Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifty-seven through eighty of the first chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the arrival of the first of two individuals whose births were foretold by the angel Gabriel and even the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah. As you come near to this passage you will find the full term of Elizabeth’s pregnancy coming to pass and Elizabeth finally giving birth to the one whose birth had been promised and foretold by angels and men. At this particular point in the overall account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find Elizabeth not only giving birth to that which which was conceived according to the promise and word of the living God, but also to something that was near and dear to her heart. Within this passage you will find Elizabeth giving birth to something which her heart and soul had desperately yearned and longed for for years. Scripture is unclear how old Elizabeth was when she conceived the life of John the Baptist within her womb but there is not a doubt in my mind that we conception of John was something that brought immense joy to her heart and soul. When Elizabeth finally conceived according to a word that was given and spoken unto her husband Zechariah it must have completely and utterly overwhelmed her given the fact that Luke makes it very clear that she was stricken in years and was completely barren and unable to bear children. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Elizabeth when she finally knew within her body that she was pregnant and was actually going to conceive a child. In fact, scripture is utterly and completely silent concerning Elizabeth’s reaction and response to the news that she would conceive and bring forth a son until Mary shows up in the hill country of Judah to visit her. Luke writes and records that in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy Mary shows up—and even that only in response to Mary herself receiving news that she would conceive and give birth to the Messiah whose birth had been long foretold and spoken of by the law and the prophets.
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Elizabeth—not only to hear that she would conceive a child according to the word and promise of the Lord, not only recognize within her body that she would had conceived, but also when she finally brought forth and gave birth to that which was foretold by the angel Gabriel and the prophets Isaiah and Malachi. I would love to know what Elizabeth’s response to her husband was when he informed her that they would bear and bring forth a son. This reality and concept is actually quite astonishing and remarkable when you think about and consider it because you will recall that when Zecharias came out of the temple and from the presence of the angel Gabriel he could not speak. For a full nine months—the entire term of Elizabeth’s pregnancy—Elizabeth’s husband was prohibited from speaking. This actually causes me to wonder if he even communicated to her that he had received a word from the throne of God in heaven and had encounter the angel Gabriel. I can’t help but wonder if he even relayed unto anyone the encounter he had with the angel Gabriel in the temple by the altar, for we know that he was dumb and unable to speak. Did zecharias even inform his wife Elizabeth that he had received a word and vision from the Lord and that the angel Gabriel had appeared unto him? Did he relay unto her the content and message of the angel and that according to the word of the Lord they would conceive and bring forth a son? I can’t imagine what it was like for Zecharias to experience the presence of the angel Gabriel by the altar in the temple while ministering before the Lord and to come out of that experience unable to speak, and even that for a full nine months. I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Zecharias to experience the presence of the angel Gabriel in the temple by the altar and to hear the message that was delivered and spoken unto him, and yet he was completely unable to speak forth the content of that message. Pause and consider for a moment receiving such a word from the Lord and instead of being able to speak concerning that vision and to convey it to those before and around you your lips were sealed and you were prevented from speaking. Imagine knowing within your heart and soul the significance of the birth of the child your wife would conceive and bring forth, and yet you couldn’t speak anything to anyone concerning that reality because of your unbelief and doubt.
What I so love about this particular passage of scripture is that within it we find one who was not only barren conceiving and bringing forth a son, but also one who was advanced in years conceiving and bringing forth a child. Within this passage of scripture we find one who had spent all her life barren and unable to conceive any children bringing forth a son according to the word and promise of the Lord. While her husband was performing his ministry and duty within the temple before the altar of incense he experienced and encountered the angel Gabriel who not only declared unto him that his prayer had been heard, but also that his wife Elizabeth would conceive in her old age and bring forth a son. Perhaps the single greatest truth that is found at the center of the barren and the virgin conceiving and bringing forth sons is summarized with the words which the angel Gabriel spoke unto Mary, as well as the words which Elizabeth herself spoke unto Mary upon Mary’s arrival in the hill country of Judah to visit with her and Zecharias. If you read the words which the angel Gabriel spoke unto Mary upon appearing unto her you will find the following words: “And, Behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:36-37).Additionally, we must also understand that which was taking place during these days as being summarized with the words which Elizabeth herself spoke unto Mary, which are found a little further along in the passage. In the forty-fifth verse of this particular chapter we find the following words: “And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Not only must we recognize and understand that during these days that which was impossible with men is made possible, but we must also understand that during those days there would be a performance of those things which were spoken by the Lord. It’s worth noting that there were two distinct words which were released from the Lord concerning that which would take place during those days—the first word which was spoken unto Zecharias in the temple by the altar of incense, and the second which was spoken unto Mary while she was living in the town of Nazareth. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the tremendous reality—not only of that which is impossible being made possible, but also there being a performance of that which was spoken by the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that when you come to this passage of Scripture you will find a beautiful and wonderful harmony of impossibility and a fulfillment of that which was spoken by the Lord unto His servants—not only unto Zecharias and Elizabeth, but also Mary as well.
