Luke 1:5-25 – Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

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Luke 1:5

  1. This Herod was called Herod the Great and is the same Herod who murdered the boys in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).

Luke 1:6

  1. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, suggesting that, like Abraham, they believed in God (Gen 15:6) because “the righteous shall live by their faith” (Hab 2:4). In addition, they followed the laws and commandments found in the Torah.
    1. Other people who were also called “righteous” in the Old Testament are Noah (Gen 6:9), Abraham (Gen 15:6), Job (Job 34:5) and God (Ps 11:7).
    1. Other people who were also called “righteous” in the New Testament are Joseph (Matthew 1:19), Simeon (Luke 2:25) and Paul (Philippians 3:6).

Luke 1:7

  1. It is almost commonplace for men of God to be born miraculously of barren people.
    1. Abraham and Sarah were barren, yet they had Isaac (Genesis 11:30).
    1. Isaac and Rebekah were barren, but still had Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:21).
    1. Elkanah and Hannah were barren, yet they had Samuel (1 Sam 1:5).
    1. Mary was a virgin, yet she had Jesus (Luke 1:26-34).
  2. The fact that a child will again be born to barren parents ties in with the biblical story and shows that once again a child will be born whom God has intended to use in a special way.
    1. In this way, God shows that he has all the power, takes the initiative and offers a free miracle.
  3. Zacharias and Elizabeth were unable to have children, but did not drown their sorrow in bitterness and alcohol. Instead, they remained faithful to the Lord and tried to live as righteous a life as possible.
    1. How do you react to personal disappointments? Do you pull away from God or closer?

Luke 1:8-9

  1. In New Testament times, there were about 20,000 priests, each of whom served at the temple for a week twice a year. In addition, they served once in their lives at the sacrificial service that Zechariah is about to do. The priests were divided into 24 divisions based on 1 Chronicles 24:7-18.
  2. The sacrificial service that Zechariah now performs is the daily sacrifice described in Exodus 29:38-42.
    1. Every morning and every evening for all eternity, Israel would sacrifice to the Lord at the temple, and the Lord would then reveal Himself to the children of Israel, sanctify them, and make them realize that the Lord is their God.
      1. These daily sacrifices can be likened to prayer in our time. It is a good routine to gather every morning and every evening for a little while to pray and read the Bible. Then God will reveal Himself to us, sanctify us and we will realize that the Lord is our God.
  3. It is no coincidence that at the same time that Zechariah is about to perform a sacrificial service to atone for the sins of the people, God is starting a series of events that will culminate in Jesus dying on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity.
  4. Considering that priests might only be given this glorious assignment to enter the Lord’s temple and light the incense offering once in their entire lifetime, Zechariah was probably very excited and thrilled about this great moment!
    1. If you could be before the face of God once in your life, what would you pray for?

Luke 1:10-13

  1. Once inside the temple at the altar of incense, Zechariah fixes the incense and prays to the Lord. Presumably he prayed that God would send the promised Messiah to save Israel from Roman occupation. Perhaps he also took the opportunity to pray for his private prayer topic; having a child. Or perhaps Zechariah had given up and stopped praying to God for a child, as he and his wife Elizabeth were getting on in years. But clearly, God had not given up on the idea of giving them an answer to prayer!
    1. How long can you pray faithfully before you give up hope and quit? From Zechariah and Elizabeth we learn that it is never too late for God to answer your prayer, even if it takes a miracle!
  2. In the midst of Zechariah’s prayer and incense burning, an angel appears to him! We don’t know exactly what prayers Zechariah prayed, but we do know what two answers the angel conveyed to him: a promise that the Messiah would soon come and a promise of a child.
  3. The name John means “God has shown mercy” and is a fitting name for someone who will point to Jesus and say “There is mercy”.

Luke 1:17

  1. John’s great mission in life was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah by urging them to repentance, as the prophet Elijah did (1 Kings 18:20-40).
  2. The words “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” are taken from the very last verse of the Old Testament (Mal 4:6) and are very symbolic because John the Baptist was the last Old Testament prophet.

Luke 1:18-20

  1. If my boss comes to me and tells me I’m going to get a raise, and I say, “How can I be sure?” then I think my boss will take offense! It shows that I don’t trust my boss and that I don’t think he has the power to do what he promises.
    1. When Zechariah questions the angel’s words to him, it shows that he does not believe that God has the power to bring about his promises.
  2. Because of Zechariah’s doubts, God made him “dumb”. God didn’t take back his promise, but he made it so that Zechariah didn’t have the joy of telling the good news. In this way, God gave him a real wake-up call and he was able to reflect in silence on what had happened.
    1. From Zechariah we learn that unbelief leads to silence and that we do not have the joy of sharing the gospel, the good news, with those around us.
  3. The priest Zechariah and the Virgin Mary become two clear contrasts in how to receive a greeting from God.
    1. Zacharias was a man, a priest, from a fine family, and served in the capital with the finest task one could get. Zechariah questioned whether God’s promise was really possible to accomplish.
    1. Maria was a young poor unmarried woman from the countryside. Assuming that God’s promise is true and will be fulfilled, Mary asks a logical follow-up question about how it will happen, since she has not yet been with a man.

Luke 1:21-25

  1. After lighting the incense, it was traditional for the priest to come out of the temple, raise his hands and pronounce the blessing to all the people gathered (Numbers 6:24-26). Then a song of praise was sung together.
    1. The people outside are waiting for Zechariah to come out, but it takes a long time and people are getting worried. When he finally comes out, he can’t say the blessing because he’s gone mute!
    1. Because of his unbelief, Zechariah loses the chance to bless God’s people and is silently dismissed.
      1. In a similar way, we also suffer today when we do not believe in God, we miss the chance to be a blessing to our fellow human beings.
      1. But fortunately for Zechariah, his muteness did not last long. When John is born 9 months later, Zechariah regains his voice (Luke 1:64).
  2. After Elizabeth became pregnant, she did not show herself openly for five months, not because she wanted to hide her growing belly, but because she was grateful to the Lord and spent the time in prayer and thanksgiving.
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