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Discover the Book - Dec. 10, 2006

  • 2006 Dec 10

Zacharias and Elisabeth -- The 1st Spirit Filled Family
Luke 1.5-80

Three events shape all that we believe this morning: Christmas, the Cross, and Resurrection Sunday. Three places frame all that we believe this morning: Bethlehem, Golgotha, and the Empty Garden Tomb.


At Christmas the Infinite One became and infant, the Creator laid in a cradle, the Most High slept in a manger. Without the manger -- we could have no Cross. Without the Cross – we can have no hope.


Only a perfect man could take the place of sinful mankind. So the Wonder of Redemption starts at the Incarnation – when God became a man, Christ Jesus, the Son of David. The Scriptures devote Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2 – four chapters our of 1189 in the Bible, four chapters out of 260 in the New Testament, four chapters out of 89 in the Gospels – to this amazing event.


Some of the greatest characters from the pages of Holy Writ come to life in this Drama of Christmas. This week we meet an aged couple from Judea named Zechariah and Elisabeth parents of John the Baptist. In the weeks ahead we will meet within the pages of God's Word many more of the characters of Christmas -- the brooding and insecure Herod the Great; the hopeful and faithful Joseph and Mary; the seeking and worshipping Magi; the simple and obedient shepherds; and the waiting and watching Simeon and Anna.  

Open with me to Luke 1 and meet these two saints Zacharias and Elisabeth.  

Even the order of their names in Hebrew conveys a message from God. First we meet Zacharias whose name means “Yahweh remembers”. Next we meet his wife Elisabeth (meaning “His oath”). Zacharias was one of 24,000 priests who served 2 weeks each year by rotation. As an aged man, it was a supreme honor given once in a lifetime to serve at the altar of incense. This was a high honor that was permitted to a priest but once in a lifetime. The incense was offered daily before the morning sacrifice at about 9 AM, and after the evening sacrifice, about 3 PM in the afternoon. It was probably the evening offering that was assigned to Zacharias.


If you look closely you may notice that God often speaks to His people and calls them while they are busy doing their daily tasks. Moses and David were called from caring for sheep; Gideon was called while threshing wheat; Peter and his partners were called while mending nets; and Paul as he was on a business trip out of town. It is hard to steer a car that is not moving. When we get to work—God starts to direct us.  

So it was on this day in June of AD 7/8, while placing fresh incense upon the altar before the great curtain of the Holy of Holies towering 60 feet into the air above – that Gabriel appeared to Zacharias with a message from God. After four hundred years – God’s silence was broken. God had remembered His oath.  

God breaks through after 400 years of silence. Chronologically Dr. Luke begins the New Testament. He goes back to the birth of John the Baptist, to where the angel Gabriel appeared to John’s father as he served in the temple. John’s parents were Zacharias and Elisabeth. Zacharias means “God remembers,” and Elisabeth means “His oath.” Together their names mean, “God remembers His oath.” When did God take an oath?  

Psalm 89:34–37 records God’s oath: “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.” 

God swore an oath to David that one of his descendants would have an eternal reign. Christ is that descendant. “God remembers His oath!” God is ready to break through into human history after 400 years of silence. Notice that the Scripture tells us both Zacharias and Elisabeth were righteous. That is, they were right. How were they right? They recognized they were sinners and brought the necessary sacrifices[1].  

So there they are, two obscure people from 20 plus centuries ago. Known only to us from the pages of Scripture. Other than these few verses in Luke, little is known about Elisabeth. But this we should always remember –

·          Elisabeth sang the first song of the New Testament (1.42-45).

·          Elisabeth was the first person filled with the Spirit (1.41) in the New Testament. By the way the 1st Spirit filled family is this family. Elisabeth, John (1.15), and Zacharias (1.67) were each described as filled with the Spirit of God.

·          Elisabeth was the first recorded example of a New Testament woman of faith, even when her husband Zacharias was not. He was struck dumb because of his unbelief, but Elisabeth was not. She believed God (1.24-25).

·          Elisabeth encourages Mary (1.45). Mary was a young woman with so many challenges as an unwed mother in the Jewish culture. Elisabeth was an older woman who had walked with God for many years, who assures Mary that God would bring to pass all that He had revealed to her. In that time and place, how Mary needed the loving encouragement that Elisabeth gave. 