I feel it necessary—before we even get into that which is found in the passage at hand for today—to journey back to the words which were spoken by the angel Gabriel unto Zecharias and Elizabeth. I find it absolutely necessary to take a step back and to truly consider and take to hear that which the angel Gabriel spoke concerning that which would manifest itself in the earth according to the word of the Lord which was spoken by Gabriel. After four-hundred years of complete and utter silence the silence would finally be broken by a harmony of words which were spoken by the angel Gabriel from the very throne of heaven, and from the heart and mind of the living God. In verses five through twenty-four we find the following words which describe the encounter between the angel Gabriel and Zecharias who was fulfilling his duty in the temple before the altar of incense:
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zecharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had not child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zecharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zecharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zecharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zecharias, and marveled that he atarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Luke 1:5-25).
I find that which is contained within this particular encounter with the angel Gabriel absolutely tremendous and wonderful, for when Zecharias emerged from the temple after tarrying therein for quite some time, he was completely unable to speak. Luke writes and records that when he came out, he could not speak unto the people before and around him in the courts of the temple, for he beckoned unto them and remained speechless. Imagine having just received a word from the Lord through the angel Gabriel in the temple beside the altar and emerging from that encounter completely unable to speak to those before and around. Consider what it must have been like for Zecharias to emerge from the temple knowing what the angel had spoken unto him, and yet being completely unable to rejoice before the Lord, praise the Lord, and even speak unto others concerning that which the angel had spoken unto him. Consider what it must have been like for Zecharias to emerge from the temple knowing the Lord had spoken directly through him by the angel Gabriel, and knowing what that word would mean for man, and yet he was completely unable to speak unto anyone and convey that which he had heard from the Lord. What’s more, is that not only was Zecharias unable to speak unto those in the courts of the temple concerning that which the angel Gabriel had spoken unto him, but he was also completely unable to speak unto his own wife Elizabeth that which the angel Gabriel had spoken unto him. The people perceived from his silence that he had seen a vision from the Lord, although Zecharias could not convey what had happened to him, nor could he convey unto them the content of the message he had received from the angel concerning his own wife conceiving and bringing forth a son. Imagine being Zecharias and knowing that your wife who was barren and well stricken in years was going to conceive and bring forth a son, and yet you were unable to speak unto her the word which was spoken unto you. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Zecharias to engage in intimacy with his wife, and yet be completely unable to speak unto her concerning that which was spoken unto him. He knew that as a result of their engaging in intimacy they would conceive and bring forth a son, and yet he was completely unable to speak anything unto his wife concerning what he had seen and heard. There is a part of me that wonders whether or not Zecharias had ever spoken unto his wife Elizabeth concerning the vision he had seen in the temple of the Lord, or whether or not he had kept this vision to himself. There seems to be an indication that he must have at least relayed something to his wife, for when she conceived and brought forth her firstborn and only son, she corrected those around her who felt she should name the child Zecharias after his father. Elizabeth knew that this wasn’t the name which was to be given unto her son, for she corrected their words and declared unto them that his name was to be John. In fact, it was this issue with the name of the child that brought Zecharias forth into the picture and caused him to write on a writing pad the name which was to be given unto his son. In fact, it was in that moment when he wrote down the name of the child that his tongue was loosed and he was finally able to speak to those before and around him.
The word which the angel Gabriel spoke unto Zecharias in the Temple of the Lord was one that would bring forth the reality of impossibility being made possible, for Elizabeth who was barren and well advanced in years would conceive and bring forth a child in the earth. What I love about these particular days is that as soon as Elizabeth conceived she hid herself for five months—perhaps for fear of what others might say, speak and even think about her when they considered the fact that she had conceived and brought forth a child in her old age. IN fact, I can’t help but find a direct connection between the fact that Elizabeth hid herself for five months after she had conceived, and the child himself being in the desert until the day of his showing. If you continue reading this passage of Scripture you will find that when the child was brought forth into the earth, he waxed great and became mighty in spirit, and remained in the desert until the day of his showing. Not only did his mother hide herself for five months upon recognizing and understanding that she had conceived and become pregnant, but so also the child which grew inside her was hidden and concealed in the desert until the day of his appearing and manifestation in the earth. Despite the fact that this child would be great before both God and men, the child would himself remain in the desert removed from the pleasures of the world in order that he might be consecrated unto the Lord. In fact, when the angel Gabriel spoke unto Zecharias there in the temple, he declared unto him that he would be great in the sight of the Lord, that he would drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he would be filled with the Holy Ghost—even from his mother’s womb. The angel Gabriel spoke a very clear word concerning this child which would be conceived by Zecharias and Elizabeth, for this child would be great in the sight of the Lord, would be filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb, and would drink neither wine nor strong drink. Please don’t miss the significance of this tremendous word which was spoken unto Zecharias, for that which the angel spoke unto Zecharias was a word of consecration and holiness before the Lord, for this child would be consecrated before and unto the Lord. From the womb this child would not be his own, but would belong completely, solely and utterly to the Lord. From before this child would even speak his first word, and before this child would even take his first step, he would be consecrated, separated and marked as holy before and unto the Lord. This child would and could not be his own, and would and could not determine his own course of action, or the direction he thought and believed his life should go. From before his birth and being brought into the world this child’s destiny and path was already ordained by the living God.
