is.
As our brother Ronnie, when he opened this meeting, my brethren, so that fullness of time, brethren and sisters, well, it had come at last when Luke was to pick up his pen and to write about those things which were near and dear to him. He had this fullness of time, brethren and sisters, more than just a point of history.
The apostle Paul, my brethren to whom, Brother Ron alluded to, in Galatians 4 and verse 4 when he says, “In the fullness of time. God sent forth his Son.” Paul, on a couple of occasions, brothers and sisters, reminded both Titus and Timothy of that when he said concerning the Lord Jesus Christ to Timothy that He gave himself a ransom for all, to be tested in due time. And in the first chapter of Titus and at verse 3, he says that God had manifested his word in due time. And there’s an emphasis, isn’t there? That the apostle, that the time was right for these things to be done.
Now, brethren and sisters, we must not think that those things merely have an historical point of time. There’s far more to it than that. What was the fullness of time? Well, the last reference we’ve reserved to turn up is Romans chapter 5. And here, brothers and sisters, we have an explanation of what it was. What it was about the time that caused God to send forth his Son. Predetermined? Yes. But because of the wonderful foreknowledge of our heavenly Father, it coincided with an epoch of history such as never been. And in the fifth chapter of Romans, we read these words. In verse 6, the apostle says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time...” And in the margin we have “according to the time” – in due time.
Now what was that due time? What was God waiting for, brothers and sisters? Here it is. In due time, Christ died for the ungodly. That’s what God was waiting for, brothers and sisters. And there’s something very awful about that, and yet there’s something very wonderful about that. And what we’ve got to get into our heads right from the beginning in considering the fullness of time is this: that God was not waiting nor was He dependent upon men and women coming to some semblance of morality in the sense that they were waiting for God to act. It was all the other way around. God was biding his time, brothers and sisters, and waiting for that epoch of history, that after that point of history surpassed every other, not in righteousness, but when men could be generally styled by the word “ungodly.” That’s what God was waiting for, brethren and sisters.
Exactly the same was it when Abraham was told that when his seed up to the fourth generation would go into the Land of Promise, it would not be because Abraham’s seed had come to the realization that the promises were important, but because the Amorites had filled up their iniquity. For exactly the same reason that when the three angels came to Abraham, and two of them subsequently went to Sodom and Gomorrah, brothers and sisters, they did not go to Sodom to rescue Lot. They went there to see whether the wickedness of those nations was as the report, not to rescue Lot at all. That was incidental, and it was an example of God’s mercy. It was not the purpose of the visit of those angels.
And, you know, brother and sisters? It is not going to be equally true. It is going to be more true of us that when Jesus Christ our Lord leaves his Father’s right hand to come to the world, it will not be because the Christadelphian movement has progressed to a state of spirituality whereby they deserve him. It will be because the ungodliness of this age has peaked beyond that which ever history of man has ever manifested. That’s what will bring him into this world. And the fact that we will be saved will be incidental to God’s glorious purpose in crushing that wickedness and bringing about a state of glory. And it will be by God’s grace that we will escape. That was the fullness of time explained by the apostle. And God waited, brothers and sisters, for that to happen.
For he went on to say, For scarcely for a justified or a righteous man will one die; perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die.” And to paraphrase what the apostle is saying is this: that we might have a man who has excellent moral qualities, who’s stern and upright, and whom we stand in awe and admire, we wouldn’t die for him. It might be another man who is benevolent and kind and good, and gracious to us. It may be we would die for him, brothers and sisters. But it would have to be a daring act. We would have to dare to do it. We have to take a quick breath and make a split second decision to die for even that man. But God waited for at least 4000 years of human history in the full and exact knowledge of what He was going to do for humankind. And if we go back beyond that, of which we are not permitted really. But if we would have to go back beyond those annals of human history, before the foundation of the world was, the time immortal, God waited, brothers and sisters, to do that for mankind. He didn’t dare to do it. It was calculated. And when mankind had reached that pinnacle of depravity that was the fullness of time.
We don’t intend, of course, to spend a long time depicting the background. Just merely to sketch it. What was the background when the fullness of time would come? If one could only study that, brothers and sisters, as I’ve done. You could only go home and get hold of your history books and follow through the history of Daniel’s four beasts. Come to the Grecian Empire where it’s smashed into its four segments, and two of them fighting into insignificance. And the other two: the Seleucids to the North and the Ptolemy’s to the South building up Syria and Egypt with Israel buffeted between the two of them, and how the power play between those two great powers, Syria and Egypt, brought about a state of absolute confusion in Israel. And the dream of Messiahship, the Messiahship becoming, of course, a fact fading from men’s mind as they were trampled on by first an Syrian  and then an Egyptian.
And when parties would fall pro-Egypt parties, pro-Syria parties, and the Nationalist party in the middle, and splitting out from each of those parties all of the different religious factions were the Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians or whatever. And then Rome comes along and puts its stead upon a lot of them, and gives some authority to Syria, gives some authority to Egypt, and exercised their own brand of authority, and adds further confusion to the situation. Until men and women were walking around in a dream wondering what was that? They didn’t know whether they were Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman or whatever. And tribute was paid to this one and that one. And all the promises of God seem to have flown out the window, brothers and sisters.
The men become depressed and despondent. And few there were in Israel who stuck to the hope of their fathers in full believe that God in all this mess was somewhere in control. And the prophets were now silenced. And the sun had gone down over the prophets. To some it seemed like burning up all the synagogues in the land. They didn’t see the signs and there was confusion everywhere. And all the isms were abroad and all the difference of opinion. Pharisees believe in all sorts of fanciful things: of going to heaven, of all sorts of ghosts and spirits. Sadducees had a completely opposite opinion. They were realistic. They talked about this life being its own reward. And what a man could grab up at life that’s what God gave him, and after that dust.
They didn’t know what to choose between. The Arabians walked across from Jewish nationalism to support the Herodians and caused the nation, of course, to scorn. Then there were the tax-gatherers running around, working for Rome, working for themselves on the farming system. A bit for me and a bit for you and a bit for somebody else, then it got right back into Rome. And everybody farming out the taxation until people groan over the burden and hated the Jew who collected for the Roman. And the country divided between rich and poor with its lines of demarcation. Who is going to believe the truth? And when all was dark, when all was impossible, when God was far away, brothers and sisters, and fading out of any mind, the fullness of time would come. And when the people least expected it, God acted.
But they were Simion and Anna. They were still there, brothers and sisters.  And they were old people. They had remembered Yahweh’s ways. And the prophets, and we’re going to see an absolutely remarkable application of prophecy when it comes to these old people that start in the prophecy of Isaiah, Yahweh’s remembrances. That’s what they’re called, and the prophecy is applied directly to them. “Thou art Yahweh’s remembrances,” as the prophet Isaiah has told them. And daily and nightly their voice was heard in heaven pleading to the God of Israel to sort this mess out, and to bring back again the freshness of the hope of the promise made unto their fathers; that, brethren and sisters, was the fullness of time.
And although most of Israel had lost their hope and their aspirations, there were scattered in the perimeters of Israel, others who are very keenly interested in it. And there was such a man called Theophilus, and it’s to him that Luke wrote, isn’t it? To the most excellent Theophilus. And Luke picked up his pen, brothers and sisters, to try to bring a bit of order in all the confusion, and of all their thoughts that were abroad concerning Jesus Christ and his work. And he wrote it for this most excellent Theophilus.
You know, brothers and sisters it’s rather wonderful to read about this man. We read about him in Luke chapter 1, in verse 3. At the end of that verse we read about the most excellent Theophilus. Now that he knows who he was – and I believe that’s absolutely deliberately intended that we should be in darkness as to who he actually was because you see his name means a lover of God. And he was a lover of God who stood the test as it were from the land of Canaan or Israel or whatever the East was called in those days. He stood the test from that land. He didn’t have firsthand knowledge that he was a lover of God. And Luke wrote to him, brother and sisters, that he might understand some form of order and symmetry in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, among all the garbled reports that are coming out, some of them genuine, and many of them common belief tradition and with fanciful stories and ideas about this miracle worker.
