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004b Angel Gabriel Appears to Zechariah
week, we discussed the fact that Luke changed from the pure literary Greek to a
form that is very Hebraistic. He
talks about Herod the great, which gives us an approximate date as to when these
events that he is writing of take place. He
introduced us to Zechariah and Elizabeth, and informed us that they were
righteous or blameless before the Lord, and not just righteous before men.
This doesn’t mean they didn’t sin, it just means their hearts were
after spiritual things; If you remember, Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God sees the
heart and the intents of men. They
weren’t just conforming physically to the law!
Even Paul, in everything evil that he did, kept the law externally. What’s important is what’s in the heart.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had a real and sincere love of God.
Zechariah, if you remember means, “Jehovah remembers” and Elizabeth means,
“What God swears”. Jehovah
now is about to “remember” what He has sworn to do for His people.
The result of their union will be John, which means “Jehovah is
“it came to pass”, it wasn’t random chance, but “it came to pass”, on
a Sabbath, that an angel, a messenger of the Lord appeared to Zechariah in the
temple as he performed his duty. The
angel informed Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were going to have a son and they
would name him John. This angel
knew him by name; angels know righteous men by name; the men to whom they are
ministering spirits. Now, I’m
sure the angel could tell that Zechariah was somewhat surprised, and tried to
calm him down, he said, “Fear not.” I’m
sure I would need a lot of calming, also.
angel told him that his prayer had been heard and was being answered.
Our prayers are heard when we make them, but they’re not always
answered immediately, and sometimes the answer is “no”.
Sometimes, Satan can delay an answer to prayer, just like he did with the
angels that were trying to answer Daniel’s prayers.
angel told Zechariah that
he shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at John’s birth.
He would have joy and gladness; we looked at this word last week.
He shall have joy and exultant joy!
Joy on top of joy because of John. And
many will rejoice! The coming of a
prophet will cause many to rejoice. There
hadn’t been a true prophet in Israel for a long time.
So, it seems that everyone will have joy and exultant joy, because they
angel told him that John would be great before the Lord; he didn’t tell him
that John would be great before men. We
find out later that quite the opposite is true.
John will be a Nazarite.
Look with me in
verse 16: “And many of the
children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.”
Literally, this word “epistrepho” means, “he shall be turning
back”; “Many of the children of Israel shall he be turning back to the Lord
their God”. If only we could get
people to turn back to the Lord today! Many need to find the Lord, but many also need to return to
the Lord! Israel knew about God,
but they had quit following Him; they had quit following His teachings; they
were being disobedient, preferring to follow the corrupted and perverted
teachings of man.
told in this story that John shall be going before the Lord; he’ll be his
forerunner. He shall have the
spirit of Elijah. We saw
that the last word of the OT is “curse.”
What a way to end. The mass
of Israel is dispersed throughout the Persian Empire, with a remnant, mostly of
the tribe of Judah, led by Zerubbabel and survivors of the priests and Levites
in Israel; they’re all over the place, and there’s threat of a curse. It leaves you hanging, anticipating, and searching for
resolution; it’s a cliffhanger. The
resolution of this curse would come in the Messiah. Before the Messiah comes, Elijah would come as His
forerunner, and Elijah would come in power and spirit in John.
tells us that John came to restore or to turn back the hearts of the children of
Israel. John was not Elijah
reincarnated; he came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
When the scribes objected that Elijah must come first, Jesus acknowledged
that fact, but said in Matthew 17:12: “I am saying to you that Elijah came already, and they did not
recognize him, but they do to him whatever they will. Thus the Son of *Mankind
also is |about
to be suffering by them." (That’s
a literal translation, so it sounds a little odd in English.) Elijah came; just not in body as the scribes and Pharisees
expected; he came in spirit and in power in John. The Pharisees were often looking for the right thing, but
looking in the wrong places. John
is to be a light, preparing the way for the
“And Zechariah said unto the angel, whereby
shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”
I’m not sure that I would have done any better; I would have probably
doubted, how about you? After
praying for something for years, apparently without an answer, and suddenly
being confronted with an angel telling me that my prayers were being answered
with something that is highly improbable in human terms, I don’t think my wits
would have been what they should be. Zechariah
says, “according to what” shall I know this, and then he gives the reason
for wanting a sign, that he is old and so is Elizabeth.
“I’m old, my wife is old, I’ve been praying for this for years…
I need a sign.” We need
to be careful what we ask for, because God just might give it to us.
God’s plan was for the children of Israel to eat manna, they said, “We
loathe this light bread”. They
prayed for something else, something that was not part of God’s plan.