Have you ever noticed that there is a great deal of singing that opens the story of the Gospels? Dr. Luke is the writer who starts farther back in the account of the birth of Christ than any of the other gospel writers, and he recorded the songs. There is the song of Zacharias, the song of Elisabeth, the song of Mary, the song of Anna, and the song of Simeon. There were a lot of songs connected with His birth. The church began singing, and the joy of these people is what called attention to them in the Roman world. Some day when we come into His presence we will sing a new song to the Lord, for He has done wondrous things! [2]   

So Christmas is introduced to us by a series of five Spirit prompted songs, with Elisabeth’s being the first.

·           Elisabeth breaks into song at Mary’s arrival known as from the first words of the Latin Vulgate as the “Exclamavit” (1.42-45).

·           Mary follows with her marvelous “Magnificat” (1.46-55) where she quotes over twenty different Scriptures!

·           Zacharias breaks forth into his famous “Benedictus” (1.68-79).

·           Angels break into the night sky over the shepherd’s fields of Bethlehem with “Gloria”  (2.14).

·           Simeon lifts his eyes to God holding baby Jesus in his arms and sings his “Nunc Dimittis” (2.29-32).  

Next we hasten to Zacharias, though just one of 24,000 priests who served at the Temple 2 weeks per year – it is he who meets Gabriel. After he hears the good news of his son of promise – John the Baptist. He waits in muted silence for his unbelief. After 40 weeks of waiting (and studying God's Word) John is born and his dad sings.  

What was John doing while he had no voice?

He spent the time set aside, handicapped as it were, studying God's Word! If you are incapacitated, crippled, handicapped, out of circulation, laid aside, out of work, and so on – you can waste the time or turn it to gold. The choice is yours!  

The song that Zechariah sings summarizes the ministry of John pointing to Jesus. The song introduces the Coming One – Jesus, and explains why He came.  

Luke 1:67-80 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:


68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,

·          Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!

·          Exodus 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;


69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,

·          2 Samuel 22:3 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.

·          Psalm 132:17 There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.

·          Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.


70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,

·          Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.


71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us,

·          Psalm 18:17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me.


72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,

·          Jesus performed ALL the promises of God. Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,

·          Leviticus 26:42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land.


73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

·          Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

·          Genesis 22:16-18 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”


74 To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear,

·          Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.


75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

·          Jeremiah 32:39 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.


76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,

·          Psalm 83:18 That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord, Are the Most High over all the earth.

·          Isaiah 40:3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.

·          Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.


77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins,

·          Only Jesus can remit sins. Acts 10:43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”


78 Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;


79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”


·          Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

·          Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.

·          Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

·          Isaiah 32:17-18 The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,

·          Isaiah 48:17-18, 22 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go. 18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea. “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

·          Isaiah 60:1-3 Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.


By the act of faith, naming John as Gabriel had told him to do (1.63), God looses Zacharias’ tongue and he bursts into a Spirit prompted hymn. If you read these verses closely, they reveal four beautiful pictures of what the coming of Jesus Christ to earth really means.

1.  JESUS CAME TO OPEN OUR PRISON DOOR (v. 68). We see this in the word redeem which means “to set free by paying a price.” It referred to the ancient custom of releasing of a prisoner or the liberating of a slave by purchasing them. When Jesus Christ came to earth, He came to bring “deliverance to the captives” (Luke 4:18). Jesus offers His salvation to us who are in bondage to sin and death. We are powerless to set ourselves free; only Jesus the Lamb of God could pay the price necessary for our redemption (Eph. 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18–21). John 8 set free; Acts 16 prison; Mark 5 demoniac

·          There is NO BONDAGE that His Power cannot break. Think of all those that Jesus freed: the leper in Mark 1, the demoniac in Mark 5; the palsied man by the pool in John 5; and countless others.

·          There is NO FEAR that His Presence will not banish.  Matthew 28:20b “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

·          There is NO STAIN that is Precious Blood cannot cleanse. Revelation 1:5b “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood”.

·          There is NO PAST that His Words cannot make new. John 8:11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

·          In Acts 16 the earthquake shook the jail doors open, and the chains fell off – but they had to get up and walk out!  

