Lesson 5: Birth of John the Baptist / Zechariah's Prophecy
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Lesson # 5. Welcome again to our study of the four gospels. Let's review briefly. In the first four lessons, we tried to introduce each book, learn a little about the writers, and see why they wrote these books. Then we tried to do a little review of the O.T. and get our perspective with reference to the different Bible ages. We said we live in the third Bible age, known as the Christian age. But each of these Bible ages grew out the age that preceded it. It is only when you see this referencing in terms of prophecy and fulfillment that the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John begin to bear down with real proof that Jesus Christ is indeed God's Son. Then we covered Luke's record of Gabriel's message to Zechariah foretelling the birth of John the Baptist. Next, Luke told us about Gabriel briefing Mary in Nazareth concerning the virgin birth of Jesus. That was followed with Mary's visit to Elisabeth for three months in the hill country of Judah. When she came home, Joseph learned of her conception and became very upset (Matt, ch. 1). An angel come to Joseph by night and relieved his anxieties which resulted in Joseph carrying through with his marriage to Mary. That's where lesson # 4 ended.
Now, Idon't want to overdo this; but, I would like to impress you with the mission of John the Baptist one more time. Gabriel foretold the birth of both John and Jesus. But, Gabriel told a lot more than that. You see these things not only conformed to Gabriel's words; they conformed to O.T. prophecies that had been made hundreds of years in advance. When you study these things in the light of the O.T. a lot of wrinkles, patterns, references and extensions begin to come into view which the casual reader of the Bible does not see. As this network of evidence begins to jel in your understanding; faith is a sure result. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had a great appreciation for this. So, the things they cover are not just good bedtime stories and good' Sunday School material. This is the skeleton on which real faith hinges. Someone has said, the more you rub it the brighter it shines. And, you better believe it! It's true. It's amazingly true. So, check every nick and cranny. You'll be surprised what you may fish out.
Now, we don't have time in this study to take an excursion back through the O.T. and re-study every rinky-dink connection. But, there's a lot of little side trips here that would do you good. Let me illustrate my point. In Luke 1:15 Gabriel told Zechariah that his son, John "shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." Now that has so much relevance and intertwining to the O.T. that several volumes of books could be written on that subject. Yet we passed over that thought and didn't even comment. I heard about one man who got a PhD degree on the digestive .system of the termite. So, you see, where to stop is one of the problems I have to contend with in trying to develop these lessons. We're just hitting the high places, really. But, I hope you'll check out the corners, and the closets arid the shadow areas as we buzz by.
John (I'm talking about John the Baptist), was apparently a Nazarite, The N.T. doesn't specifically say this. Yet, that's apparently the connection Gabriel made reference to in v.15. The Nazarite concept didn't have anything to do with geography. It involved consecration for divine service' .under the Law of Moses. Usually it was a temporary pledge or promise known in the O.T. as a vow. Both men and women took this vow under the Law of Moses. (Numbers ch. 6 covers this). But, .apparently three men in the Bible were Nazarites for life: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. A: Nazarite could NOT drink or eat from the grapevine. They could NOT cut their hair, except for certain ceremonial purposes. They could NOT touch a dead person. Now, I don't understand all this; but, there was an amazing likeness in these three men: John, Samuel and Samson. Although, they lived centuries apart? the mothers of all three were barren like Elisabeth. Each woman prayed for a son. Divine appearances occurred with all three. John's birth and Samson's birth were foretold by angels. The lord appeared to Samuel when he was very young staying with Eli the priest. The mission of Samson was to save the Israelites from the Philistines. Samson was ONE of the last of the Judges of Israel. Samuel, the LAST judge of Israel, anointed the first two kings: Saul and David. John came as a witness of Jesus, we learn this in John's prologue. Now, some of these facts will help you to understand what is said about John the Baptist in future chapters.
But, right now, sneak an eyeball down to v.32-33 of Luke ch. 1. I guess you might call these the prophecies of Gabriel concerning Jesus-. He said "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David." This is prophesied widely in the O.T. You MUST understand this in a spiritual way. It is a spiritual kingdom. Not a physical or material Kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom. This kingdom will never end according to Luke 1:33. That corresponds to the prophecy in Isa, 9:7 and in Dan. 2:44. Notice how Luke here gives JUST ENOUGH to connect up Jesus (and John) to the prophecies Of the O.T. This is What we called Matthew's FULFILLMENT DOCTRINE. Now, I probably should have made you another WORKSHEET on what we're calling FULFILLMENT DOCTRINE. But, I didn't! By FULFILLMENT we simply mean that -what God earlier predicted and planned has now come to pass1. You see, both Matthew and Luke have emphasized that the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist was fulfillment of prophecy. If we understand this; THEN we are forced to conclude that Jesus was (and is) God's Son. And, that was the purpose, John said; "these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." (John 20:31).
