Thursday, October 15, 2009

10/15- Luke 1:5-13 Zechariah and Elizabeth-God prepares to come

[Zechariah and Gabriel]
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Luke 1: 5- 13

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.

Calvin abridged: Luke begins his Gospel with John the Baptist, just as a person who was going to speak about daylight would commence with the dawn. For, like the dawn, he went before the Sun of Righteousness, which was shortly to arise. Luke secures our respect for him while he is yet unborn, by pointing out the miracles around the earliest part of John’s existence, and by showing his commission from heaven as a prophet. 5-“Herod king of Judea”- Some think that Herod the Great was mentioned as he was the first foreign king; so that now was a suitable time for deliverance. But what is more important is that during Herod’s time the Jews retained some semblance of governing by the Sanhedrin (who were descendants of David then) whom Herod destroyed. “Zechariah of the family of Abijah”- The families of priests were arranged in certain groups by David (1 Chronicles 24:3,31). David’s intent in doing this was to have order instead of chaos, partly to oppose ambition, partly to provide that a few persons would not have all the power- by being in charge of the service and leaving the rest unemployed at home. Zechariah was descended from Abijah of Eleazar (Nbr. 20:28). So Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was a daughter of a Levite, as priests were permitted by law to marry a Levite.
6 “both righteous in the sight of God” – This is a noble testimony that they were not only honored among people, but they were upright and holy before God. We ought to see that those who regulate their lives by the commandments are considered righteous. When worshippers do not obey the law, worship is counterfeit [Calvin translates dikaiomata as ordinances- not decrees-thus applying it to their worship]. They are righteous in that the fear of God lives in them-not that they were perfect. Yet they cannot please God without getting forgiveness. 7- “They were childless”- By an extraordinary purpose of God, it was appointed that John should be born out of the common and ordinary course of nature (similar to Isaac Gen. 17:17; 21:1-3). 9 “according to the custom of the priesthood”- The law commanded that incense should be offered twice each day (Ex. 30:7,8). The priesthood is a living illustration that we need someone between God and us (as the priests were only allowed in the inner courts). Only one priest at a time was permitted into the Holy Place. The incense was to remind the people that the sweet savor of their prayers do not go up to heaven unless they go through a sacrifice of a Mediator. 12 “Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear”- Though God does not appear to his servants in order to terrify them, yet it is advantageous and necessary that they be struck with awe (Ps. 33:8), that they may learn to give God the glory due his name (Ps. 29:2). The presence of God fills people with alarm which not only leads them to reverence, but humbles the pride of the flesh- which is so strong that God’s power must overcome them. We can also infer that when God is absent is when we indulge in self-pride and flattery. 13- “Fear not”- The glory of God does not swallow us up with dread, but after it has abased our pride and foolish confidence, he stretches out his hand to raise them up. God does not stretch forth his gracious hand to the reprobate. We have no reason to fear if we know God, but we can be at peace. “Call his name John”- John means “the grace of the Lord” (1 Chr. 3:15). John’s grace is the mission he would bring to all. It should be noted that this grace and name are given to him before he was born [the grace of God precedes our actions].

Thought: The Jewish faith was losing hope. Herod was now king, the Romans were in charge, and even the symbolic Davidic judging of the Sanhedrin was about to be destroyed. By 70 A.D., the whole nation would be obliterated. The religious life of the day was in ferment and dividing- and under attack by the super secular Herodians, those who believed little- the Saducees, and those who were legalistic-the Pharisees. There were still godly people (like Elizabeth, Zechariah, Anna, Simeon), but most of them were older. The faith had little hope in that day. In such a context the power of God began to show itself again and God Himself came down. In our day, the Church in the west is weak, left with only a skeletal framework, and rapidly losing faith (in the last ten years there has been a 10% decrease in attendance in America). It appears also that the Church in the west is getting older demographically. Yet God is not dead nor doth He sleep. God’s power is often shown when we are weak. So once again, come Lord Jesus! Come and renew us. Come and abide with us in our lives, our families, our churches.

Prayer: O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel!”

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