Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Reading Day 5 – Life Changing News (Luke 1:15-20)

““For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”” (Luke 1:15–20, NASB95)

After giving Zechariah the good news and telling him that his son would indeed be great in the sight of the Lord which was the incredible hope of all parents who themselves love our Lord. The angel said that John was going to be set apart from all others. First of all, he was not going to take wine or other fermented drink. We read in Numbers 6:1-21 of the special vow of a Nazarite, whereby the individual would dedicate himself to the Lord for a specific purpose and a specific period of time. This vow was marked, in part, by abstaining from wine, strong drink, or vinegar. He would even go so far as to not drink anything from the fruit of grapes or even eat fresh or dried grapes.

This vow was usually a temporary one for a specific reason. Verse 4 of Number 6 tells us that these observances were to be for, “All of the days of his separation.” Verse 5 starts off with “All of the days of his vow of separation” and then goes on to speak of the other observances of the Nazarite vow. Verse 13 speaks of the fulfillment of these days indicating their normal temporary nature. Even the apostle Paul appears to have made one of these vows. We read in Acts 18:18, “Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.” (Acts 18:18, NASB95) Then in Acts 21 in order to evidence before the people Paul’s endorsement of words of Moses he was instructed by the elders, “What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.” (Acts 21:22–24, NASB95) This was not an instruction for non-Jews such that they also were to observe their worship of God in this way as the verses which follow clearly indicate. But it was for the Jew a special commitment before God demonstrating his being set apart for a specific purpose.

Understanding that for most this was a temporary vow, there were also those such as Samson (Judges 16:17) and Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11) who either kept or were intended to keep the Nazarite vow from birth. John was going to be another one of those life-long set apart Nazarites though no mention is made here of him observing the other restrictions. John was to be set apart in this way. And his task was to bring many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. This was not something he would do in his own strength for we also read that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.

He was going to be constantly empowered by God’s Spirit as was Elijah before him. As he went about doing what God had planned for him many people’s hearts would be changed. Fathers would begin to attend to their children (and participate in raising them), and those who had been disobedient would gain the wisdom of those who seek after God with their whole heart. All of this is for the purpose of preparing people for the coming of the Lord.

What an amazing plan the angel laid out to Zechariah. It must have been mind-boggling. Zechariah’s response was probably no different than many would have had. He asked, “How can I be sure of this?” Then he pointed to their obvious physical limitations founded in their past experience and their current age.

The angel’s answer was very much to the point. “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” Gabriel is only one of two angels identified in Scripture by name (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). The other is Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7). Gabriel appears in Scripture as the one making as the one making amazing proclamations as God’s ambassador, and what he had to say came personally through him from God. In order to prove his words true and as a consequence of Zechariah’s unbelief, Gabriel told Zechariah that he would be unable to speak until this proclamation occurs. Because Zechariah did not believe the words of the angel he would not be able to utter any words until the baby is born.

Gabriel closed by reinforcing the perfect timing of God by saying, “which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” It is so easy for us to question God when our prayers seem to go unanswered or they take too long, or even when the answer does not seem feasible. We are reminded here that nothing is impossible with God, nor will anything thwart His plans.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”” (Luke 1:37, NASB95)

“But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”” (Luke 18:27, NASB95) 

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