He gave it to them. He gave
them what they asked for; quail, until the quail was running out their noses.
The angel was a messenger from God.
In that culture, when you were talking to someone who was officially
representing someone else, it was as if you were talking to that person.
This was as if Zechariah was talking directly to God.
And what did Zechariah do? He
doubted; he questioned; he wanted a sign. You
better watch out what you ask for, because you might not like the answer.
does the Bible say about seeking a sign? Matthew
16:4 says, “a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”
A sign has to do with our fleshly desires and weaknesses, our lack of
faith. We’re to walk by faith, not by sight. The sign-gifts of tongues and healings, etc. were given for
the unbelieving that they might believe. They
didn’t have faith. Signs are for
shortcomings of faith.
angel said, “I am Gabriel”. Gabriel
means “man of God”. Gabriel is
the angel that gave Daniel the explanation of his two visions in Daniel 8:16 and
9:21. The only other angel of God
mentioned by name in Scripture is Michael, who is the destroyer, the champion of
God against evil; he’s the minister of wrath.
Gabriel is the messenger of peace and restoration.
Michael is the forerunner of Jehovah the judge; Gabriel is the forerunner
of Jehovah the savior. If you think
back to Daniel 12:13, which says, “But
the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo,
Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with
the kings of Persia”, you will see that sometimes it takes the two most
powerful angels of God to withstand Satan.
If the two chief angels had trouble resisting Satan, what makes you think
you can do it on your own without any help?
19, Gabriel is speaking and says, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God and was
dispatched to give you these glad tidings, and you want a sign?”
When you ask for a sign, you better be careful or you might get one.
Zechariah was given a sign. [Luke
1:20] “And, behold, thou shalt be
dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed,
because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their
season.” Don’t doubt God and
don’t seek a sign. The word
translated as “dumb” comes from a word that has a double meaning:
It can either be “speechless” or “both deaf and dumb”. If you look with me in Luke 1:62, we can derive that
Zechariah was both deaf and dumb. [Luke
1:62] Because of his lack of faith
– the fact that he needed a sign beyond the word of God (after all, Gabriel
was the messenger of God, and as His messenger, Gabriel’s word was as good as
God’s) – but because Zechariah doubted and wanted a sign, he would suffer
this affliction until all the words of the promise would be fulfilled:
The promise would be completely fulfilled when John was named.
of Zechariah’s unbelief (his lack of faith), he has no right to speak of the
things of God to others. Don’t be
caught short; don’t let your unbelief or lack of faith ruin your testimony to
others. Don’t let your testimony
to others be negative. Don’t be
21: “And the people were waiting
for Zechariah…” To make a long story short, this verb that is translated as
waiting is a Greek word prosdokao and is a finite verb and a participle so it
denotes protracted waiting; it dragged on.
You’ll have to take my word on it, as I’m not prepared to give a
lecture on Greek sentence structure and parts of speech at this moment; catch me
later. “And they marveled that he
tarried so long in the temple.” They
were waiting for him to come out that they might be blessed by him and
dismissed. They couldn’t go until
they were released, and it was taking a long time.
The Talmud tells us that the priests, and especially the chief priests,
were accustomed to spend only a short time in the sanctuary, otherwise it was
feared they had been slain by God for some unworthiness or transgression.
The Talmud is the body of the Jewish civil and canonical
law that is not comprised in the Pentateuch.
The Talmud consists of two parts, the Mishna, or text, and the Gemara, or
commentary. Sometimes, however, the
name Talmud is restricted, especially by Jewish writers, to the Gemara. There
are two Talmuds, the Palestinian Talmud, which is commonly but mistakenly called
the Talmud of Jerusalem, and the Babylonian Talmud. They contain the same Mishna,
but different Gemaras. The Babylonian Talmud is about three times as large as
the other, and is more highly esteemed by the Jews.
Neither should be used on the same level as Scripture, but they do give
us a lot of insight into Jewish customs and society, as well as a better
understanding of some passages of Scripture.
priest going into the sanctuary had to be blameless, or he would die.
The priests wore bells on the hems of their robes so those outside could
hear them moving, and they tied ropes around the priests so they could be pulled
out if they died; you couldn’t go in after them.
We don’t know if Zechariah was delayed by a longer discourse with the
angel than that which is shown here (he may have chatted for a while) or perhaps
he continued musing on what had happened; thinking about the impact of what he
had been told or how to explain his sudden deaf and mute condition, or he
perhaps delayed in prayer; no matter what the reason, the people were anxious.
