5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea,…
Herod the Great, 6 years before Jesus.
An Idumean by birth, who confessed to be a convert to Judaism, but only in so far as it prospered him politically.
Herod was a descendant of Esau.

Genesis 27: 39Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:
“Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. 40 By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck.” 41So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

  • The promise of Messiah was to come thru the line of Jacob, the brother of Esau.
  • The Edomites were outside of the ancestral lineage of the Messiah.
  • There were centuries of fighting between the Edomites and the Israelites.
  • Herod The Great was an Idumean, a descendant of the Edomites.
  • Herod the Great was appointed king by the power of Rome, and was actually just a vassal and a puppet of Rome.
  • He was given the kingship over Judea b/c he flattered and courted Roman leaders, hoping to be benefited.
  • He didn’t deserve to be king.
  • He didn’t really function as a king, he simply was an extension of whatever Rome told him to do.
  • He would do what he wanted unless Rome said otherwise.
  • Herod also erected many beautiful and large temple for idol worship, which were used by the Pagans in the land.
  • This was an abomination to the Jews living in the land.
  • At he time that God chose to bring the Savior of Israel into the world, a murderous king was on the throne.
  • God often brings salvation when things seem to have gotten as bad as they can get.

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea,… a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
John the Baptist was to be the cousin of Jesus, 6 months older than Jesus.
The announcement of his birth came to the temple, as his father served as a priest.

The Temple had been in construction for 16 years when the announcement came.
30 years later, the Temple was still not finished when Jesus ministered there as an adult.
The Temple was a beautiful building, but had corruption in its courts.
We see that when Jesus begins and ends His ministry.
And yet to the corrupt Temple, the promise comes.

Zacharias was a descendant of Aaron the High Priest as was his wife.
Zacharias was not the High Priest, only a priest of the common order.
Zacharias- Jehovah remembers.
Elizabeth- the oath of God
Parents named their children after the spiritual state of affairs or after what you hoped would happen with them, or through them.

Herod the Great, this wicked man, was not yet born when Zacharias and Elizabeth were children.
Things went from bad to worse as the parents of Zacharias waited for the remembrance of God to visit their land with a Messiah.

Zacharias was to present the incense when a multitude of people were gathered outside praying.

The leadership of the Jewish system were mostly corrupt.
They were degraded, and had become political and greedy.
They would reject their Messiah.
Though they carried on with their religion in the prescribed manner, their hearts were far from God.

6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Though many of the priests around him were corrupt, Zacharias was not.
They worshipped the Lord is spirit and truth.
They obeyed the commandments of God. They were called blameless.

7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
This was considered a heartbreak in that culture.
Though they were unfulfilled, they followed God.
Though they didn’t deserve to have this blessing withheld, it was withheld.
That didn’t matter, as they remained faithful to love and serve the Lord.

Read 8-10
In spite of a heartbreaking life of going without children, Zacharias was faithful to serve.
As he served, God spoke to him.

This is so different from many Christians today.
Many say that they would serve God “if only” their situations were better, and if they were happy, and if things were fair.
This wasn’t how Zacharias lived.
He didn’t serve God to get something.
He didn’t withhold service and devotion until his life was how he wanted it.

Romans 12:1,2 1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
The altar of incense wasn’t in the Holy of Holies, but the Holy Place.

Read 12-13
Zacharias and Elizabeth had prayed for years without the prayers being answered.
They were faithful.
Now in the plan of God, God chooses to grant them a son.
John- the grace of God.

Read 14-17
The angel quotes from Malachi.
The priests knew these words well, and had been quoting them for 400 years.
Malachi was the last prophet through God had spoken.
God had been silent by the mouth of the prophets.
This had been God’s last prophetic word for 400 years.
Turn to Malachi 4: 5,6

John would be used as the forerunner to Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.
He would be used to turn the people back to the ideals of God.
He would call people to repentance, and have them prepare their hearts for the Savior.

The prophet Malachi had prophesied that it would happen, and now it was happening.
God’s work is continuous, but there are often gaps in the work of God.
He is not confined to a calendar.
Sinning men and women can postpone God’s work through lack of faith or b/c of sin.
God’s work can be postponed, but never defeated.

For 400 years, people had complained, wondered, accused God, given up hope, thought that God had forgotten.
We often do that as well.

  1. The King was wicked, and the people were oppressed.
  2. The Temple, God’s house, was corrupt.
  3. The priesthood was mostly corrupt.
  4. God finds a childless, elderly priest, who is undoubtedly brokenhearted, but nevertheless, faithful.
  5. He has a faithful wife.
  6. The nation has gone w/o the prophet’s voice for 400 years, but God again speaks, and continues with His work.

G. Campbell Morgan- All the history of the Bible is the history of the extraordinary touching the ordinary. The supernatural acting upon and beyond the natural. The extraordinary is ordinary with God. The supernatural is natural with God.

18And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Zacharias reverts back to the natural way of thinking.

The natural concern is answered with a supernatural answer.

  1. I am Gabriel
  2. I stand in the presence of God
  3. I was sent to you to bring you good news.

20But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
This was not punishment.
Zacharias asked for a sign.
God gave him one, silence both in speaking and in hearing.
God plunged Zacharias into quiet communion with Himself.

Read 21-25

Read 57-79, and note Zacharias’ response.