Who he was? Where he came from? And the most excellent Theophilus, who’s diligent in his search as we read in a moment, and Luke was filling him up with information and he was feeding on it, brothers and sisters, as we do now. We’re far away from that land, but we’re lovers of God. And if we’re lovers of God we want to know the exactitude of that report. We want to bring some order into the confusion. We want to know where we’re going. We want to sort it all out. Who wants to be tangled up in the religions of this world with all the -isms and so forth? And all their belief in three Gods in one, and one God in three; and the ghostly ethereal stories of going up into heaven? Who wants to be caught up in that confusion? And we’re lovers of God, and God has sent us messages through the prophets that we may have that in order, and see, brothers and sisters, very clearly where we’re going. And that’s what the Gospel of Luke was written for.
And he said to this Theophilus that many had taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which will now surely believed among them. Now, brother and sisters, the word declaration here means a recital. And we must remember that in the days of the apostles and the days which immediately preceded them, that most of these stories were passed on by oral tradition. They were repeated from one school of teachers to the next, and from families— from fathers to son. All of them were called oral tradition. And when you’ve got an oral tradition, of course, there is much room, brothers and sisters, for corruption; to add to a story, to embellish it. For example, just before I came up here my daughter rang from Sydney; frantic on the phone because she’d heard that her father had a nervous collapse, and couldn’t go. These are some of our oral traditions.
But you see there are— that’s true [laughs]. I mean, it’s not true on me. I haven’t had a nervous collapse, but it’s true that she rang up. But you see these are all traditions which were passed on with these people. We’re not quite like that, brothers and sisters. Because you see, that’s the only way they had to pass on the traditions. And the law of the rabbis was that if anyone would take away or add to our oral tradition the punishment considered was that of death. Death was the only punishment which was worthy of anyone who would cause corruption to an oral tradition.
And when Moses wrote that book, Deuteronomy, he put up the truth beside the act, brothers and sisters. He kept telling the people, “This day, this day, this day. Listen, today, today, today.” Why? Because they weren’t going to hear that for seven years. How would they pass it on to the children? Out of their oral tradition. And they would have to accurately remember and pass on by their oral traditions what Moses had said on that one day.
And when the apostles were called upon to pass on their story of the Lord’s life and of his death and of his resurrection, the Lord gave him his assistance. He said, “The Holy Spirit would come, and they would call all things into remembrance.” And it was those sorts of traditions that Luke had gathered together. He wasn’t concerned with all the airy-fairy stories, but he was concerned with these traditions which had been faithfully passed down. And he collected them together – these recitals – and he said, “I want to report unto you of the things which are most surely believed among us.” The word in the Greek really means, brothers and sisters, “accomplished among us.”
In other words, Luke says, “I’m going to write concerning the facts.” And with all that were gathered from oral tradition they were verified by the eyes of many witnesses. And Luke’s declaration therefore, brothers and sisters, was going to be nothing but the facts. And we can have the utmost confidence in that not because Luke has said it, but because he’s in holy writ. For your inspiring, providential hand of our Heavenly Father has put it in here. And we know, brothers and sisters that inspiration didn’t cancel out the personalized work of these men who wrote the Bible.
And we have a brilliant historian in Luke, whose work has been verified by many men, and who one man who formerly was an atheist, who became a Christian so-called, because of Luke and his research. And he almost worships him because he said he was nothing less than a historian among historians. So accurate was Luke. And as we did for plunging into his record we’ve got every confidence in his reporting because he’s going to tell us about the facts. And where did he get them from? He got them from eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word. And in the Greek there’s a conjunction in the phrase, brothers and sisters. It’s not that he’s saying that he got them a) from eye-witness and b) from ministers of the Word, but he got them from eye-witnesses who were ministers of the Word.
So there were men, the apostles, and the disciples like them, few men indeed that who would gather around our Lord Jesus Christ, and mark you this, there would be much – and I say much – in Luke’s record which we’ve already discovered which must have come from the women; could only have come from the women. The things recorded of Mary, for example, could only come of Mary. Nobody could have told him those things that he recorded of her except Mary told him herself. And it is Luke’s Gospel above every other that spends a long time talking about the women. He deals with them at length. And they were among those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.
And do you know who they were, brothers and sisters? They were a little group of women. His mother immediate is not included among them but later on she was, but there were a little group of women who met our Lord in Galilee and never left him. And of whom it is said, “They ministered unto him of their substance.” And whilst the Son of man had not where to lay his head he had this confidence, brothers and sisters, that whilst he may not know where he was going to be that night or where he would sleep, he knows that those women had everything under control. And it’s obvious from Luke’s recording of what the women did that they were among those faithful ministers of the Word, and they certainly weren’t ministers of the word because they ministered to his every need, human need. And He was the word made flesh. And from them, who were those eyewitnesses, Luke would have called all his wonderful facts which he’s now going to detail for us. And he claims, as he says in verse 3, to have a perfect understanding. He has accurately traced, he says. And Luke, of course, had a penchant for history. We know that, brethren and sisters, don’t we?
If any of you have heard the name of Sir William Ramsey, who was noted for his work among the archaeologists, who, in the early 1900s wrote his work concerning Luke. He was the atheist who went out in the first century to the Middle East to uncover the history of the first century people. Not interested in Christianity a bit. And he took with him all the current history books that would help him in his research. One of which was the Acts of the Apostles. He took it as a history book. He finished up. His own confession was that by the time he’d finished his research he finished up with one history book alone. And he said that Luke’s accuracy was 100%, and he never found him wrong in anything that he ever said. That when Luke says, “I have accurately traced,” we have the witness of a former atheist to the truth of that word.
And therefore, brother and sisters, we look at Luke’s record with keenness. Not that, of course, we put him above the other aspects of divine writing. But when you have that sort of assurance, there’s confidence there that you’re looking at a man who is a brilliant historian, and who’s gone to great pains on this issue to give us the facts accurately traced out from the very first. He said in the Greek, from the top. “I’ve accurately traced these things from above,” to literally translate that expression. And Luke, of course, did trace the origin of things.
It is Luke, among the others of course, who spent some time telling us about the origin of our Lord Jesus Christ. That He was God’s Son, God’s Son, his real Son from above. And it’s Luke, of course, who goes back further than any writer, further than Matthew, Mark, or John to trace the origin of our Lord before He was born way back in the days of Zacharias and Elizabeth when those things were all building up to the birth of our Lord. It is Luke alone who’s gone to all the trouble, brother and sisters, to work out and to search accurate matters concerning the fullness of time which is in no other gospel record. So we’ve got a unique feature about our camp this year. Nobody else writes like this concerning those records of the pre-nativity days of our lord Jesus Christ accurately and in order.
And he tells this Theophilus that he might have certainty in those things, that they all might know this certainly. The word in the Greek, brother and sisters, conveys the idea of safety, security. “Theophilus, you might feel secure and safe in the things in which you have been instructed.” The Greek word is categiso from which of course we get our English word, didn’t we? When a thing is categorized, we’ve got a catechism, we get a list of teachings all set out in sequential order, all with their relevant proofs. That’s the word in the Greek.
And it’s fairly obvious, brothers and sisters, that Theophilus, whoever he was, was a lover of God. He was some dignified person obviously holding some official title or office, who was undergoing a course of learning in the truth, and to whom Luke writes a letter not that he might convince him of the truth, because he has already been taught it, but that he might give him some confidence in what he was learning. And isn’t it marvellous we have our interested friends especially those who may have a quicker perception than most, and a weightier capacity. That one brother may be teaching on the first principles. That they can come along to classes and exhortations, they can have visits by other brethren, and can learn other things. Not to confuse them, but to know the certainty of those things which they are being taught consistently, and in a sense to categorize them.
That’s obviously what was happening with Theophilus. You know, brothers and sisters, it’s rather interesting that when you read the second letter that Luke wrote to him, the Acts of the Apostles, he doesn’t call him the most excellent Theophilus, he just calls him Theophilus. As if by that time the man had lost his dignity as far as this word was concerned, that he’d abdicated any titles that he might have been entitled to. And he just became known as a lover of God by the time the Acts of the Apostles was written. Now, that is the leader, Luke’s own brand to instil into us the confidence of what we’re going to read in here concerning his report of things which he said are set in order.
