Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
The Fulfillment Announced to Zachariah - Lent Mid-week 6 - March 20, 2013 - Text: Luke 1:5-25
Our text for this evening is Luke one, verses five through twenty-five: 5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25“Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” This is our text.
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we are following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob. Last week we reiterated the covenant through King David. This week we move into the New Testament and the beginning of the fulfilling of the covenant.
A bit of the history and historical background; this covenant is God’s covenant and God’s promise. This covenant was initiated by God and as we have been hearing, it was first given in the Garden of Eden.
All throughout the Old Testament we have been hearing and rehearing about God remembering, not that He had forgotten, but remembering and reiterating His covenant, even narrowing the family line through which He would fulfill His covenant. His covenant was and continues today in the New Testament to be a covenant of grace and faith. Before God began fulfilling His covenant and promises, there was a period of about 500 years in which there really was no prophet in Israel. God did not speak to His people through a prophet, priest or king for over 500 years.
Because God’s timing is prefect timing, at just the right time; just the right time in history, in the time since creation and the first giving of the covenant, just the right time according to the various ethnic and cultural groups, and just the right time according to the gestation cycle of a human for birth. At just the right time God set His plans in motion.
The temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt and the children of Israel were attempting to be God’s chosen people, albeit under Roman rule, the priests continued to care for the temple. During the festival of the day of Atonement, or Yom Kipur, the day in which the one priest, chosen by lot, was allowed to enter the most holy place, Zechariah was chosen to serve.
This choosing of Zechariah set in motion God’s fulfillment of the plan, the covenant He first made in the Garden of Eden. The angel Gabriel came to Zechariah while He was serving in the Lord’s house in the very presence of God and announced to him that he and his wife, who had been barren up until this time, would have a son. About this promise of a son the angel said, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth ” (v. 14). Since Elizabeth and Zechariah were barren, the blessing of children was not only shocking, but exciting and joyful.
Continuing on, the angel announced that this son will be a prophet, “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (v. 15). Because this child was to be a prophet, certain restrictions and instructions were given concerning his birth and life.
The angel also told Zechariah that His son will turn the hearts of Israel back to God, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (v. 16). The very reason Israel was in the state she was in was because of the children of Israel and now God would send a prophet to make things better.
The angel also told Zechariah, concerning this son that He will go in the spirit of Elijah, “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (v. 17). This information was important and today many Jews open the door at the Passover to hopefully let Elijah in. Jesus tells us however that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, so indeed Elijah did come.
Finally, the angel said that this promised prophet would prepare the people for the fulfillment of the covenant, in other words he would prepare people for the birth of the Messiah, the Christ. Zechariah is being told by an angel that he and his aged wife will give birth to a child, a son, who will be a prophet and who will prepare the people for the promised Messiah, and this is after five hundred years of the Children of Israel not having heard any prophecies or word from the Lord.
Zechariah’s response was first and foremost to doubt and even worse to question the angel concerning the validity of his prediction. Because of his doubting and unbelief and to show the validity of his words, the angel made Zechariah mute and he would remain so until after the child was born.
When Zechariah had completed his time of service in the temple, and on this day in particular, because of his conversations with the angel, his time was rather lengthy, at least more so than usual, when he came out of the temple the people realized that he had seen a vision. Unfortunately, he was mute yet he was able to communicate as such to the crowd before returning home to be with his wife.
And sure enough, as the angel had said, Elizabeth, his wife, even in her advanced age conceived and bore a son. When the child was born the people were sure he was to be named after his father, so when Elisabeth said his name was John, they asked Zechariah how the child was to be name, who, upon writing on a piece of slate that his name is John, his mouth was open and he could again speak.
And so, we have our what does this mean? These events mean that the time of fulfillment of the covenant was near. After some 2500-3000 years since God first promised to send a Savior, God was now setting in motion the fulfillment of that promise.
Not only was God fulfilling His promise to send a Messiah, but the Messiah, Jesus was also ushering in the end times. We are now living in the end times. Now, whether that means that Jesus will return during our life time or not, I cannot say. Anyway, Zechariah was given word that His son would prepare his people, Israel, for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.
Jesus was sent to fix what was broke in Eden. In Eden Adam and Eve broke their perfect relationship with God the Father and now Jesus came to restore that broken relationship. And the way Jesus would restore that relationship was by paying the price of His very life. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden as death, eternal spiritual death. Jesus came to pay that price for us in our place and He did.
We are children of the covenant, by faith He gives to us. We rejoice because Jesus came for us. He came to live the perfect life for all of Israel and for us because they could not nor can we. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah perfectly and then He took all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sin. All because of His great love for us.
Today it is important that we continue to remember and follow God’s covenant because His covenant is a covenant, not based on human desire, need or work, but based on Jesus and His work of salvation for us. We need that constant reminder of our part in Jesus suffering and death. It was not only because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only because the earth has been cursed, not only because we are conceived and born in sin, but also because of our own actual sins that Jesus had to come and die to pay the price for our sins.
Even before God began creation, He knew what was going to happen. Even before God began creation, He could look through time and He could see us, you and me. Because of His great love for us, for you and for me, He set into motion, not only creation, but also our redemption. Yes, you and I put Jesus on the cross. Yet, He went to the cross willingly because of His great love for us. At our Baptism He put faith in our hearts and made us His children. As we confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, as we hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed, as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are strengthened in our faith, we participate in His life, death and resurrection, and we are given His robes of righteousness. And all we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.