From This Moment Forward Your Speech Will be Governed by the Spirit

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the sixty-seventh verse of the first chapter and continues through the twentieth verse of the second chapter. “And his father Zacharias 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 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 1:67-79). “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made with Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Beth-lehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manager; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:1-14). “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now god even unto Beth-lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (Luke 2:15-20). When you come to this particular passage found within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will find it beginning with the words which Zacharias would speak after his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed. If there is something I can’t help but be absolutely captivated by when reading the words which are found in this passage is the dramatic contrast between the last words Zacharias spoke and these words which were spoken here. As you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found earlier in this particular chapter you will find the angel Gabriel who stood in the presence of the living God appearing unto Zacharias beside the altar while he was offering incense according to the lot which fell upon him. It would be there within the Temple the angel Gabriel would appear before Gabriel and would emphatically proclaim the word of the LORD unto him. There beside the altar in the midst of the Temple of the living God you will find the angel Gabriel appearing unto this priest of the Lord after the order of the Levitical priesthood who was appearing before the Lord in the midst of the temple. What makes this truly astonishing and unique is when you consider the fact that the appearance of the angel Gabriel unto Zacharias not only indicated the living and eternal God saw him and was aware of him but was also aware of the prayers which he had prayed. What’s more is I would dare say the living and eternal God was very much aware of the righteousness which was present within the heart and life of Zacharias. In fact it would be as a direct result of the righteousness and prayers of Zacharias which would directly meet and collide with the divine will and plan of the Father that would create the necessary environment for the word of the Lord which had been spoken by the prophets Isaiah and Malachi to come to pass. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the opening chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the righteousness, the faithfulness and the obedience of Zacharias coupled together with his faithfulness in prayers that directly impacted heaven and collided with the divine will, plan and purpose of the living God. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and how absolutely incredible it truly is for there is something we have a great need of recognizing as we read the words found in this passage of Scripture. Within the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke we find him choosing to begin beyond the angelic visitation of Gabriel unto Joseph in a dream while he was thinking of putting away Mary quietly and privately. For the beloved physician the gospel narrative written concerning the Lord Jesus Christ would begin much sooner and much earlier than the account of the birth of the Messiah Himself. The beloved physician Luke deliberately and intentionally chose to begin earlier and much sooner than that and chose to begin with the angelic visitation of Gabriel unto Zacharias while he ministered before the Lord burning incense in the Temple of the living God. The beloved physician chose to begin with the accounts of the angel Gabriel visiting Zacharias as he ministered before the Lord in the midst of the Temple according to the lot that had fallen unto him. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that not only did the righteousness and prayers of Zacharias collide with the divine will and purpose of the living God but so also did the timing which would have been ordained and appointed for Zacharias for Zacharias to burn incense in the midst of the Temple. The more I read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding this priest of the Lord and how the angel Gabriel would appear unto him in response to his righteousness as well as his prayers. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible response of the Lord which not only demonstrated that he saw Zacharias but he also heard the prayers which he had prayed before the Lord. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for there is something we must needs acknowledge when reading this passage of Scripture as we prepare to understand the language and words Zacharias spoke in the presence of all those who were -there when both he and Elisabeth chose to name the child born unto them of the Lord John. There is something absolutely incredible about this when you take the time to think about it for within it we are brought face to face with the obedience of these two parents as they would deliberately and intentionally choose to obey the word and voice of the Lord in naming the child John according to the word of the Lord. This child which would be born unto them would indeed be born unto them in their old age and they would for the first time in their lives be parents—and not only parents but also parents to that one who would be the prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah which had been long anticipated and expected. I am absolutely convinced it is absolutely necessary to consider the words which the beloved physician Luke chose to write concerning the account of the angel Gabriel appearing unto Zacharias concerning the conception of his wife in her old age. There is something truly astonishing and powerful about the words we see in this passage of Scripture and how it brings us face to face with the narrative of this couple who had spent their years being devoted and faithful before and unto the living God. It wasn’t enough for Zacharias to serve as priest and minister before the Lord for Scripture also reveals how this priest of the Lord was also faithful and righteous before and in the sight of the living God. If you want to truly understand the narrative and account of John the Baptist there is a great need to begin with those who were chosen to be his parents. It was foreordained by the living God through His servants the prophets that the prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah