Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The History of the Nativity – Part 1

Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, '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."
(Malachi 4:5, 6)

[Herod the Great ruled in Judea from 37 to 4 BC. He was a client King which means he served the Roman Empire, and could be replaced by Caesar. Now some people will try and tell you they know the exact date of all this. The Bible gives us many clues but never asserts a certain date. My best estimate is that this is around the first month of the Jewish calendar "Nisan" in the year 5 BC. Nisan starts with the new moon following the vernal equinox, in the spring of each year. (Resolve with verse 26 "the sixth month")

Zacharias is a priest, and the priesthood was divided into 24 divisions with each serving in 1 week rotations. Zacharias has the honor of lighting the incense in the temple very close to the veil that separates the most Holy place holding the arc from the rest of the temple, when he is approached by an angel of God.

Zacharias and Elizabeth remind me very much of Abraham and Sarah as they are aged, and childless but very faithful to God. The Angel foretells the conception and birth of John the Baptist and even quotes from Malachi 4.]

18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." 19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

[Now you would think that having an angel appear to you in the temple of God which you are lighting incense would be sign enough for Zacharias; but he was not used to speaking with angels, so when he asked a few too many questions he was given a sign that this was from God, he was struck dumb, unable to speak, until after the birth of John.

Gabriel identifies himself by name and fulfilling his primary role as the chief of the angelic messengers. Under normal circumstances a priest would just light the incense then come out and offer a public prayer for the people, but this time Zacharias takes far too long then emerges unable to pray. When the course of his service was complete he goes home to his wife and they make a baby. Now I'm guessing he wrote all this down to explain it to his wife, because he will be mute for 9 months and the scripture does not say Gabriel spoke to Elizabeth. Nevertheless after Elizabeth conceives she stays out of the public sight for 5 months, rather than try to explain how someone her age is pregnant. To Elizabeth, God is using this child to take away her shame, as she does not yet see the plan God has for John.

So if Elizabeth conceived in Nisan in the spring of the year that would be March for us, and John would be born in November or December.]

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible."

38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

[About 6 months later Gabriel visited Mary in the month of Elul which would have been August in 6 BC; announcing her conception and the coming birth of the Lord. Mary would be a teen aged girl, engaged but not yet married. I told you last year some alleged that Mary was not a virgin that the word used only meant a young maid, but that is not correct. The Greek word "parthenos" not only means she was a virgin, but that she was of age, eligible to be married. Further in verse 34 she clearly asserts her virginity, as a challenge to having a child. But Gabriel tell her that her child will be from the Holy Spirit rather than from the seed of a man.

Mary's willingness to be used in this way is remarkable because it would be shameful for her to be pregnant before her marriage. This is an act of faith much like we studied in Romans 5, where she is asked to endure trouble, and persevere for God's glory allowing this trial of faith to build character. Since Gabriel also tells Mary about the pregnancy of Elizabeth, she decides to visit her cousin Elizabeth.]

39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."

[Even in the womb John was filled with the Holy Spirit, and knew when he was in the presence of the unborn Christ. Elizabeth was also filled with the Holy Spirit and seems to understand what God is doing, both by the Holy Spirit and also from the written explanation of her husband. This is a wonderful confirmation for Mary as she sees the plan of God taking shape, and the work of the Holy Spirit in Elizabeth. Pay attention to verse 45 "Blessed is she who believed", they word for believe here again means that Mary was trusting the word of the Lord as delivered by the angel Gabriel. Faith was at work even in the conception of Jesus.]

46 And Mary said:

" My soul magnifies the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His name.

50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him

From generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

And exalted the lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.

54 He has helped His servant Israel,

In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers,

To Abraham and to his seed forever."


56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

[Mary praised God, and remained with Elizabeth until it was time for her to deliver.]

No comments:

Post a Comment