The word order appeared twice in those verses which Jimmy read for us. It’s not the same Greek word. The first one means “one’s own arrangement.” So everybody had their own arrangement; Matthew had his. Matthew’s order was a chronological order, but there are themes in Matthew. Those themes likely had to do with the fulfilment of Bible prophecies.
Mark has his arrangement. It’s a very short arrangement. But although it’s short, brothers and sisters, there are things in Mark which are absolutely glorious, which are not in the other two because Mark had his own particular arrangement which he wanted to impress upon his readers, certain things which he saw which were important.
And John had his arrangement, of course, which is diverse from all of them. John saw things, of course, from a deeper and a more profound insight. And much of John’s order, if you read John’s Gospel, much of it is placed in the last few days of our Lord’s life where he added a weight emphasis.
And I don’t think that Luke was to say, either, that he was going to put it all in order exactly because the others didn’t, because Luke himself does not have everything in his gospel either. But there is in Luke an order of events, so orderly and so well set forward, not, brothers and sisters, with any particular themes so much but that he might establish the facts and the certainty of what happened, and their relationship one to the other. And with those things in mind he wrote, “There was in the days of Herod...”
And so Luke opens up, of course, to the most excellent Theophilus. He writes of the history of one, of course, in the days of Herod, of whom Theophilus, being a dignitary in his own right, a most excellent dignitary, he would know about Herod. There was in his days, brothers and sisters, things which happened. It’s not without accident or it wasn’t just simply a historical note that Luke wrote that. Because you see, Herod was known all over the place as the great, Herod the Great. The very word Herod itself means “to be a hero.” So he was a great hero.
And Luke wants to tell us, brothers and sisters, that in the days of Herod the Great something happened in Israel which was astounding. There was the birth of one of whom it is said, “He would be great in the sight of the Lord.” Verse 15 tells us that. And there are men who are great in the eyes of themselves and others; and there are few other men, brothers and sisters, who are great in the eyes of the Lord. And, so, when he said, “In the days of Herod,” he was going to contrast that great Herod with John the Baptist who was to come, who would wear upon his body, upon the very dwelling where he dwelt, brothers and sisters, who would wear on the very place where he heard from everything that was not great in the eyes of men. In the days of Herod the Great, and that pen was poised over the paper knowing of the coming of John, and of He who is greater than John. And how great that would be, brothers and sisters, not in the eyes of men but in the eyes of God, and what of Herod the Great.
Nearly 40 odd years were brutal in Pious’ rule over the Jewish people. A man, brothers and sisters, who probably would go down in history as that world’s Hitler. An abominable man; he had ten wives, one of which was Mariamne, who was a Maccabean princess. Yes, a Maccabean princess with priestly heritage, and a family who had a brand of loyalty that had burnt its way into the history of the world. He married her, brothers and sisters, strangled her children, and had her put to death, yet had claimed to love her.
He was an Edomite, a mongrel bred he was. An Edomite – a hated Edomite – who in the days of the Maccabees, were converted or they were put to the sword until they become proselytes by force. And because his heritage was one that would come into the hope of Israel, as it were, under the threat of death, he was an Edomite, what did he do? He marries a Maccabean princess and sacked all the loyalty out of that abominable family as he’d saw them that had brought his people into disrepute and cowardice.
Now, he’s got the upper hand. And you can imagine all the traditional bitterness that was boarded to his hat. And as Deuteronomy had truly said, “The stranger and those that hated Israel had gotten above you.” And they had gotten above them. He carried Jewish favour on one hand, and then brutalized them on the other. Forty odd years, wasn’t it that he was building that temple, magnificent temple in Jerusalem, that he might carry the favour of the Jewish people. And, yet, he would condone, brothers and sisters, in pious acts upon God’s order just to prove that his grace was not to be taken for granted; that he was king nonetheless. That was Herod the Great, brothers and sisters. And in the days of that Herod, in the fullness of time, of which he was the very epitome, who would expect that God would act?
There would be men and women running around with false opinions of God. That God would only help men when men help themselves; that God would only come down upon the earth when his feet could put themselves on the earth because men had made it clean. No such thing! In the days of that abominable man, in that brute, brothers and sisters, God acted. The fullness of time had come.
And there was a certain priest. “There was a certain priest” Zacharias, "he was of the course of Abia,” brothers and sisters. There was a certain priest, of the cause of Abia, and his name was Zacharias. And we know, brothers and sisters, we’ve got authority from Scripture to say that there is a meaning of this name. That has meaning. Not simply weaving a meaning into names that’s not always there, but later on in this very book, later on in his own prayer, Zacharias has prayed. He makes a play upon the names of himself, his wife, and his newborn boy, John. And there’s a deliberate play upon their names. And, you know, you couldn’t get a more applicable name “Yahweh has remembered.”
And, you know, you think about it. You could choose a thousand names of men at that stage, dimension in your record of history. You could choose a million names. There would be no name under heaven at that time more applicable than that name. That despite the confusion, despite all the errors, the brutality, the immorality, the wickedness, Yahweh has remembered. It couldn’t have been a more significant name.
Then you look at this, you know, that the seventy-seventh Psalm, brothers and sisters, you look at this. What a significant name it is, Yahweh has remembered. Who would ever believe that Yahweh would remember his people and all that? But here in the seventy-seventh Psalm is a play upon the word, remember. We read in verse 1 that Psalmist says, “I remembered God, and was troubled.” He says in verse 6, “I call to remembrance my song in the night.” He said in verse 10, “But I will remember the years of the Most High.”  He says in verse 11, “I will remember the works of Yahweh, I will remember the wonders of old.”
And whilst he’s remembering, brothers and sisters, whilst he doesn’t forget, he wonders about God. Verse 9, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up his tender mercies?” See that, brothers and sisters? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He forgotten to have his tender mercies? Hath He in anger shut up his tender mercies? Consider that. And we all walk around and we say, “Is Christ going to come? When will He come? When will it happen?” And whereas those, brothers and sisters, in the dark moments of our despondency, on our own without the support of our brothers and sisters sometimes, when all the troubles of life beset us, I suppose we say, “We remember God, but has He forgotten?” Has he forgotten to be gracious? Yahweh will remember, and thou shalt call his name John. Yahweh will be gracious.  
 “Whereby the dayspring on high had visited us, and the tender mercies,” said Zacharias, “had come to visit us.” So He hadn’t forgotten to be gracious, John was born. And the dayspring on high had visited them, and the tender mercies of God had been manifest. He had never forgotten them. And there is a man whose very name was indicative of that; that he would never forget his people.
God knows what’s going on. Don’t worry about things. Let the world have its way. Don’t become confused. Always remember from whence you come, brothers and sisters. We’ve come into truth. We are born from above every, one of us, by the power of God’s word. We are in the traditions of the apostles and the elders. We are Christadelphians, following in the example of our pioneers, and let the world go mad. God’s never forgotten that, and God will be gracious. And don’t let all the confusion and the madness in the world put you off balance, brothers and sisters. Be like Simeon and Anna, year after year after year, God’s remembrances. And there was one of them, Zacharias, Yahweh hath remembered.
 “And,” says Luke in his accuracy, “he was the course of Abia.”  When we go back, which we won’t turn out there, we don’t need to turn it up, brothers and sisters, but when you’re back in the book of Chronicles, in chapter 24 and verse 10, we read about the twenty-four courses of priesthood that David set in order, from Eleazar and Ithamar. We learned there, brothers and sisters, that the eighth course was the course of Abia. Why is Luke accurately telling us that? Because you see, he wants us to understand that in the fullness of time when God’s providence was to work, in the great and glorious foreknowledge of our creator, He waited for all things including Zacharias to reach that age, including him to be there as an old man. Waiting, brother and sisters, for that pinpoint of history when there would be a— Yahweh would remember who came from the eighth course of David’s arrangement.