would indeed be manifested in the earth to prepare the way for the Messiah, however, what wasn’t revealed during those days of the prophets was who the parents of this child would be. There is absolutely nowhere in the prophetic language and words where you find any mention of who the parents of this prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah would indeed be. When, however, we come to the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will find the revelation and account of those who were chosen by the living and eternal God to be the parents of this child. What’s more is it would be written and recorded in this passage of Scripture when these parents would learn and discover they would be the parents of this child who would be considered the prophet of the most High. With this being said I invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the fifth verse: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Asia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth 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 Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth 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 prepare for the Lord. And Zacharias 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 Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried 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 Elisabeth 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). We must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the righteousness of Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth. Not only are we brought face to face with the righteousness of Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth but we are also brought face to face with how they walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize that although they were righteous before God and walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless they had no child because Elisabeth was barren. Not only did they have no child because Elisabeth was barren but Scripture also reveals they were well stricken in years. Pause for a moment and consider how Zacharias and Elisabeth were both righteous before God and were both blameless in walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord and yet they were blameless and had no child. There is something to consider when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for they bring us face to face with the awesome reality concerning this couple who were not only barren but also well stricken in years—something that would have undoubtedly caused them to give up all hope and confidence in every conceiving and bearing a child. This particular mindset and reality is voiced and expressed when you read Zacharias’ response to the angel Gabriel when he appeared unto him b Eddie the altar in the Temple of the living God. It would be the beloved physician Luke who would write how it came to pass that while Zacharias 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. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it would be there in the Temple while Zacharias burned incense before the Lord that the Lord would do more than simply response to the incense which was burned before Him for the Lord would response to the prayers which Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth had prayed. If there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is the intrinsic link between the incense which Zacharias offered up before the living and eternal God and the prayers of His people. In reading the words found in this passage of Scripture closely you will find that not only do we find the prayers of Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth but we also find the prayers of the multitude of people who were outside the Temple at the time of incense. Oh there is something truly astonishing when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for there is this strong and intrinsic link and connection between the burning of incense before the Lord in the temple of the Lord and the prayers of his people. Within this passage of Scripture—not only do we find the presence of the prayers of Zacharias and Elisabeth but we also find the prayers of the multitude of people who were present outside the temple at the time of the burning of the incense. We dare not and must not miss this truly incredible truth for it brings us face to face with the fact that at this particular time—not only would incense rise before and unto the living God but so also would the prayers of the multitude of the people who were standing outside the temple. The more we read the words found in this passage the more we will see the strong and intrinsic link between the prayers of the saints and the burning of incense before and unto the living God. Within this passage we find the prayers of the people in the present tense as well as the prayers of Zacharias and Elisabeth in the past tense. I am absolutely convinced we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the incredible reality surrounding the burning of incense and the prayers of the saints which were and are offered before and unto the living God. I sit here today thinking about the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the righteousness and blameless of Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth—and not only the blamelessness and righteousness of this couple but also the prayers which they offered before the living God. Scripture is unclear when Zacharias had prayed that he and his wife Elisabeth might conceive and bear a child, however, what we find in this passage of Scripture is how the angel Gabriel appeared unto him and instructed him to fear not for his prayer was heard. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible that truly is for there is something truly spectacular about the words which this angelic messenger of the living God declared unto this priest of the Lord. There within the Temple of the living God this priest of the living God would receive a visitation from the angel Gabriel who stood in the presence of the Lord at the time of the burning of incense as well as at a time when the multitude of people without would offer their prayers before and unto the living God. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for I am convinced that on this particular day there was a tremendous atmosphere and environment that was conducive for the Lord to minister and move. Stop and consider how at this particular point the multitude of the people would pray without the Temple while Zacharias would be within the Temple offering incense before the Lord. What’s more is I would dare say that Zacharias did more than offer incense before the Lord there in the Temple as he would also lift up his voice in prayer before the Lord. Oh I can’t help but wonder if Zacharias had a moment there before the altar such as which Hannah had centuries and generations earlier when she herself was unable to conceive and was considered barren. It would be in the Old Testament book of First Samuel we find a man by the name of Elkanah who would have two wives—Hannah and Penninah. Scripture would make it very clear that Penninah had given children unto Elkanah but that Hannah was barren. What’s more is that not only was Penninah able to give children unto Hannah but she also sore provoked her through her antagonism and relentless criticism. Eventually it would come to the point where Elkanah would look upon Hannah’s plight and how absolutely sorrowful and heavy she was. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the Old Testament book of First Samuel is that it would be here in this passage of Scripture we find that despite the fact Hannah was barren and unable to conceive children she was loved by Elkanah. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for Scripture is very clear and specific when it describes how Hannah was unable to conceive children despite the fact that she was loved of her husband. In fact it would Elkanah who would speak unto Hannah his wife and ask her if he wasn’t of more value and worth to her than ten sons—something which would only compound Hannah’s sorrow and inner turmoil. Eventually Hannah would enter into the house of the Lord there in Shiloh and would pour out her heart and soul before the living God. It would be this prayer and cry of both her heart and soul that makes me wonder if Zacharias himself did not engage in something similar while he was present in the Temple of the living God generations and centuries later. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth that here we have two different individuals who perhaps desperately desired to have children and would pour out their heart and soul before the living God in His holy house and sanctuary. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first and second chapters of the Old Testament book of First Samuel: “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Thou, the son of Ziph, an Ephrathite: and he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Penninah: and Penninah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinas, the priests of the Lord were there. And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Penninah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: but unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when sent up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepiest thou? And why eatest thou not? And why is thy heart grieved? Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:1-8). “So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no Ramos come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli though she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went here way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more said. And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:9-20). The words which we find in the first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel are such which I would dare say need to be carefully considered and examined for they are very much similar in nature to that which we find in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Luke. It would be in the first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel we find Hannah going up yearly with her husband Elkanah to the house of the Lord which was in Shiloh as they would worship the Lord. It would be in the first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel we find Hannah rising up from eating and making her way unto the house of the Lord which was in Shiloh. It would be there in the house of the Lord in Shiloh she would pour out her anguish, her sorrow and the bitterness of her soul before the living God. Although her lips would not move she would speak before and would commune with the Lord from her heart. Oh if there is one thing we must needs pay attention to when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is when you consider the fact that although she did not voice her prayer with her mouth and although no words could be heard from her such was not necessary. Oh there are those who would think that we need volume and for our words and voices to be heard in order for our prayers to be heard in heaven—and not only in heaven but also by the living God. There are those who think that when we pray before the Lord we need to make our voices heard and even to increase our volume and decibel level for Him to hear us. There are countless men and women who think and feel that if we want to truly pray before the Lord who sits enthroned in the heaven with earth as his footstool we need to raise our voices and be loud in His presence. The truth of the matter is that we don’t need volume, nor even for our words to be heard audibly, nor even to use many words and vain repetitions in order for our prayer to be heard before the living God. Consider if you will. The following words which are found in the sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets. That they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:5-13). “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeders them. Are ye. Not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:25-34). “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he given him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:7-12). The words and language we find in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the concept of prayer within our hearts and lives. If there is one thing we must needs understand it’s that our prayer lives do not revolve around nor do they center upon much words and speaking, vain repetitions and loud volume. There would be those within the church who would like to think that these realities are entirely and altogether necessary for our prayers to be heard by the living God. The truth of the matter, however, is that there has never been nor will there ever be a need for us to resort to vain repetitions and loud volume in order for our prayer to be heard by the living and eternal God. If there is one thing the narrative and account of Hannah demonstrates and proves it’s that it is possible for us to voice our prayer from our hearts without needing to use our mouths and the living and eternal God hear us. The narrative and account of Hannah powerfully and wonderfully demonstrates the truth that we can speak unto and before the Lord within and from our hearts and do not need loud volume or even for our audible voices to be heard for our prayers to be answered. A lot of men and women would like to think that our voices need to be heard and that even our words need to be audibly heard in order for the living and eternal God to hear us and yet the truth of the matter is that this is simply not the case as was demonstrated by and through the life of Hannah the wife of Elkanah. As I sit here today thinking about and considering the narrative of Hannah as she appeared before the Lord in the house and sanctuary in Shiloh I can’t help but think about and consider the tremendous truth surrounding Zacharias in the New Testament. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read the words found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke we encounter one who was righteous before the Lord and who was blameless in walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. What’s more is that within this passage of Scripture we encounter one who appeared before the Lord within the Holy Place of the Temple of the Lord to burn incense. When the angel Gabriel who stood in the presence of the Lord appeared unto Zacharias he would not only command him to fear not but would also declare unto him that his prayer was heard before the Lord. In all reality I would dare say that on this particular day there would be two fragrances which rose before the living and eternal God. On the one hand there would be the fragrance and aroma of the incense which was offered upon the altar while on the other hand there would be the fragrance of the prayer which was prayed by Zacharias. Oh we don’t know whether or not Zacharias prayed his prayer audibly and caused his voice to be heard there in the Temple as it was just himself and the living God or if he prayed in his heart as Hannah had done years earlier. With this being said I can’t help but wonder what the multitude of people who stood outside the Temple were themselves voicing their own prayers before and unto the living God. There is not a doubt in my mind that Zacharias himself prayed before and unto the Lord—and even prayed for he and his wife Elisabeth to conceive and bear a child—and that there are those who were outside the Temple of the living God who were voicing their own prayers before the Lord. I can’t help but consider the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth which is found in this passage of Scripture and how there would be incense offered before and unto the living God in the mist of the Holy Place as well as the prayer of Zacharias and the prayers of the people which stood outside the Temple of the living God. Pause for a moment and consider the beautiful picture that is found here as not only would the fragrance, the aroma and the smoke of the incense which Zacharias burned before the Lord would rise before and unto the living God within the Holy Place. Not only this but picture if you will the prayers of this priest of the Lord and the prayers of the people rising like incense before and unto the living God. There is something truly unique and powerful about the words we find in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the intrinsic link between the prayers of the saints and the incense which arises from the altar of incense. On this particular day there was indeed the physical incense that would cause a fragrant aroma to raise before the living God from the midst of the Holy Place and yet there would be secondary fragrance and aroma that would arise and reach the very throne of the living God. I firmly believe that on this particular day there was a beautiful harmony and unity of the incense of prayers and the incense upon the altar that would reach the very throne of the living God. I would absolutely love to know what this particular day would have been like in the supernatural and spiritual realm as there would not only be physical incense which would be offered up before the living but there would also be the incense and fragrance of the prayers of the saints which would rise before the living God. I would love to know what it looked and sounded like on this particular day as the prayers of the people would rise up like a fragrant aroma before and unto the living God as well as the actual incense which would be offered by Zacharias the priest of the most high God in the midst of the Temple. With all of this being said I find it absolutely astonishing to consider the stark contrast which existed between the words which Zacharias would speak before the angel Gabriel in the midst of the Temple and the words which he would speak after his mouth would be opened and his tongue loosed after nine months of being unable to speak. If you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that there was indeed a powerful contrast and distinction which existed between the words and language Zacharias spoke as he stood in the midst of the presence of the angel Gabriel in the Temple of the LORD and the words which he would speak after declaring the name of his son would be John. What’s more is that as you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that the words and language which Zacharias would speak while standing in the presence of the angel Gabriel in the midst of the Temple of the Lord would indeed be words spoken from and with his flesh while the words which would be spoken nine months later would be spoken according to and by the Spirit. I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the power of nine months of silence and being unable to speak as there would be something that would be done within the heart and soul of the this priest of the most high God. The last words which he would speak would be words of doubt at the word of the Lord which the angel Gabriel would speak unto him. The angel Gabriel would appear unto him and would emphatically declare unto him that his wife Elisabeth would conceive and bear a son and that this child would be holy unto the Lord as he would be a Nazarite from birth. What’s more is that not only would this child be a Nazarite from birth but so also would have be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb of his mother. The angel Gabriel would deliver unto Zacharias very specific instructions concerning this child and would provide a strong and powerful confirmation concerning this child which would be born unto he and Elisabeth. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but see the strong and powerful contrast between those words which would be spoken in the flesh by Zacharias in the Temple of the living God and those words which would be spoken by the Holy Spirit. I cannot escape the absolutely incredible truth found in this passage of Scripture and how there would be a vast difference between the words Zacharias would speak in the flesh and the words which he would speak in the flesh. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs pay close attention to this for there is something we need to learn and understand concerning our own hearts and lives. There is a great need within our own hearts and lives to recognize the difference between us speaking with, through and from our flesh and our speaking by, through and according to the Holy Spirit. Scripture makes it very clear within this passage of Scripture that after Zacharias wrote on a writing tablet that the name of the child would be John his tongue would be loosed and his mouth would be opened. What’s more is that not only would his mouth be opened and his tongue loosed but so also would he be filled with the Holy Ghost. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the powerful contrast which exists between our speaking from our flesh and our speaking with and from the spirit. With this being said I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane when He instructed them to watch and pray for the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. There in the garden the Lord Jesus acknowledged that there was a vast difference between the spirit realm and that which we have been called to live and the realm of our flesh and living in our flesh. The more I think about and consider the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but wonder what those nine months were like for Zacharias. We know that he would depart from the Temple of the living God being unable to speak and that those who stood without the Temple would know that he had seen a vision in the midst of the sanctuary of the Lord. Zacharias would step out of the Temple unable to speak and I can’t help but wonder if he would consistently be reminded of the words which he had spoken in the presence of the angel Gabriel. Is it possible that during those nine months Zacharias would indeed be continually reminded of the final words he had spoken—words which he had spoken in the flesh in the presence of the angel Gabriel. Oh there is a part of me that wonders how many times Zacharias rehearsed in his mind the last words he had spoken from his mouth and how those words were words which expressed doubt in the word of the Lord. The angel Gabriel would indeed speak unto Zacharias concerning the birth of a son unto he and his wife Elisabeth and he would respond by asking how it would be since both he and his wife were stricken in years. Oh pause and consider the tremendous impact of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it would be a direct result of the words Zacharias would speak in the hearing and presence of the angel Gabriel that would cause his mouth to be stopped and his tongue bound for the next nine months. For nine months Zacharias would be unable to speak as he would perhaps rehearse time and time over and over again that encounter with the angel Gabriel in the midst of the Temple. For the next nine months Zacharias would indeed be unable to speak and I can’t help but wonder what it was like when he arrived in the hill country of Judaea and at the house belonging to he and his wife Elisabeth. I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with what it would have been like for Zacharias to make the journey from the city of Jerusalem unto the hill country of Judaea where his wife Elisabeth was. We know that Zacharias was unable to speak and there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if he conveyed unto his wife Elisabeth what had taken place within the Holy Place in the Temple of the Lord. Is it possible that Zacharias found a way to communicate with his wife Elisabeth there in the midst of their house in the hill country of Judaea concerning what had happened to him in the Temple? We know that he couldn’t verbally and audibly speak unto his wife concerning that encounter which had taken place there in the midst of the Temple and there is a part of me that wonders whether or not he would indeed reveal unto her what had happened. There is not a doubt in my mind that Elisabeth would indeed be shocked and stunned when her husband arrived home being unable to speak knowing that when he had departed from their home he was perfectly able to speak unto her and others. Now on this particular day her husband would return unto her unable to speak—something that would have caused her to wonder what would have happened. I have to admit that I firmly believe that Zacharias would have found a way to convey unto his wife Elisabeth concerning what had happened there in the midst of the Temple—and not only what had happened there in the Temple but also what the angel Gabriel had spoken unto him. Oh imagine what would and could have gone through the heart and mind of Elisabeth as she would learn and discover that which the angel Gabriel had spoken unto Zacharias there in the Temple of the living God beside the altar in the Holy Place. I would absolutely love to know what it would have been like for Zacharias and Elisabeth during those initial days when he arrived home unable to speak according to the word of the angel Gabriel. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like for Zacharias and Elisabeth after the Lord would not only look upon her but also carry out and fulfill the word He would speak through the angelic messenger Gabriel. OH there is something incredibly unique when you read the words found in this passage of Scripture for there while we see an intrinsic link between the offering of incense upon the altar and the offering of prayers by the multitude of the people outside the Temple we also see the strong contrast which exists between the words Zacharias spoke according to his flesh in the midst of the Temple of the Lord and the words which he would speak according to the Holy Spirit. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for there is something we learn about the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit and how the two are indeed contrary to each other. Oh the more we read the words which are found in the Scripture the more we are brought face to face with the clearly defined struggle and conflict which exists between the Spirit and the flesh within our hearts and lives. Scripture makes it absolutely clear there is a vast difference between the flesh and the Spirit and how the two are diametrically opposed to each other. This conflict which is found between the flesh and the Spirit is found in the seventh and eighth chapters of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle unto the saints which were at Rome—and not only within these two chapters but also within the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Galatian churches. What’s more is I would dare say that this contrast between the flesh and the Spirit is also demonstrated and manifested in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s this strong contrast and conflict which exists between the flesh and the Spirit and how the two are in constant struggle and conflict with each other. We as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize and understand this for it brings us face to face with the conflict of our own flesh with the Spirit and the Spirit nature within our lives. Having said and written this I invite you to consider if you will the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Roman saints beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse of the sixth chapter: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may bound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died to sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for. Ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14). “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that I might appear sin, working death in my by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: But I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in my. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law o God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:7-25). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritual minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raise up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:1-14). “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lascivious ness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revel kings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the afflictions and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-26). “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubled minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10). There is perhaps no greater declaration concerning the conflict and struggle which exists between the flesh and the Spirit than that which is found in the epistle written unto the Galatians. Within this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul declare that if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. What’s more is the apostle Paul goes on to declare how the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and the two are contrary to the other. So severe is this conflict between the flesh and the Spirit and the Spirit and the flesh that we cannot do the things that we would. With this being said, however, the apostle Paul goes on to declare that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law and are free to pursue and walk in the fruit of the Spirit. What’s more is that when you read the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by James you will find him writing how the spirit which dwells in us lust to envy and how the living and eternal God gives more grace. Oh there is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading these words for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the conflict which exists between the flesh and the Spirit and how the two are diametrically opposed to each other within our lives. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible reality of what we must needs be aware of—namely, the conflict and struggle that exists between the flesh and the Spirit within our lives. There is perhaps no greater need within our lives to recognize and be aware of this conflict which exists between the flesh and the Spirit for we are and have always been given a choice and decision to make within our hearts and lives—namely, whether or not we are going to live for and gratify the desires and pleasures of the flesh or whether or not we will walk in and live after the Spirit. I have to admit that as I read the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke I am captivated with the contrast which existed between the words he spoke in his flesh in the Temple of the living God before the angel Gabriel and the words he spoke in the presence of his wife Elisabeth and all those who were gathered at the time of the birth of their son. There is something truly astonishing about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find a powerful contrast between the words which Zacharias would speak in his flesh upon hearing the prophetic declaration from the angel Gabriel in the Temple of the living God and the words which he would speak in the hill country of Judaea. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the words Zacharias spoke after at least nine months of being unable to speak were words that would not originate from his own flesh but would be words which be anointed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for there is something we must needs understand concerning the words Zacharias had spoken after his mouth was opened and the string of his tongue loosed as he would not speak of his own accord. Although we find his mouth being opened, the string of his tongue being loosed and his speaking for the first time in at least nine months it would not be of his own accord that he would speak. Scripture makes it very clear that when Zacharias had spoken on this particular day he would not only do so having been filled with the Holy Spirit but would also prophesy. I sit here today thinking about and considering the incredible truth surrounding the words and language found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the wonderful reality of Zacharias being able to speak for the first time in more than nine months and yet the words which came out of his mouth were not his nor were they of his own accord. It’s as if although the living and eternal God was permitting him to speak for the first time He would not allow him to speak from his flesh. The moment of the birth of John the Baptist would indeed be a moment ordained and appointed by the living and eternal God and it’s almost as if the living God was not willing to allow that moment to be spoiled and tainted by anything that would be spoken of and from the flesh. It would be on this particular day the Holy Spirit would indeed fill Zacharias and would enable him to prophesy as He would grab a hold of his tongue. Despite the fact that his mouth would be opened and the string of his tongue would be loosed the Holy Spirit would not permit him to speak of and from his flesh. It’s as the Holy Spirit filled Zacharias on this particular occasion that he would be able to live and move from that moment on in, by and according to the Spirit. I have to admit the more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful reality of Zacharias speaking from his flesh in the Temple of the living God