The priests, and especially the chief priests, usually did not spend long
inside. When the high priest went
in to burn incense on the Day of Atonement, he would make a short prayer in the
temple, and hurry out in order not to frighten the people.
This is just like many today. They
were serving and worshipping out of fear and not out of love.
Do you love God, or do you just fear Him?
How much better is it to serve out of love and not be afraid!
22: “And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived
that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained
speechless.” After delaying,
possibly trying to get over being deaf and dumb, or maybe trying to figure out
how to face everyone, it was time for him to come out. (How embarrassing! I
doubted God!) How would we face
people today, if something such as this happened to us? Would it be shame? Perhaps
wondering if people would believe us? The people were waiting for a
benediction or a prayer and dismissal, and one was not forthcoming; it was time
to go. Because of the apprehension
due to the length of time he had been in there, and the fact that he did not
deliver the benediction as he should, they perceived that he had seen a vision
or something in the temple. What,
they did not know, but something. He
wasn’t dead, so it couldn’t be too bad.
Zechariah was beckoning to them, or making signs, to make them know what
he had seen, and he remained dumb; not just speechless, as in a loss for words,
he was incapable of speech or hearing, and this incapacity was given as a sign.
This word “perceived”, does not mean they guessed; it’s the same
word used back in verse 4: [Luke
1:4] “That thou mightest
know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
They knew. By the time he
had finished, they know he has seen a sign.
In ordinary Greek, this word “epiginOskO” denotes intelligent
comprehension; they know.
23: “And it came to pass (there’s that phrase again), that as
soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own
house.” We can see that his
condition of being deaf and dumb did not excuse him from finishing his service.
He did not get to pack up and go home immediately, he had to finish his
service or his ministry. Hardships
don’t excuse us from living for the Lord.
Sometimes, living for the Lord will create
hardships. That doesn’t mean we can stop.
When difficulties or hardships occur, we are to continue on or to
persevere; we have to endure. Paul
didn’t stop in the face of persecution, did he?
your finger and turn to John 15:2] Those
who are being productive, He prunes that they may be more fruitful.
Pruning hurts! It’s
cutting. But, Romans 5:3 tells us that affliction produces endurance.
If we have endurance, we may continue through difficulties and persevere
through hardships and be obedient or righteous.
verse 23, this word translated as “ministration” is the Greek word “leitourgia”,
from which we get our word liturgy. Leitourgia is
from λειτος (leitos), belonging to the people or
public, and έργον (ergon), a work; hence it means
service of the state in a public office.
It has been
observed that when the Christian Church was forming its terminology, it did so
partly by shaping new words, and partly by elevating old ones to higher meanings
than their previous uses; often, it did the latter, (elevating old words to new
meanings) by more readily adopting those words that were employed in civil and
political life, instead of words that had played their part in religious
matters. In other words, the Church
took words that were already used in public office, and simply adopted their use
in the Church. Therefore it adopted
this word “leitourgia”, already in use in the Septuagint, as the constant
word for performing priestly and ministerial functions; and so the New Testament
used this word of the ministry of the apostles, prophets, and teachers.
This word can be found in Hebrews 8:6 &
9:21; 2 Corinthians 9:12; Philippians 2:17 and Philippians 2:30, if you care to
look them up. I’ll be glad to
tell you these passages again, if you want.
look at one of them. [Philippians
2:17] (Read 16-18)
Paul’s life is being offered up in service or leitourgia.
Either literally of figuratively, it doesn’t really matter.
He joys himself in the service, and he joys with them; the joy is mutual,
and it should be. Young
missionaries challenge other Christians to match their money with their blood
that is being offered up as leitourgia or service. Look on down in verse 30:
This is talking about Epaphroditus, and it says [Philippians 2:30]; he
exposed himself to danger for the service.
That danger could take many degrees and different forms, but it was
simply ministerial service.
After his days of ministration were completed, Zechariah returned home,
and his wife Elizabeth conceived. This
is according to the angel’s message and despite her barrenness and
Zechariah’s lack of belief. This
was a miracle from God, and was in contrast to the perceived reality of
permanent barrenness, which made it stand out that much more; it wasn’t
something private, it was a public miracle.
Everyone would see it!
Luke, as a doctor, in his
physician-like ways, uses almost as many words referring to pregnancy,
barrenness, etc. as Hippocrates does. Hippocrates
lived from around 450-380 BC and is considered the father of medicine.
His writings were the most complete medical writings known at the time.
He was the expert and wrote extensively. We get our Hippocratic oath from him that doctors take.