And in the Scriptures we will see later on that the number eight has to do with a new beginning, a spiritual birth. It has to do with the day of circumcision, the day of the cleansing of the lepers, when they shaved themselves to their eyebrows, says the Lord, and let their flesh be without a speck of hair that they might be newborn children. And He waited until the eighth course was in operation to set forth Jesus Christ their Lord, who is made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but coming to be God’s Son by the spirit of his light. The eighth course, Abia, Yahweh is my Father. How about that for some accuracy of Luke writing that down?
So here is when it’s going to be a new beginning, a new birth, a spiritual child, and Yahweh would be his Father because Yahweh has remembered. And there he is. And when the fullness of time had come, there he is. And not only did we have him, brothers and sisters, we got his wife mentioned – Elizabeth. And in Luke’s accurate details he so pains to tell us that she, too, is a daughter of Aaron.
Now, there was nothing in the Law of Moses which forbids the high priest or his family marrying an Israelite woman of another tribe. He could choose whoever he liked among his people. She had to be a pure woman, a virgin indeed and a spiritual woman, but she could be from any tribe. But Luke has pains to tell us that we’re dealing here with a pure line of priesthood. She herself was of the daughters of Aaron. And such is his accuracy of detail, brothers and sisters that he’s going to tell us her name. You know why? Because that’s the name of Aaron’s own wife. Aaron’s wife’s name in the Greek text is Elizabeth. That she happened to be from Judah as we’ve learned in Exodus chapter 6. But this man’s got a wife who’s got the very name of Aaron’s own wife, and she’s a daughter of Aaron. Here we have the priesthood line in its absolute purity. And that’s what Luke’s trying to impress us with, brothers and sisters, because later on he’s going to say something that will drop that chapter flat out right on your lap, because he’s impressing it with this for a reason. We have a pure priesthood here.
Now, these two people, Luke says, were both righteous. Not one of them; both of them were righteous before God. And those words were necessary, brothers and sisters, because Luke wrote later on, in his ninth chapter, about a man who went up to pray with himself who was righteous in himself. He was righteous before himself. But these people were both righteous before God. They were genuinely righteous. They were blameless, brother and sisters. So that Luke is telling us that as far as qualifications go – morally and ceremonially – they were pure. It doesn’t mean to say they were perfect. The word righteous, of course, carries the idea of justification of the implication of righteousness. They weren’t perfect, but they were, brothers and sisters, genuine people. And when it come to ceremonials of the Law they were blameless, which, again, doesn’t mean that they were morally perfect.
But as Paul explained in Philippians, the righteousness which is of the law, they were blameless. That is, if they sinned, they made a sin offering and so forth. So in all ways, be it moral or ceremonial, these people were beyond criticism. There was, as Luke says, most absolutely here the foundation of a real and a powerful priesthood. And furthermore, he says, they were walking in the commandments of the Law. Their faith, brothers and sisters, was active. And there’s a very, very great need for us today to remember that. You know there’s never has been a time when that isn’t necessary to be reminded that our faith is going to be an active faith.
But you know what has happened over the years, brother and sisters, is this, these are observations which one makes that there is a decline in ecclesial life in that the pioneers are not held in any esteem anymore; when ecclesias become somewhat liberal in their outlook towards the church teachings; when there’s a lowering of those doctrinal standards; there is, of course, oppositions from others, those of other ecclesias who stand fore-square with the pioneers, fore-square with the doctrines of the Word; and in all those traditions which we’ve been taught by our elders. And sometimes, brother and sisters, as long as a person is politicized in that sense it doesn’t really matter what they do. But I’m telling you this that it is just as important today as it ever was to be moral in God’s eye just as it ever was in the time that He set forth his Law from the Garden of Eden.
And I can stand here and talk myself blue in the face without Dr. Thomas and Robert Roberts. And that how I love the truth and talk about Bible prophecy, and I need but one line of prophecy and criticize those of others, I still have got to walk in God’s ordinances. And you might think, “Well, I’m emphasizing that because day after day we see people defend it because they speak well.” That their feet are miles from what they’re saying.
Now, these two, brother and sisters, were walking in the ordinances of the law. Their faith was an active one. And so, Luke is painting his picture. But, you know, there was a problem. As if he were saying here is a Christadelphian family. He wouldn’t make a family like this for there’s a problem. Elizabeth was barren. And that comes almost as if it’s dropped into the record like a bombshell, “And they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren.” That’s interesting, brothers and sisters, isn’t it, as some of us wonder when couples can’t have children? You wonder where is the problem? Is it with the husband or is it with the wife? It’s not that we or anybody probes in people’s private lives in that way, but it does cross one’s mind, that they had no children because Elizabeth was barren.
There was the problem, brothers and sisters, it was with the woman, and her name Elizabeth (Elisábet), the oath of God – the oath of God. When Abraham had raised that knife, brothers and sisters, to plunge it into the breast of his boy, and God stayed his hand, He swore to him with an oath, “As truly as I live...” And there was that oath. By an oath of God, He promised that child. And that woman bore that name of God’s oath. And if there was one oath which meant more to the Jews – and especially to the Jewish woman – than any other oaths was that God’s daughter was to have a child. And she was barren.
And I tell you something else. Not only was she barren, brothers and sisters, but it was notorious. Over the hill country of Judea that it was her problem, everyone knew that it was poor Elizabeth. They couldn’t have children because she is called in this record as we’ll see later on; the definite article is used in the original but not in the Authorized. She was called “the barren one”. She had a nickname. She was called “the” barren one, so it was notorious, and although it was no crime to be going without children, unfortunate, but certainly no crime. In the days when these people lived, brethren and sisters, when women ached to have children, when children were looked upon somewhat differently, somewhat with far more longing, so they just ached to have children. To be reminded that one could not have a child was bad enough. But the barren nickname, the barren one, would be more than a woman of Elizabeth’s calibre could bear.
We know what Hannah felt like. We’ve gone through her experiences as she went up the steps of the temple with the heart spilling in despair, of her defeat, provoked by her enemy, and how, brothers and sisters, she was looked upon as a drunken woman because she was heard to come with grief. We know how she felt. You think of this poor woman, the barren one. With all the impeccable qualifications for priesthood, it was barren. That’s what Luke’s trying to tell us. See the point? We never see that in a man embellished with a prophecy. You see that’s the point he’s making. With all the perfect qualifications, it was a barren priesthood. It needed rejuvenating, brethren and sisters. That’s the point of that. It needed rejuvenating, and the fullness of time had come to do just that because we read they were both well-stricken in years. That expression, well-stricken in years, has the exact expression used in the Septuagint version of Abraham and Sarah. Here is a repetition all over again of the child of promise.
And according to the custom of the priest’s orders his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. What an incredible thing that was. The fullness of time, brethren and sisters, how old would Zacharias be? It’s any man’s guess. Other brethren, you know, remember being in an audience when a brother got a question as to how Zacharias could ever exercise the priesthood saying he’d be beyond the age of priesthood? There was no age for priesthood, brethren and sisters. The age limit of thirty and fifty had nothing to do with the priesthood. That’s got to do with the Levites. Priests continue until they were taken by death. So it wouldn’t matter how old he was. They could not continue, says Paul in the Book of Hebrews, by reason of death. So there was no age on priesthood. So how old was he is anyone’s guess. But certainly he still had the qualification to have a priesthood as long as he had breath and his body. And the whole idea of priesthood was long years, and age of experience where he could learn to get inside of people’s problems, and take that to God. So he was even qualified by age, but it was barren. And therein lies the awful problem, and his lot.
And let me tell you something about the lot. We talk about the fullness of time. Now, this comes from real, authenticated historical records. What I’m going to tell you, brethren and sisters, is well-known. But what happened we’ll explain it in full a little later. But what happened was that when it came for the close of the priesthood, which was during that month, was on the charge of the things of the temple, they used to draw four lots. How they drew that lot? Difficult to know, but there was certainly a drawing of lots. They would draw a lot for various occupations to be done that day.
