Zacharias – John the Baptist
Read Luke 1:5-25 Something we need to note about Zacharias. This great privilege and honor that will be given to Zacharias was not according to man but God. The reason why Zacharias is burning the incense in the temple is it was according to the appointed order of his division and the custom of the priestly office. Note also how Zacharias was chosen to burn the incense in the temple; it was by lot.
It was not the choice his peers would have made. Zacharias and Elizabeth were, as far as Judaism was concerned, lacked the social or economic standing. Zacharias and Elizabeth were elderly and without children. Being without children was considered a judgment of God, for some sin committed. This fact would have influenced the decision of the Jews in determining who would be given the privilege and honor of burning the incense in the temple. It was the sovereign decision of God that Zacharias would burn the incense in the temple.
Have you ever taken notice of how God always acts in a way that no man, group or organization can claim they initiated the fulfillment of prophecy? God will use the acts of men, groups, organizations to initiate the fulfillment of prophecy, but it is always God acting in the fullness of time.
Lifestyle of Zacharias and Elizabeth
The second thing we want to note is the lifestyle of Zacharias and Elizabeth that enabled them to find favor with God, and qualify them to be the parents of the forerunner of the Messiah. Zacharias and Elizabeth were both descendants of Aaron (Luke 1:5). More important than their physical lineage; they were righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord (Luke 1:6). Their lives were lived in obedience to the Law of Moses. This would not have been perfect obedience, but an obedience that met the requirements of Judaism.
On the day Zacharias was to burn incense in the temple he went into the holy place, where he was to burn the incense and the angel Gabriel appeared. Gabriel’s first words were words of comfort (Luke 1:13). Gabriel assured Zacharias he had nothing to fear, for his prayer had been heard, and Elizabeth would bear him a son. Gabriel told Zacharias, his son would be filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb, and will cause many Israelites to repent, in preparation for Messiah’s arrival. Also, Gabriel told Zacharias he was to name his son John. Gabriel also told Zacharias, John would be great in the sight of the Lord, and was not to drink wine or liquor (Luke 1:15).
Absence of joy
You would think Zacharias would be jumping for joy and praising the Lord. Instead, sounds like some Christians today, he asks for a sign. If asking for a sign to verify what the Lord has said He will do isn’t a sign of a lack of faith, I don’t know what is. In spite of Zacharias’ godliness, his obedience to the Law, and his lifetime of ministry, his faith was weak when it came to believing such a marvelous promise. There in the temple, offering incense, Zacharias asks Gabriel, a messenger that has come directly from the throne of God to prove to him what Gabriel said was the truth. Gabriel seems somewhat agitated by Zacharias’ request (Luke 1:19). Regardless, Zacharias was given a sign. Gabriel told Zacharias, he would be unable to speak until the day John would be born (Luke 1:20).
When people who profess to be followers of Christ begin asking for a sign they better be careful; the sign may not be what they are expecting. When the Lord wants us to have a sign in order to strengthen our faith He will give us one without us asking for sign, note Gabriel gave Mary a sign when he revealed to her she would conceive and bear a Son (Luke 1:36). The angel that announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds gave them a sign (Luke 2:12). The sign was not that the baby would be wrapped in swaddling cloths but that he would be lying in a manger.
Vision in the temple
The task that Zacharias was to perform was one that should have been accomplished in a relatively brief period. The longer the delay in his return, the greater the concern of the crowd assembled outside became. They may have wondered if Zacharias had been struck dead by God, just as Nadab and Abihu had been. When Zacharias did emerge, the people waited for him to pronounce a blessing, as he would have customarily done. It must have taken a while for the people to realize that Zacharias was unable to speak because he had seen a vision in the temple.
Zacharias went home, and in the course of time, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. After becoming pregnant, Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months. Luke does not tell us why Elizabeth kept herself in seclusion for five months. All the explanations for this seclusion are mere speculation.
The lesson taught in Luke’s account of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist is, first, the birth of John, his life, and ministry is part of God’s redemptive plan and purpose for history. While Zacharias and Elizabeth would have been given no attention by secular historians, they are significant to Luke because they played an important role in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the significant statements in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel is “in the sight of the Lord.” Elizabeth and Zacharias were “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:6). John would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15).
Final analysis of our lives
When it comes down to the final analysis of our lives, it does not matter what men think of us, of our significance, of our contribution to the building of the kingdom of God, to mankind, of our greatness, of our goodness; all that matters is what God thinks of us. Each man, woman, and child, the Bible tells us, will stand before God and be judged by Him. The purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to reveal God’s righteousness to us, and to offer that righteousness in place of our sin and rebellion. It was to offer us salvation and eternal life, in place of condemnation and eternal separation from God.
Where do you stand with God, my friend? Does God view you as “righteous,” as He did Zacharias and Elizabeth? Does He view you as “great,” as He did John? When all is said and done, God’s approval or God’s rejection is the only thing in life, in history, that matters. Jesus Christ came to the earth so that we could receive the approval of God. We receive God’s approval by accepting the righteousness of Jesus Christ in place of our unworthiness and sin. I pray that you have found favor with God, through faith in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is what the Gospel of Luke is all about.
Silence will again be broken
Two thousand plus years ago the silence was broken between the last words of the prophets and the first coming of Christ. There was no prophet from God in the land. There was a form of godliness. Suddenly, the silence was broken, and the announcement of the coming of the forerunner of the Messiah was sent to a priest in the holies of holy. We are living in a period of “silence,” but God’s promises pertaining to Christ’s second coming are just as certain as those in which the godly took comfort and found hope two thousand years ago.
Some great morning the silence will once again be broken, the trumpet shall sound, the Lord will descend, and those who are looking for His coming will be caught up to meet Him in the air; are you ready for that great day?