We’re not certain if all the writings attributed to Hippocrates are
actually his or are written by his adherents, but that’s not really important
All of the words Luke uses,
except this one in verse 24, are peculiar to Luke (amongst the gospel writers),
but were in common usage amongst physicians.
We get lots of new words here. (Luke
1:31; Luke 1:24; Luke 2:5; Luke 1:7; Luke 20:28.)
[They’re different in Greek, but not necessarily in English.] How
many different ways can you say the same thing?
Why did Luke do this? This
seems to be a fairly complete list.
“Elizabeth hid herself five months” or literally, she kept herself
close. Some have speculated that
this may have been because of the excitement of the surrounding people to her
pregnancy. However, there’s a
little word in there, “oti”, that neither the KJV nor the Revised render;
they take it to be the equivalent to quotation marks.
“Oti” is a conjunction that can be used in a similar fashion to
quotation marks in some cases but it literally means “because”.
She gives the reason for her seclusion here.
What was that reason? Because
the pregnancy was God’s work, she would leave it up to Him to announce it and
take away her reproach. She did not
try to hide the fact that she was pregnant; she simply did not announce it to
everyone. Five months is specified,
after which her condition would become apparent.
“Thus hath the Lord dealt with me…” How had He dealt with her?
He dealt with her in a very gracious and loving manner.
Her cousin Mary, who was to be the mother of Jesus, may have been one of
the first people to know about Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
Turn with me to [Luke 1:41;
don’t read yet]. Mary came in and
said to Elizabeth, “hi, how ya doin’”, and [Luke 1:41-44].
(v 42 she’s ecstatic; v 43, only with a holy spirit could she have
known that Mary was pregnant with the Messiah.)
One last thing to look at in this
passage: Look at the last part of
verse 25: “to take away my
reproach among men”. This
reproach would not have only been a longing for a child and not receiving one,
but it would have been embarrassment for not providing an heir for her husband.
Think about the story of Tamar.
Her first husband, Er, the hesitant one was killed by God for some sort
of terrible evil. We’re not told explicitly what that evil was, but he was
smitten (he was smiked down). Then,
Judah, her father-in-law gave her Onan. Onan
was unrighteous in that he continuously spilled his seed on the ground so that
she could not get pregnant and provide an heir to his brother.
He was covetous in wanting to keep the stuff for his family and brought
reproach upon her, so he was killed by God.
The reproach was that she would have appeared to be barren.
So, Tamar resorted to trickery to get pregnant by Judah.
Most of us would not think of Tamar as righteous; she pretended to be a
harlot and she intentionally had sex with her father-in-law; this was forbidden
and punishable by death. She’s
pretty wicked, right? Look with me
in verse 26 [Genesis 38:26]. Tamar’s
intention was not to humiliate Judah. Neither
was it to live as a prostitute and accept whatever man came to her. Neither was it that she wanted Judah as her husband and set
about trying to entangle him.
She solely wanted to perpetuate the name of her husband on
the earth and the only choice left to her was to either get Shelah to sleep with
her or Judah. Noting Judah’s
weakness in that he hadn’t had a wife for some time (Gen 38:12), she found
opportunity with him.
She was considered righteous because she was only trying to
do what was right. Judah brought
reproach upon her name. Judah was
unrighteous because his actions (denying her Shelah) would make others think
that Tamar was barren.
Barrenness was considered a
terrible reproach or a disgrace or sometimes even a rebuke from God.
Although the Bible tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous,
we don’t know what other people thought.
But barrenness was considered a terrible reproach especially among the
Jews; they were the seed of Abraham, to whom it was promised his descendents
would number as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore.
The Bible is talking about Rachel here, and she conceived and bore
Joseph. God took away her reproach!
She had been barren and God opened her womb and took away the reproach
that she had in the eyes of men. She
was blessed and no longer ashamed.
Children were considered a
particular blessing from God. Luke
does not say if Elizabeth knew the destiny of her child at the time.
However, because she knew his name was to be John, we can conclude that
Zechariah conveyed information to her. Even
before her husband could speak, it’s entirely possible or even probable that
he communicated his entire vision in writing or with signs before John was born.
It may not have been the best dinner conversation in the world, but what
an exciting story!
John would be turning many back
to God, and men would rejoice! We
should rejoice today!
The name John means Jehovah is graceful.
Elizabeth was overjoyed that she was finally going to have a child
because of Jehovah’s grace. If only all people looked upon children with such joy today,
and realized that Jehovah truly is graceful!
Even though we don’t deserve it (we can’t deserve it), Jehovah is
still graceful toward us.