Now, they burn incense in the morning and in the evening. And of the four lots that were drawn, the third one was drawn twice. Why? Because the third lot was the lot by which it was determined who it was to burn incense. And you could only burn incense once in your whole life. You think of that, in the fullness of time. So we have a man possibly in his seventies and eighties who has never been in there to burn incense, and wonders, brethren and sisters, if ever he will ever go in there. And during the evening or the morning – and Luke doesn’t tell us which it was. But either one of those times out comes his lot for the first time in his life. And we talk about the Most High ruling in the kingdoms of men. And he was waiting for Zacharias to come to the right hand of that altar. He was to go in there to burn incense.
You know, there are several duties of the priest, not now talking of the high priest. The high priest, of course, was distinguished by the fact that the most wonderful and inspiring moment of his life was when once a year he went into the most holy place. But forget about him because Zacharias is not a high priest. But when it comes to the priesthood itself, brethren and sisters, of all the things they ever did in God’s service, the thing which distinguished them above all others was the fact that they were consecrated to burn incense. Several times in the scripture that expression comes forward, consecrated to burn incense before men.
In the days, remember, of Isaiah, whose name was Azariah as well, who went in before the temple of Yahweh to burn incense. And when he came out and confronted the eighty priests, and Azariah, the high priest, he said, “It is only for the son’s of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense”. And so whatever else distinguished them that stood above everything. Why? Why brethren and sisters, because it was the very epitome of what priesthood is all about. For every priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God. And he went to burn incense, and he stood there with just the flimsy veil, a bit of linen, brethren and sisters between him and the Shekhinah, just that. And that’s as close as he ever got. And breathing against that veil, he would know that right behind there though that was just symbolic. There was a time shining in there, brothers and sisters, the awesome presence of the Almighty. No greater privilege than that. It was up to them to burn the incense and of course the incense was burnt at the time of the evening and the morning prayers because it was a symbol of prayer. We know that as the Psalmist says, “Let my prayer rise unto thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hand as the morning sacrifice.”
And we read here that the people had come at that time of incense in verse 10, “The whole multitude of people were praying without at the time of incense.” So he’s in there at the time of incense. It is the first time he’s ever been in there, brothers and sisters. In that sense, never before in his life has he got in there and in he goes. And what happened? We read in verse 11, “And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.”
Now, the right side; you know the right hand, generally speaking, we of course apologize to left-handers, but the right hand is generally considered to be the most dextrous. We can do things with that hand we can’t do with that hand. It’s considered to be the most dextrous. And so you find the expression used through the Psalms, brothers and sisters, of the right hand of Yahweh had gotten him the victory. Not that Yahweh could ever be categorized of having a right or a left in that matter, but because of the need of human understanding, human languages used of Yahweh that his right hand had gotten him the victory.
The Lord Jesus Christ went and sat on the right hand of the Father because in him all the works of God were seen to be at their most perfect. And there is an expression ‘Years in the sun is a few days,’ when it says concerning God’s right hand. “To save thy beloved with thy right hand, and hear me.” Who says that? Save thy beloved with thy right hand and hear me.
And Zacharias, brothers and sisters, for years had been making a specific petition to God. And it was in there at this epoch pinpoint of history, and standing on the right hand of the altar an angel who was fully equipped to perform with perfection, with dexterity everything he was asked. What a wonderful opportunity! And Jesus doesn’t offer everything we ask, brothers and sisters, but anything we ask in his name He offers. And that man had had a prayer on his lips for how many years. Who could guess? And he’d gone in there and standing on the right hand of that altar.
You know the altar of incense was absolutely marvellous. Ever considered this brothers and sisters? The altar of incense was but a small altar. That that’s square and it stood right inside that veil. And with all that’s in the holy place, it was so connected with the most holy place in the Day of Atonement that it’s described in 1 Kings 6 and 22, and in Hebrews 9 as actually belonging to the most holy place. Not that it literally did, but that in spirit did because its prayers connected one with the Most Holy. That’s why it’s described as belonging to the most holy place.
And of course on the Day of Atonement when they took the blood and the priest didn’t take the blood and started in order and worked his way to the most holy. No way! He took the blood when the most holy first, and then worked his way back. And when he got through to God he came back and brought the people there into juxtaposition with God. But on that day when he carry that blood in that golden bowl, he went in before the most holy place and drew aside the bowl, and he sprinkled the base of the mercy seat. And as he backed up, brothers and sisters, he touched the altar of incense only with blood. Never touch the table of showbread, never touch the lampstand. Now, none of those were touched. He backed up, he touched the altar of incense only. Because you see when the veil was taken away there was the connection. As soon as the veil slid to one side there was the connection, blood there and blood there. The holy place and the altar of incense were immediately locked together. And that’s why the Chronicles and Kings described that it’s belonging to the most holy place.
That was the importance of the altar of incense. But let me tell you something else about it. In the description of the furniture of the tabernacle you won’t find the altar of incense described with the other pieces of furniture. It’s out of order. Everything else is described in order except that. And it’s left to another place in Exodus 30 where it’s described in order. And the way that it described it was this: they would have built this altar of incense, and they would have put a crown of gold around the top of it. And then this expression was used. And listen to this expression: in the margin of Exodus 30 it says, “They would have put a crown of gold around about the roof of it, over the walls of it.” And in the margin it says Hebrew roof and walls. And the reason it says that is because the Hebrew word means roof and walls.
You say, “Well so what?” So when you got a piece of legislation, a blueprint to build your home, Deuteronomy Chapter 22 and verse 8 said you had to build them with a flat roof and put a battlement around the top. And the purpose of the flat roof with a battlement around the top was that people might go up there to pray and be safe by not wandering off the edge of the roof. They will be protected by the battlement, but that would be on top of the square house, with a flat roof, with a crown around it at the top of it. In other words, brothers and sisters, every house in Israel was a house of prayer.
And when the Lord Jesus Christ quoted the 56th chapter of Isaiah he said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,” he was telling Israel that every man and woman in Israel shall be living in a house of prayer. Every home was a replica of the altar of incense; absolutely marvellous when you think of that. And it was to go in there and it was to see standing alongside that altar, brethren and sisters, the angel of Yahweh on the right hand of that altar. Why? Because Zacharias’ home had been an altar of incense for years.
And here is the angel saying to him, “Zacharias, I’m here. I’m on the right hand side of the altar. You ask and that I will do it. Your prayer is heard.” And the very word which Luke uses here for prayer, brethren and sisters, means a specific prayer. Sometimes rendered by the word supplication, it means a specific request. You know, I’ve had people tell me, but of course, although it reads as if that request was that Zacharias would have a son, it couldn’t mean that now. He would know he’d be too old and Elizabeth was too old. And obviously they were praying for the Messiah. It’s an attractive thought. And I must confess, brethren and sisters, at the time of being told that, I rather feel that it could be. But I cannot read that into it. It just doesn’t read like that. And I believe that even if Zacharias had given up at that time of his life praying for that boy, Yahweh had never forgotten.
And whether he was praying for the boy that time or not, I don’t know, but I am certain in my mind, at least, that what the angel says, “Thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son,” can only mean that. And that that was his request. And, you know, brethren and sisters, I’m rather of the opinion that perhaps he hadn’t been praying of late for that boy. That he might have forgotten, really, in that sense. But Yahweh had never forgotten.
Now, I say that because when I came to that point I thought to myself how true that was of my own life. That there are times in my life when great crisis would come upon you; might be trivial to you but a big thing to me. And you pray earnestly to God, in tears to God. You pour your heart out to him. And you think to yourself, “I know God will help me.” Years go by, brethren and sisters, and you have completely forgotten what the problem was or that you’ve even asked God until one day that prayer is answered, and you’re ashamed. And I believe that that prayer had been made. It was either still going, which will show an incredible fight, or have been dropped because of the age factor. Zacharias was to learn that Yahweh never forgets. And the meaning of his name would be brought home to him like it had never been brought home to anyone. “You know what you’ve been asking for Zacharias? It’s been heard. Once in a lifetime before that temple it’s been heard. You will have a son,” he says. “And you will call his name John.”  Yohannes – Yahweh is gracious. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Yahweh is gracious.