and then being prohibited from speaking for the next nine months. Zacharias would speak from his flesh there in the midst of the Temple in the presence of the angel Gabriel who stood before the living God and as a direct result of the words he spoke he would be restricted and prohibited from speaking until the appointed time. Oh there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what those nine months were like for Zacharias as he was unable to speak according to the word which the angel Gabriel had spoken unto him. What thoughts went through his mind and what emotions and feelings were experienced within the depths of his heart and soul as he was confronted with his own silence? In all reality there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if there aren’t countless men and women who need an encounter like this within their lives. Oh perhaps they don’t need an encounter with the angel Gabriel or with other angelic messengers but an encounter with being restricted and prohibited from speaking any thing that is not approved by the living God. We know from the words of our Lord Jesus that we can and will give an account for every idle word that proceeds out of our mouths and that by our words we will either be condemned or justified. For nine months Zacharias would indeed be restricted and prohibited from speaking a single word as the living and eternal God would shut his mouth and bind the string of his tongue according to the word which the angel Gabriel had spoken unto him. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about what we read concerning Zacharias after his mouth was opened and the string of his tongue was loosed. Zacharias would have his mouth opened and the string of his tongue loosed thus enabling him to speak, however, before he would speak a single word of himself and even of his own accord he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs acknowledge and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the presence of the Holy Spirit within the life of Zacharias—and not only the presence of the Holy Spirit but also the Holy Spirit enabling him to prophesy. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit filled Zacharias that he might be enabled to prophesy according to the word of the Lord rather than speak of his own flesh. What’s more is that I would dare say that the Holy Spirit’s filling Zacharias would dramatically change and alter him from that point on. I would dare say that from the moment the Holy Spirit filled Zacharias he would never be the same again as he would be entirely and altogether transformed by the power, the person and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Within this passage we find a powerful picture of the Holy Spirit filling Zacharias the father of John the Baptist and how that filling would not only enable him to prophesy but I would also argue and contend that it would completely and utterly alter his manner of living—and especially his speaking. I would argue and contend that from that point in time Zacharias would be completely filled with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit and would no longer be able to speak of his own accord but his words would be meted and measured by the Holy Spirit. Not only this but imagine what manner of man Zacharias would have to be in order to be the father of John the Baptist. Stop and consider what type of man Zacharias would need to be in order to raise that one who would grow up to be the prophetic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah. Zacharias would not only be filled with the Holy Spirit but would also prophesy according to the word of the Lord according to the person and presence of the Holy Spirit that would fill him. As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth that is found within this opening chapter of the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke. That which we find here is Zacharias hearing the word of the Lord and responding in his flesh to that which the angel Gabriel would speak unto him. As a direct result of this Zacharias would be prohibited and restricted from speaking at all—regardless of whether or not he would speak from his flesh or whether he would speak according to the word of the Lord. For at least nine months Zacharias would be restricted from speaking a single word as a direct result of his speaking out of and from his flesh in the presence of the angel Gabriel in the midst of the temple of the living God. At the birth of his son John, however—not only would the mouth of Zacharias be opened and the string of his tongue loosed but so also would he be filled with the Holy Spirit. It would be a direct result of being filled with the Holy Spirit that he would prophesy. Oh how absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to completely govern that which we speak. Although Zacharias’ mouth would be opened and although the string of his tongue would be loosed he would not be authorized to speak of his own accord nor even from his flesh. Instead of speaking from his flesh and of his own accord Zacharias would prophesy as a direct result of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit which had completely filled him. Oh we must needs pay close attention to this for it brings us face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the need for the person and presence of the Holy Spirit within our lives. There is a great need within our hearts and lives to be men and women who are not only filled with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit but also who are unable to speak of our own flesh and of our own accord. Oh that we would indeed be men and women whose words are completely governed, meted and measured by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Oh that we would be men and women who would truly recognize the need to be completely and entirely governed by the Holy Spirit and that we would allow the Holy Spirit to have complete control of our tongue—and not only our tongue but the words which proceed from out mouths. It is with this in mind I leave you with the following words which were written by James in the third chapter concerning the tongue and the words which proceed forth from out mouths and from our tongues: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the grater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor lusteth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasters great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defile the the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive bear rise? Either a vine figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:1-10).

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