The account of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus follow a pattern: promise + fulfillment + response.
Some of the issues we will face in the stories of these births are:
— Why was God’s promise or intervention so desperately needed?
— In what way did God intervene and fulfill his promise to Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and Israel?
— How did the parents respond? How did Israel respond to God’s intervention? How will we respond to God’s promises and the fulfillment of them?
Two Radically Different Governments
The introduction of John’s parents begins with the mention of an especially brutal ruler.
— Luke 1.5 – In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
God promised a coming government characterized by his love, justice, and righteousness. Isaiah wrote of that day.
According to Isaiah, the promised Messiah or King was an event that Israel would hope to experience.
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
With righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
on all my holy mountain;
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11.1-2, 4, 6, 9)
The Gospel of Luke invites us to see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise. Today we live “between the times.” The King that Isaiah wrote about initiated the new government.
There complete fulfillment of this government is yet to be realized.
The question for followers of Jesus is how will we respond to the fulfillment of this glorious promise?
Zechariah and Elizabeth
The big picture need was for a broken world to be set aright. A new government of justice and righteousness was longed for by the people.
On a smaller scale, a loving couple experienced the pain of being unable to bring to birth a child.
— Luke 1.6-7 – Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.
But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
The inability to have children is quite painful for couples who desire them. An added burden to childlessness in the first century was the belief that their situation was a punishment from God.
Luke set the record straight and declared that Zechariah and Elizabeth lived according to the law without blame. Elizabeth’s barrenness was something other than punishment for sin.
A Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity
Zechariah was chosen to serve at the altar of incense in the Temple. This was a rare, treasured opportunity.
— Luke 1.8-10 – Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty,
He was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense.
Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.
Beyond a thick veil near the altar of incense was the Most Holy Place in the Temple. That was the most sacred place on earth for Hebrew people because God met the representative of the nation there.
At the altar of incense, Zechariah was as close to the Most Holy Place as anyone other than the high priest could venture.
As he reverently approached this moment of profound worship, a crowd of people engaged in prayer at another location in the Temple complex.
Mediation and Application
God makes promises that he fulfills. Some people respond to his intervention with faith and obedience. Other people hardly notice God’s work at all.
The purpose of our study in Luke both in the written articles on http://www.real-voices.com and the videos on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel is to help us respond to God’s activity.
Please read Luke 1.5-10 and mediates on these questions.
(1) Why do you think prayer and the fulfillment of God’s promises are connected so closely?
(2) God intervened in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth for a specific purpose. For what purpose has God intervened in your life?
Each day, I pray about what I have read in the Bible. Today, I prayed about the government that has so much influence in the world.
Next, I prayed about being able to see God’s government and to align my life with it.
Dear God, may your kingdom – your government – become more influential in my life. May your will be done in my life just as it is perfectly done in heaven.
Please experiment with praying the Scripture passages of our study. Turn your meditation on the passage into a prayer.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.