And you know, brethren and sisters, John came as that messenger of grace. He came as a messenger of grace. Look in the 77th verse of chapter 2 of this book of Luke, “He came to give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of sins. He came through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring on high has visited us.” He came as a messenger of grace. And then John, the apostle, brethren and sisters, was reporting the work about John and the Lord Jesus Christ, what did he say? He was writing about the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and of John, and he said, “We have received grace for grace,” as if he’s parting the ideas up that there was the grace of God in John, but if that’s grace look at this one. We have received grace for grace, and Yahweh had been gracious. His name would be John.
And as Paul told Titus that we should live subtly and righteously in this world, he says, looking for the grace of God. And John lived subtly and righteously in this world, and he was looking for the grace of God. In every way, brethren and sisters, the meaning of these names here in Luke are pregnant with meaning. Absolutely wonderful! And this man was reminded of what that boy was going to be. Oh, he was going to be a wonderful boy. And Gabriel, of course, because we know the name of the angel went on to tell Zacharias what would happen here.
He says in verse 13, “Your prayer is heard; thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” Then he says, “And thou shalt have joy and gladness.” And he did. He did. You know, there are two words used there, joy and gladness. One really means ‘to rejoice’ and the other one means ‘to jump for joy’. You know, those experiences were literally experienced when John the Baptist was challenged as to whether he was the Messiah. He said, “I’m not the Messiah. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom,” he says, “when he hears the bridegroom’s voice rejoices.” That’s the first way.
When his mother came down to visit Elizabeth, brethren and sisters, and to the announcement that Mary had conceived the birth of the Lord, that when Mary came down to visit Elizabeth and she walked in, it says the child leapt in her womb. That’s the second Greek word. So John himself, before he was born, leapt for joy in his mother. When he was born he said he rejoiced. There’d be joy and gladness.  The boy himself would experience that, and spread that joy to others because he was experienced in his life before he was born and after the very radiance of that joy, for all the austerity of John, he radiated the joy of that spirit. He spread that abroad to others as we will see a little later. Wonderful things are going to happen here, brothers and sisters, and many shall rejoice at his birth. And they did.
We read later on that when the boy was born they brought to do with him according to the custom of the Law to circumcise, even name the child. It says, “And all the neighbours rejoiced at the things which they heard.” Then Gabriel said to him in verse 16, or verse 15, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.”
Now, here’s your key to Luke chapter 1. I’ll tell you how I thought about this, brethren and sisters. I thought, “Now, what’s Luke trying to tell us?” Here, we’ve got credentials, impeccable credentials for priesthood: Zacharias, blameless in moral and ceremonial things of the course of Abia; Elizabeth, the name of Aaron’s own wife, she herself is of Aaron’s family – absolute impeccable credentials for priesthood. I’m getting this impression, and when I got to verse 16 or verse 15 to prepare for the Easter camp, having previously done a study of the Law of Moses, brethren and sisters, I feel that I’d be well-equipped to come and tell you about how that John was going to be a Nazarite.
So when I got to verse 15, I thought to myself in a smug way, although this will be a piece of cake, I know all about the Nazarite. I’ll be on again till the... and I stopped – Nazarite; Nazarite. What on earth is john doing being a Nazarite? And it hit me. Do you know what the purpose of a Nazarite vow was, brothers and sisters? Do you know what the purpose of it was? If we would expand the word a Nazarite, and not say this, we’d know nothing about it. The whole purpose of the Nazarite vow was that an ordinary Israelite who could never be a priest should have the opportunity to imitate the priest for any period of his time of his own choosing. What is John doing being a Nazarite?
There is what Luke is trying to tell us. That he’s not saying here, as we would expect him to say, that if there’s a priesthood here with all the impeccable qualifications of law, that it was barren. We need a new priesthood in that sense. But he’s underlining it, brethren and sisters, like no one could underline it. That out of that woman’s womb, from that man’s loins, would come a boy who would have according to the law absolutely 100% credentials for priesthood, and he’s got to be a Nazarite. And it dawned on me what Luke is trying to tell us that here, in the fullness of time, God showed in the priesthood itself determined the change right within it. He would determine that it must change, but more to come, brethren and sisters, in a minute. You look at the changes. Look what happened. Having seen that, immediately, it carried me and I saw immediately what Gabriel was getting at as he spelled out the rest of that message, brethren and sisters. But we’ll come to that a moment.
But first of all, consider his words: that this boy would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. That’s the image of Elijah who went up from the top of Mt. Carmel and he prayed to Yahweh Elohim for Israel, “Turn the heart of this people.” John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, brethren and sisters. But for all the greatness of Elijah, of which John was the greater of the two at the moment of history, they would not succeed in their entirety many would return to the Lord their God. In Jeremiah 31, it says that from the least to the greatest, he will turn to the Lord their God.
Elijah turned few. John turned many. Jesus will turn the lot. And there’s the difference. From the least to the greatest, said Jeremiah. Under the new covenant, all of them will turn to the Lord their God when they see the hands and the feet that bear those distinguished wounds which he got in the house of his friends. Not one of these men could do that, but nonetheless, so great would John’s word be that many would return to the Lord their God, because he would come in the spirit and in the power of Elijah. Could we ever forget this at Easter camp?
Remember our studies on John the Baptist, brethren and sisters? When we came across that expression, which many of us felt in times gone by all it was saying is that John was sort of the fulfilment of Elijah or something like that? When we learn that we’ve never learned, that what Luke is trying to tell us that john would come in the spirit and in the power of Elijah, that Elijah really should have exercised and never did because we learned those two things from Luke’s own record – or one of them at least – and the other one from John.
When it concerns the spirit of Elijah, remember John and James, when they went to the village of the Samaritans, and the Samaritans wouldn’t offer them hospitality. They said, “Shall we bring them fire from heaven like Elijah did?” And the answer of our Lord Jesus Christ was, “Ye don’t know what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” There’s the spirit of Elijah and instead of calling down thunder from heaven to destroy those in Israel whom Elijah built, and turned their back upon God, God is going to teach that wonderful prophet that it was a spirit to be exercised, which he had to learn of the seven thousand which had never bowed their knee, needed to be encouraged.
What about the power? Earthquake, fire, and storm, brethren and sisters, where did John’s power lie? Let us get the evidence of the Bible. Where is his power? John chapter 10 and verse 41 said this, “John did no miracle.” But when, where’s his power? In his dress? In his wilderness? There was only one thing about John that distinguished him above every other man. You have never heard anything like it in the world before, brethren and sisters – in his voice. And there was that still, small voice, penetrating and persuasive, that would bring those people back, and “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” And where does Elijah go to pray before that curse? Elijah was to come again, brethren and sisters, to prevent it. He is going to come in his spirit and in his power. That is what Zacharias is being told, and he would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.
Isaiah 29 tells us how that will happen, brethren and sisters. You see, the sentiments of the fathers are not towards their children in Israel. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob would be ashamed to be children. But Isaiah 29 tells us the sense in which the hearts would change. In Isaiah 29 verse 22 we read, “Therefore thus saith Yahweh, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth in his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.” What a wonderful expression.
When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are brought from the ground, brothers and sisters, and they’re shown the seed of their own seed, it might be that they’re going to be brought from the ground and shown Israel. As if God would say to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “Look, in all the centuries you’ve been dead, look what this crowd have done.” They’re your children. And you know what happens when people say that? You hate it when people come and say, “Look, I’m sorry but I’d like to... your job.” And you look at your boots, and your face pales, and you feel ill. You’re ashamed of the job. But you see that’s not going to happen. The hearts of the father is going to return to their children. Why? What’s the difference? Because every one of those children are the work of my hands. God will make them. God’s going to make them a family. Abraham will lift his head up. Isaac and Jacob will lift up their heads, and beam upon those children. The hearts of the father will return to the children.
What about the children? Well, Luke says, other records say, “should turn the heart of the children to the fathers.” But Luke chooses to use a different expression, brethren and sisters. He chooses this expression, he says, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” Only Luke uses that expression. As if Luke himself, in all his accuracy, is interpreting the price. Look at the words he’s using.