I am convinced that in order to truly understand the word which was spoken concerning John the Baptist and the type of life he was to lead and live within the earth, it is necessary to not only consider the words which Zezcharias prophesied before all those who witnessed his tongue being loosed, but also the words which the Lord spoke unto the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah when He appeared unto him. If you begin reading with and from the sixtieth verse of this first chapter you will find a discrepancy between that which others believed the name of this child should be, and that which Zecharias and Elizabeth themselves knew the name should be. After Elizabeth declared that the child’s name should be called John, the people present made signs unto Zecharias in order to understand what has felt and believed the name of this child should be. Scripture records that after Zecharias wrote down the name John on the writing table, his tongue was loosed, and he was able to speak unto men. It’s worth noting that when his tongue was finally loosed, the first thing he did was prophesy—not only prophesy concerning the word of the Lord within the earth, but also concerning the destiny of his own son would grow up to go before the face of the Lord as His messenger. Immediately after Zecharias wrote down the name John on the writing table, his tongue was loosed, and he was filled with the Holy Ghost, and he began to prophesy. Consider if you will the words which Zecharias himself prophesied and spoke concerning the work of the Lord in the earth, as well as what manner of child his own son should and would be in the earth:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an 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 called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt 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” (Luke 1:68-79).
IN order to truly understand and appreciate the words which were spoken and prophesied by Zecharias unto those who were present during those days, it is absolutely necessary that we consider them in light of that which was spoken by the angel Gabriel unto Zecharias within the temple before and by the altar of incense. When the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zecharias and spoke unto him concerning the conception and bringing forth of a son, the angel declared unto him that this child would be great in the sight of the Lord, and would drink neither wine nor strong drink. The angel Gabriel would declare concerning this son that he would be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. What’s more, the angel Gabriel declared unto Zecharias that this child would bring he and his wife much joy and gladness, and that many would rejoice at his birth. Furthermore, the angel Gabriel would go on to declare that many of the children of Israel would this child turn unto the Lord their God, and he would go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elias, in order that he might turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disboedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. When speaking unto Zecharias the angel Gabriel declared unto him that this child’s destiny would already be determined and purposed by the living God—a reality which is actually quite interesting and intriguing, for this would indicate that neither Zecharias, nor his wife Elizabeth had any say or control over what direction their son would go during those days. While I don’t have any children of my own yet, I am very much aware that many parents when they give birth to their children have certain expectations on what they would like their children to do, where they would like them to go to school, and much more. There are many parents who upon having children would like to chart out and map the course of their children before they are even born, and would like to plan the destiny and purpose of their children. There are some parents who don’t care what their children do so long as they are healthy, happy and successful, while there are other parents who want to be completely and utterly involved in every facet of their child’s lives—from the time they speak their first word until the time they get married and begin having kids of their own. What we find in the account of the birth of John the Baptist is that neither John himself, nor even his parents could dictate and determine what he would do with his life. The angel Gabriel made it perfectly clear unto Zecharias that his son would be great before the Lord, would be filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb, would neither drink wine nor strong drink, and would go before the face of the Messiah as His divine messenger. This is actually quite interesting and intriguing, for it left absolutely no room for debating when it came to the plans and purposes for this child. There was absolutely no margin for compromise when it came to the birth of this child, for the child’s purpose was determined by the Lord Himself, and could and would not be altered by any plans of man.