O.K., it's time for John to be born. Mary is back at Nazareth. Elisabeth's full time came. Luke 1:57-66. Are you ready! "Now Elisabeth's full time, came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it come to pass, that on the eighth day they, came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zechariah, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he' would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marveled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all that dwelt around about them: and-all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their, hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him." O.K. when John was born, Zechariah had that sign he asked Gabriel for and his tongue was loosed (v.64). Have you thought about the miracle that was performed on Zechariah? Some people seem to think, only of the positive miracles of God, i.e. healing diseases, etc. But, sometimes miracles were negatives in this respect. Let me ask you a question. How was Zechariah's tongue loosed? Who did it? Why at that moment? The POINT IS that many things are happening behind the scenes; many things of which you and I are unaware. The Bible is God's way of educating us to this awareness. These things were written that we might believe Jesus Christ is God's Son. Zechariah praised God and these things influenced the people of the hill country MUCH. They were all Anxious to see what manner of child John would be. Zechariah and Elisabeth were careful to circumcise John on the eighth day according to the O.T. (v.59). This had to do with the sign of nationality given to Abraham in Genesis ch. 17. This may have been done at the temple in Jerusalem, but our text does not sound like it to me. I'm told the name JOHN literally means: "one whom God has graciously given." Thus, the name was appropriate even if none of his kinsmen were named John. The KJV here (v.63) says he asked for a "writing table." But most Bibles with a center reference point out the word should be "writing tablet." Then, v.66, the hand of the Lord was with John.
Alright, let's try to finish off the early days of John the Baptist which includes the rest of Luke ch. 1, in this lesson, about 14 more verses. When Mary went to Elisabeth, cur text said that Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (up in v.41). The Holy Spirit (or H.S., same thing) was the one that saw to Mary's conception (you will remember, v.35). And Gabriel said up in v, 15 that John the Baptist would be filled with the H.G. even from his mother's womb. You might notice here, it seemed to be one of the duties of the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Godhead) to see to it that O.T. prophecies were FULFILLED. V.67, where we'll begin reading in just a moment, indicates that Zechariah TOO was filled with the H.S., after the birth of John and after Zechariah's tongue was loosed, then he prophesied, this verse says. Now, what's really being said here is this: Zechariah was made a prophet, similar to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and other O.T. prophets. And his prophecy has been written down (here in v. 68-79). The fact that he was filled with the H.G. in v.67 is another way of saying Zechariah's prophecy is inspired. Thus what he says is just like one of the O.T. books of prophecy, except its short and tucked into the book of Luke. Incidentally, there was another O.T. prophet who gave us a written prophecy by that same name, the book of Zechariah. It's next to the last book in the O.T. and was written about 515-18 B.C. so don't get the two confused. But, let's read Zechariah's prophecy. V.67 beginning, "And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed Be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be call the prophet of the Highest: for thou sha.lt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.". O.K.v.80 is Luke's statement and not Zechariah, so we'll hold that for the time. :
Alright, before we make a few observations about. Zechariah's prophecy, be sure you get this prophecy clearly in focus. After Malachi the last book in the O.T., the spirit of prophecy ceased for about 400 years. But, the Book of Malachi closed the O.T. by saying (and I quote): "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Now do you remember the words of Gabriel? What he said to Zechariah by the table of incense in the temple concerning John? "he shall go before him [i.e. the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah [What for Gabriel?] to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17). Now, take the time to see how all this dovetails together. The Jews understood very well the teachings of the O.T., that ultimately the messiah or a saviour would come. They had anticipated this for centuries. And the scriptures clearly taught that THAT Saviour would be preceded by a prophet who would "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" in Gabriel's words. Now, I trust you understand that John the Baptist was THAT PROPHET who preceded the Lord and his mission was to "make ready. . .prepare" the way for the Lord. Or, as John said in his prologue , "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, [i.e. Jesus] that all men THROUGH HIM might believe." (John 1:6-7).
Now look at Zechariah's prophecy, he asserted (beginning in v.68) that "the Lord God of Israel... hath" (#1) "visited his people.", i.e. as prophesied in the O.T. (#2) "The Lord God of Israel... hath raised up a horn of salvation-- f or us." v.69. (#3) That horn of salvation came through "the house of his servant David", i.e. as prophesied in the O.T. you see. Then he re-states and amplifies this O.T. connection in v. 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75. In v-70 he says, the Lord God of Israel "spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began..." Then in the rest of that big long sentence, v71-75, Zechariah summarizes what those prophets said. Including God's oath to Abraham in (v. 73, 74, 75). Then in v. 76, Zechariah says, (#4) that child (i.e. John) "shalt be called the prophet of the Highest" I.e. a prophet of God. And (#5) he (i.e. John) "shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways." And (#6) that prophet shall "give knowledge of salvation." (v.77). And (#7) "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide OUR feet into the way of peace", i.e. salvation, (v.79).
Thus, Zechariah's prophecy (in a dozen verse), has spelled out that O.T. - N.T. relationship. that is so necessary to understanding these books. Now, this is really: FULFILLMENT DOCTRINE (as we've called it). Have you got it? Now, v.80 is short (and to the point) but it is very significant. Let's read it. Luke says, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts til the day of his showing unto Israel." John, the son of Zechariah's and Elisabeth's old age, grew both physically, mentally and spiritually. He was in the deserts (plural) until the time to start his ministry. In this one verse, Luke covers about 30 years in the live of John the Baptist. It's all we know! The word deserts here does NOT mean hot sand as far as you can see. It simply means a thinly inhabited district remote from any towns. So, I guess we would say, John was a country boy. As I said, this is all we know about John until he started preaching.
Let's close this lesson with a little review. You might remember that Luke ch. 1 is made up mainly of five speeches or dialogues. (#.1) is Gabriel's statement to Zechariah in the temple. v. 13-20, (#2) is Gabriel's statement and dialogue with Mary in Galilee about her conception, (v. 28-37). (#3) Elizabeth's inspired statement to Mary. v. 42-45. (#4) Mary's response to Elizabeth, v. 46-55. (#5) and last is Zechariah's prophecy, v. 68-79.
I'll see you in lesson # 6. So, Have a good day!