The word “disobedient” if we were to render them exactly or transliterate them into the English language that would read un-persuadable. Children you cannot persuade. But in the end, brethren and sisters, those who are un-persuadable will be persuaded to the wisdom of the just. That word “wisdom”, brethren and sisters, is a word which is only used in one other place in the New Testament, not that it’s not always important but it does, at least, give an indication that it is a real word and has a significant meaning.
The word is rendered in the first chapter of Ephesians by the word “prudence” – prudence. It means to have an insight. Now, this is what we learn concerning the faithful in Hebrews 11, that men had the insight to look up to the top of their contemporaries, disregarding all the things of the  world and they saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them. Same Greek word without the negative prefix. When the children are brought to the birth – the spiritual birth – and the great Elijah is back along with John and the Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory, and all Abraham’s seed is there, brethren and sisters, the children will turn to their fathers and say, “We became persuaded of your faith because we saw the insight you had.” There are children who do that every day.
I have daughters who are married now. They’re in the audience, they’re going to blush, who ring dad up sometimes and say, “You know dad what you used to tell us? You know, that was right.” Oh, isn’t that marvellous? Why? Because you see, I couldn’t persuade them before; they were un-persuadable. But now experiences of life have persuaded them. They see that what mom and dad had been saying had been on the basis of insight. The fathers are proud of their children, and the children now are persuaded because they see the insight of those who are justified by faith.
John the Baptist, brethren and sisters, was coming to effect that reformation. Not easy. Families are hard to reconcile. Brethren and sisters, our one great family, but we know that blood is very thick. When families fight out, they’re difficult to reconcile. John, by the grace of God, which was his very name, was coming back to reconcile divided factions in Israel.
Now, this is what Zacharias was told: to prepare a table for the Lord. Then poor old Zacharias blots his copybook. And the copybook is Luke’s accurate writing. All the wonderful things ever said about him, that’s all going to be blotted. He doesn’t believe it. He just doesn’t believe it. “Whereby shall I know?” Those are the exact expression of Abraham in genesis 15. But look at the difference. There’s a world of difference in the expression. Abraham’s was an expression of faith. It wasn’t as if to say, “Well, how can you do it God?” It’s, “How can that be worked out?” I’m a mortal man. I sin. How can I live forever? How is this going to be done?
He didn’t doubt that God could do it; he wanted to know the modus operandi. And God said, “Make a sacrifice.” That was Abraham’s faith. But this poor man doubted God’s ability. You know, brethren and sisters, you’re not condemning. But you see this poor old fellow year in and year out, praying for that child. Here he is now. He got the angel at the right hand of God’s altar ready to do exactly what he said. The dextrous hand is going to work marvellously, and he cannot believe it.
Now, we’re going to see a wonderful application of Bible prophecy because Gabriel said this to him in verse 19, “And the angel answered and said to him, “Look, I’m Gabriel, the warrior of God.” Now, why did he say that? He could have been Michael. He could have been the wonderful. He could have been other angels, brethren and sisters. He might not have been named. He could have been any special angel. But you see, when he said, “I’m Gabriel,” oh, Gabriel, you imagine standing here, on your own, in the quiet of that temple, looking in the eyes of the angel who stood over Daniel to write down a prophecy which at that moment of history was about to be fulfilled.
He has been supervising a Bible prophecy for 500 years. For 490 days of the seventy weeks had run out. They knew that. They were students of Bible prophecy. He is the one who says, “Look, Zacharias. You know who I am? I am Gabriel.” He is the one that virtually wrote that prophecy through the pen of Daniel. And you doubt me. And I’m standing in God’s presence. Not everybody else stood there, brethren and sisters. Even the words “stand there” is important. It doesn’t just signify to stand there in that sense. It means that he had status in God’s presence. And you don’t believe me. He didn’t believe him. And, you know, Daniel would have that visitation of the angel at the time of the evening sacrifice. You know, one of the guesses – and it could only be a guess because Luke doesn’t reveal it – as to which it was that Zacharias was making, I’d guess it was the morning. Almost as if to say that he’d come to Daniel in the evening sacrifice. Here he is to complete it in the morning. And you’re calling me in question?
Then he said this to him, “I am Gabriel,” he says, “that stand in the presence of God, and then sent to speak unto thee to show thee these glad tidings.” Now, you watch the link of what I said before about the change in the priesthood, the change in the dispensation. You watch the link here where these come from. Do you know what we find repeated here, brethren and sisters? We find repeated in the Gospel of Luke glad tidings, glad tidings. We hear the talk of the hill country, the hill country, the hill country. We get the expression Judah, Judah, Judah. Where do you find the collection of sayings glad tidings, hill country, of Judah? Where else but Isaiah 40.
Luke is telling us this all the way through. And you know something? You’re going to wear Isaiah out this weekend. You’re going to wear it right out because Luke’s got us in here and we’re not going to get out of that, because here are all these prophecies that are going to come to pass, and some remarkable applications. Here it is, brethren and sisters. We read in verse 9, “I am come to show thee these glad tidings.” And in verse 9 of Isaiah 40, “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice, lift it up with strength; and say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” That’s the good tidings, brethren and sisters.
If you wanted a game, Isaiah 52 and verse 7. Listen to these words, and then I’ll show you something about them which we’re going to see repeated over and over again in Luke’s first two chapters. Verse 7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
One more, brethren and sisters, Isaiah 61. Isaiah 61 and verse 1, “The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me; because Yahweh hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he had sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.”
Now, what are the good tidings? What are they? They’re epitomized in one expression, which in the three times it’s made is with an exclamation. Behold your God! Behold thy God! The day of vengeance of our God! See the point? Can you or can’t you? What are the good tidings? The good tidings, brethren and sisters, are not merely about God, your God, my God, our God. We’re going to be personally related to him. That’s what the good tidings about. That God is going to work in the earth to personally relate people to himself: your God, my God, our God. Paul said— Paul, the apostle, separate them to the Gospel of God. There it is, the good news of God. “And I’ve come to show you tidings, good tidings of these things,” he said.
Now, why do we know it’s in Isaiah 40? Because I kept telling you Luke’s going to tell us about the hill country of Judah, the hill country of Judah. And we got idiots running around in commentary saying, I think it’s Hebron, I think it’s Jerusalem, I think it’s Bethel. It’s not told because Isaiah doesn’t say it.  He says it’s the hill country of Judah. And we’ve got people running all over the hill country bringing good tidings. We like to say these things are from the kingdom age and we say, “This is when it’s all going to be fulfilled.” Look, brethren and sisters, the fullness of time had come. People were running all over the hills of Judea, calling out what? That child is God-sent, the hope. Your God, Thy God, My God. He’s a human being. And that’s the tidings he brought.
Now, you say, “Where is the relationship with John the Baptist?” Look at the chapter. Look at Isaiah 40. Who is that about? And what does Gabriel say? He said to Zacharias, “You are going to be dumb. You won’t be able to speak these things until they got fulfilled.” Look what verse 9 says, brethren and sisters, “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength.” And he’s dumb. But whose voice is in Isaiah 40? He’s got the voice – it’s his boy. That according to every precept of the law could have walked through the doors of that temple, in diamonds of glory and beauty, with impeccable qualifications for priesthood. There’s his father, dressed in robes of glory and beauty, right up against the veil, and he can’t tell you all about the good tidings.
Then in the wilderness was a voice that men had never heard the like of. That way over those hills and stood people in awe; that started schools in Alexandria; that all over Asia Minor there were people learning about John’s teachings, they’ve never heard a voice like it. And his gospel. That’s what Luke’s trying to tell us, brethren and sisters. It all came to an end, didn’t it? It was barren. But right out of that man’s house the voice was taken, and put into that wilderness. When his credentials were given, John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness; and there he was – the voice.
“The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the Lord Yahweh at his mouth.” You’ve heard those words. You’d know where to quote them, Malachi 2, in verse 7. What does Malachi 3 say? “Behold, I send my messenger,” which Jesus himself applied to John. So here’s a priest’s lips that might have kept knowledge, but he can’t tell you. But Malachi 3 says, “Behold, I send my messenger.”