The more I read the account of the birth of John the Baptist, the more I can’t help but find great intrigue in that which was spoken concerning him, for there is not a doubt in my mind that those who knew Zecharias and Elizabeth would seek to instruct them on the way in which their child should go. If they attempted to instruct them concerning the name of the child, and how they felt it should be Zecharias after the order of his father, there is not a doubt in my mind that they would have attempted to instruct them on what the child should do with his life. There is not a doubt in my mind that those who were closest and those who knew Zecharias and Elizabeth well would have made attempts to instruct them on what this child should do with his life. Perhaps this is what I find as so remarkable and so incredible about the words which Zecharias prophesied and spoke after his tongue was loosed before all those who were present on the day the child was given his name. When the tongue of Zecharias was finally loosed we find him prophesying concerning the child and declaring that he would be prophet of the Highest, and that he would go before the face of the Lord to prepare his way his and to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of sins. Zecharias knew for nine months—and even before his wife Elizabeth would conceive—what manner of child this should be, and what his purpose and his destiny was before the face of the Lord. This is truly remarkable and incredible when you think about it, for it reveals the tremendous fact that neither Zecharias, nor even John Himself could choose, dictate and control what course his life could and would take. I am sure there would have been those who would have thought that John should have remained in Jerusalem and should have aligned himself with the family history by becoming a priest of the living God. I am sure there would have been many who would have thought and considered how John should have grown up to become a priest as his father Zecharias was, and to train under the priests which were present in Jerusalem. What’s so incredibly interesting is that Zecharias knew that his son would not follow in his footsteps and become a priest after the order of the priests within the land. Zecharias knew that John was not destined, nor was he purposed to be a priest of the most high God, for he was to be established in the earth as a prophet of the most high God. Before the child even had the chance to think about the direction of his life, his life would already be mapped out by the divine will, plan and purpose of the living God.
SURRENDERING CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE! I can’t help but come face to face with something absolutely incredible when reading the words which are found in this first chapter of the gospel which was written by the beloved physician Luke. As you read this passage of Scripture you will find Zecharias being instructed and being spoken to very clearly concerning what manner of child this should be, and what this child should and would grow up to do and accomplish within the earth. There was a tremendous need for Zecharias and Elizabeth to surrender themselves to the will, the plans and purposes of the living God. There was a tremendous need for both father and son to surrender themselves to the divine will, plan and purpose of the living God in order that the fullness of the purpose of God for this child should be completed and fulfilled. Within this reality is a tremendous prophetic word to us who are living in this generation—us who are the forerunner of the Messiah in the earth. As surely as John the Baptist would be the forerunner of the first coming of the Messiah in the earth, so also we in this generation are the forerunners of the Messiah who is coming back and who will return to capture and rapture His bride and people unto Himself in the heavens. As much as we read of John the Baptist being the forerunner of the Messiah to go before His face in order that he might make ready and prepare a people to meet the Lord, so also we must make ready and prepare a people to meet the Messiah who will not be coming for the first time, but will in fact be coming back and returning a second time. There is within this passage of Scripture a tremendous word of instruction and caution as we are to fully recognize that we don’t have control over our lives and that which we think we should and could be doing. One of the things I have been wrestling with as of late within my own life is making an attempt to chart my own course and make plans for myself. I have spent a considerable amount of time discontent in my current role and discontent in the place I am in within my life, and have been seeking for something greater, have been seeking for something more—something that is far beyond what I have experienced. I have spent a considerable amount of time looking beyond what I presently have—not only professionally in the job that I have, but also as it pertains to ministry and the church I am attending. I have found myself being sorely discontent in my present situation and circumstance and knowing that there is a great need for me to live for something greater than what I have been living for. I have found myself recognizing and understanding that I will only be truly content and truly satisfied within my life if I am doing something that is for the glory of the living God and not for my own honor, my own pleasure, my own desire, and my own will. The question we must all ask ourselves is whether or not we can and will fully and completely surrender ourselves to the divine will and plan of God for our lives, and whether or not we are willing to relinquish control of our lives in order that the will and plan of the living God might be manifested within our lives. Neither John the Baptist nor Zecharias could choose the direction he would go in with his life, for his path—his destiny if you will—had already been planned and mapped out by the living God.
As I bring this particular writing to a close I feel compelled to leave you with the words which the Lord Himself spoke unto Jeremiah who was himself born into a family of priests of the most high God. For all intents and purposes Jeremiah should have grown up to serve as a priest of the most high God in Jerusalem and in the Temple of the living God, and yet the Lord took Jeremiah from among the priests and called him to stand before him as a prophet, thus completely redirecting the entire course of his life. There was that which was expected and that which was anticipated for Jeremiah, and yet there was that which the Lord Himself had planned and purposed for Jeremiah, which was that Jeremiah would stand before Him as a prophet of the most high in order that he might deliver the word of the Lord unto the southern kingdom of Judah. I leave you with the words which the Lord spoke unto Jeremiah, which are found beginning with the fourth verse of the first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah. Consider if you will the words which the Lord our God spoke unto Jeremiah concerning the destiny and course of his life and where he should go and what he should do:
“Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, ZBefore I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).