2.   JESUS CAME TO DEFEAT OUR ENEMIES -- OUR ENEMY WAS DEFEATED: The winning of a battle (vv. 69–75). In the Old Testament  a horn symbolizes power and victory (1 Kings 22:11; Ps. 89:17, 24). As Zacharias had studied the Scriptures he reflects upon God as He is often pictured in the Old Testament delivering the army of His people as they are about to be taken captive. But when the Lord arises, the enemy is defeated. In the first word picture, we as captives are set free. In this second word picture our enemy is defeated so that he cannot capture us as prisoners any more. God offers total victory to us His people. “The word salvation (Luke 1:69, 71) carries the meaning of “health and soundness.” No matter what the condition of the captives, their Redeemer brings spiritual soundness. When you trust Jesus Christ as Saviour, you are delivered from Satan’s power, moved into God’s kingdom, redeemed, and forgiven (Col. 1:12–14). Where did the Redeemer come from? He came from the house of David (Luke 1:69), who himself was a great conqueror. God had promised that the Saviour would be a Jew (Gen. 12:1–3), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), from the family of David (2 Sam. 7:12–16), born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Both Mary (Luke 1:27) and Joseph (Matt. 1:20) belonged to David’s line. The coming of the Redeemer was inherent in the covenants God made with His people (Luke 1:72), and it was promised by the prophets (Luke 1:70). Note that the results of this victory are sanctity and service (Luke 1:74–75). He sets us free, not to do our own will, because that would be bondage, but to do His will and enjoy His freedom.” [3]

·          No enemy can stand before Him, not Death, not Darkness, not Despair, not Defeat, not Defilement – nothing stands before Him.

·          Matthew 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

·          John 8:31-36 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 34 Jesus answered them,  “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.


3.   JESUS CAME TO PAY OUR DEBTS – BY HIS DEATH OUR DEBT WAS CANCELLED: (vv. 76–77). Remission means “to send away, to dismiss, as a debt.” All of us are in debt to God because we have broken His law and failed to live up to His standards (Luke 7:40–50). Furthermore, all of us are spiritually bankrupt, unable to pay our debt. But Jesus came and paid the debt for us (Ps. 103:12; John 1:29). This is the glorious truth of our great salvation through Christ.

·          When Jesus JUSTIFIED us, we as sinners stood before God as accused, and were declared righteous by His imputed righteousness.

·          When Jesus REDEEMED us, we as sinners stood before God as slaves and were granted freedom by His ransom.

·          When Jesus FORGAVE us, we as sinners stood before God as debtors and our debt was forgotten by His payment.

·          When Jesus RECONCILED us, we as sinners stood before God as enemies and were made friends by His peace.

·          When Jesus ADOPTED us, we as sinners stood before God as strangers and were called sons and daughters by His choice.

4.   JESUS CAME TO BRING THE DAWNING OF A NEW DAY – THAT KNOWS NO NIGHT (vv. 78–79). Dayspring means “sunrise.” The people were sitting in darkness and death, and distress gripped them when Jesus came; but He brought light, life, and peace. It was the dawn of a new day because of the tender mercies of God (see Matt. 4:16). [4] 

·          I will always remember the longest night of my life. It started one misty early spring night in Canada. As my dad set up our tent out in a dark woods where we were on a fishing trip, he said, “we will be warm and dry all night if we just don’t break the vapor barrier by touching the inside of the tent while it rains”.

·          After supper we cleaned up the fried trout, put extra wood on the fire, and crawled into the tent. I snuggled down next to the mountain high shadow of my dad in the dark, and started thinking about vapor barriers. Soon my dad was soundly asleep, snoring loudly to prove it. Unable to sleep with the sound of the rain, the sound of my dad, and my extreme curiosity – I gave in to temptation. Surely in the total darkness my dad would never know what I did. There in the darkness so complete I tried to see my hand in front of my face, and couldn’t. Then I did it. I raised my finger slowly, carefully, and stealthily in the blackness to a point directly over my head. And then it happened. I felt the thin canvas of the old World War II Army surplus  pup tent. It was nothing, just damp canvas. Nothing happened, and I was ready to go to sleep. Just as I was falling softly into a sound sleep the first cold, harsh reminder hit my forehead – plop. A cold drop of rain fell directly down from that spot I had touched in the dark. And so they rained down upon me all night long. I was miserable, and didn’t dare move and wake up my dad.

·          Like clock work they fell all night long until my clothes were wet, then my pillow and finally my sleeping bag. All were soaked. That was the longest, darkest, coldest, and most miserable night of my life. It wasn’t just the rain and wet – it was the growing awareness that my dad was going to wake up wet, and know that it was my fault. You can be sure as God once said, that your sin will find you out. Mine did, yours will.

·          My longest night in Canada is nothing compared to the darkness of a soul that has no hope, no morning to long for, no new day to dream about.


Jesus is the only key to the day that knows no night. He came into a manger one dark night to bear away the sin of the world. He will take your penalty, your debt, your stain, your sin if only you will ask Him. The story of Christmas is that the Sunrise has come, He is here, open your heart to Him!


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