When Mark opened up his gospel, brethren and sisters, the Gospel of God, as he called it. He says, “As it is written in Isaiah,” and quotes Malachi because there’s a connection. The voice of silence in the house, and out of that very house it’s out in the wilderness as it’s never been heard before, a Nazarite imitating a priesthood of which he had the perfect qualification. That’s what Luke’s all about, brethren and sisters. It’s a marvellous thing.
Then let me tell you something else. You listen to this: Zacharias was not the only dumb priest in the Bible. There’s another one. Remember we can’t turn all these references up. You listen to this for a connection of Scripture. Remember Ezekiel? His qualifications are given right down tracing him back to the priesthood’s house. God came to him and said to him that because of the people’s unbelief, then his tongue would cleave to the roof of his mouth until the day that Jerusalem was destroyed.
Now, you think about this. Look at the contrast. So Ezekiel’s has a message of doom for Jerusalem, but he can’t tell them. His tongue’s stuck at the top of his mouth. That’s why in the 137th Psalm, looking back to the captivity of Babylon, the Psalmist says, “If I forget Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. They’re the living witness to that. And there’s a man that knows that Jerusalem is going to go up in a horrible siege, and his tongue stuck there and he can’t say a thing. He is a dumb priest. Here is one in the New Testament that knows, brethren and sisters, that after these long, weary years of confusion and apathy, God is going to actually act. God is going to come into the world. God is. Behold, your God. He’s coming, and he can’t get it out.
These two dumb priests. Ezekiel’s going to make signs for the people. In the case of Zacharias, he’s trying to make signs to them. And you know what happened to Ezekiel? You look at it. In the 29th chapter of Ezekiel, when the city had fallen, brethren and sisters, when it was too late to do anything about it, his tongue was loosed. This is what was said, “When the city was gone, it was too late to heed the warning.” We read in Ezekiel 29 and verse 21, “In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am Yahweh.” When it was too late for that generation, when Jerusalem had crashed into ashes, and that generation lost the opportunity, God said, “I will open your mouth Ezekiel, and then I will cause the horn of Israel to bud.” What happened, brethren and sisters?
When John was named, and the father stood by the mother’s name and refused to be swayed by opinions because he now fully believed the angels words, his tongue was loosed, he opened his mouth, and he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel which have raised up a horn of salvation in the room of his father David.” Exactly what God said would happen to Ezekiel. The two dumb priests: one can’t warn; the other can’t bless until there come a fulfilment of God’s words. And Luke was to write, brethren and sisters, about the facts. That man was not going to be able to speak until he learnt about the facts.
Now, there’s something else we need to know about the importance of that occasion. Let me tell you about what happened, brethren and sisters, when that man couldn’t speak. This is how the ceremony went. I can’t tell you whether it was a long ceremony, but in the morning – in the dawn of the day – they commenced the evening and the morning sacrifice. I’m not talking now of how the law would describe it, or what the Jewish tradition, what they did to those things. Not all the traditions were bad. Jesus endorsed many of those traditions, which were based upon the spiritual insight of some of the teachers in Israel, who saw the importance of these things.
What they did was this: they used to make the sacrifice and of course to burn the incense. But there’d be a whole paraphernalia of ceremony presided over by the president of the morning. Let’s get near the end of the ceremony, what would happen? After many things went on, the sacrifice had been made, and so on, all the pieces are to be put upon the altar. Getting in to the end of the ceremony, the third lot would be taken out – that is Zacharias’ lot had been taken out previously. But how is this to be exercised? The wonderful position of Zacharias on the first time – the only time – he’d ever get to know the whole lot of it is going into that place. He would go in with two others, the lamps of the lampstand would be lit, previously five of them, but then leave two unlit. Five would be burning. By the grace of God they would penetrate into the most holy place. Zacharias would stand there and he would wait. There’d be some sort of a signal, perhaps a blast of a trumpet by the president of the morning, and that would signal to Zacharias in there who couldn’t see that they’re about to put the sacrifice upon the top of the altar. So they put the sacrifice and ready to ignite that. The president would blow the trumpet. As soon as they blew the trumpet, they would put the sacrifice on the fire. It would consume the sacrifice, and Zacharias would offer his incense.
“Let my prayer be under thee by lifting up— my prayer’s incense and the lifting up of my hand as the evening sacrifice,” they would concurrently say. When he’d done that, brethren and sisters, he’d offer the incense, then he would come back, the two priests would lock— each of them would lock the two lanes causing the incense to burn. They would all then back out of the holy place toward the rear, and they would walk to the edge of the steps, to the front door of the temple, with Zacharias in the middle. Then there would be the call of the president. He would bring all the priests after the foot of Zacharias. All the Levites would then be brought behind them, and then all what they called the “stationary people”, which were direct representatives of Israel, who got up early that morning to represent their common people, would all be brought forth into the court. The court would be packed. It would be absolutely packed. There had never been a morning like this ever because they’d never known a priest to be in there that long. They waited for him, and he hadn’t come out for ages. They were wondering what on earth he was doing in there. They thought he would have perhaps been struck dead. At last he appeared. There’s an aura of expectancy. Do you know what he had to say?
The Law said, as I have understood in their traditions, that at that moment as he was flanked by the two priests, with everyone around him, he was to lift up his voice and say, “Yahweh, bless thee, and keep thee; Yahweh make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee, Yahweh lift up his face upon thee, and give thee peace.” The most famous blessing in all Israel, and as he stood there in that memorial occasion, brethren and sisters, never before in his life to do it, bursting with anticipation. It’s the barren wife. There was no blessing under the law, brethren and sisters. It all brought about a curse. And there he was. How would you feel, speechless at the very climactic point of that ceremony? Absolutely tremendous!
But, you know, what would you do? You know what I’d do? I’d go home. But he didn’t. He stayed there. Luke finishes this section by telling us, brethren and sisters, what they did. He said in verse 21, “The people waited for Zacharias. They marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision of the temple, for he beckoned to them, but he remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his house.” As soon as they were accomplished, and that poor man stumbled through the rest of that week, brethren and sisters, fulfilling his obligations in the best of his ability before God – dumb. Didn’t go away and sulk. He went about his work with a heavy heart, wondering, puzzled, bewildered, but knowing that there were great things in store. He knew that, brethren and sisters, and so did his wife.
We read that it came to pass, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months. You know what the people are saying? Because she was old and because she was pregnant, and five months, you know, she would have been a bit embarrassed. That’s not what Luke said she hid herself for, brethren and sisters. Because he said she hid herself five months saying, what was she doing it for? “Thus hath the Lord worked with me.” So she hid herself for five months to think about what the Lord had worked with her, brethren and sisters. She went away to contemplate the power that had come upon her. “For he has looked on me,” Leave out the word me, isn’t it in italics? He’s looked on. He’s looked to take away my reproach among men – the barren one, the barren one. And Yahweh looked down upon that, brethren and sisters, to take away the reproach.
You know what I believe Luke is telling us there? That in a long line of barren women, and you list them all out: Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah, Samson’s wife, so on, and so on. You list a whole long line of barren women where the prophecy of the virgin birth was coming. That God would operate upon the woman to bring forth his own boy, holy prophecy. Here, brethren and sisters, the long line of barren women, here is the very last one. She is the barren one. And here comes God to say that’s the end of that.
It’s very remarkable. In bringing an end to the reproach of those barren ones, He came too late in life for Zacharias to believe it, brethren and sisters. And when God did operate, He didn’t operate upon a barren one, did He? The whole constitution of things was changed, and He operated upon a young virgin of Nazareth. He came too early for any man to be involved. In a long list of barren ones, living with the hope for year in and year in, and year out and year in, and He came too late for him to believe it. And God stepped in and came too early for any man to be involved. There was the great change.
When John came out of that womb, the son of Zacharias and the son of Elizabeth, of the sons and daughters of Aaron, he stepped out of all the glory of that priesthood, and in the sand with a camel skin, he lifted up the voice that his father couldn’t speak, being speechless. The good tidings, brothers and sisters, were the new era – the fullness of time had come.

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