The Birth of John the Baptist

In Luke 1:57, Elizabeth  bears a son, and all of their friends and relatives rejoiced with her. On the eighth day, they came to circumcise him, according to Mosaic Law (Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3). Everyone fully expected the child to be named Zechariah after his father, but when Elizabeth told them that his name was John, they appealed to Zechariah to make a sign – as he was still mute.

When Zechariah wrote that the child’s name was John as well, he then became able to speak again, praising God. This event, together with the very fact that this couple beyond child-bearing years now had a son, spread news and wonder throughout the hill country that God’s hand was surely involved. This child, they knew, was going to be special.

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zecha...

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zechariah writing, “His name is John”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to prophesy and from verses 68-79, he says a great deal about his son and his calling, as well as the coming savior, that he would not have known without such divine guidance. In verse 69, the “horn of salvation” that God has raised up is of course, Jesus. The horn was a symbol of strength and power, and is referred to in many Bible passages, including Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2. In the ensuing verses, he continues to speak of this salvation in terms of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

Then, in verse 79, he addresses the child, saying that he “will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins…” The first part is in keeping with what is foretold in Malachi 3:1, and Isaiah 40:3. And true forgiveness of sins is part of the new covenant that was promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, which is affirmed by Jesus during the institution of the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:28, when he spoke of “my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

In confirmation of just how special this child was to be, verse 80 tells the reader that he “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” John the Baptist would wait for his calling from the Lord.

(This year’s reading schedule for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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The Conception of John the Baptist

Nowhere in the Bible but the Gospel of Luke are we told about the events leading to the birth of John the Baptist. Though certainly not predicted for as long of a time as the birth of the Lord Jesus Himself, it had been anticipated for hundreds of years – at the very least, since the time of Malachi (Malachi 4:5), which most scholars place at about the middle of the 5th century B.C.

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 5 opens with “in the days of Herod, king of Judea…” There tends to be some confusion as to which Herod the Bible refers to between the gospels and the Book of Acts. This one is the one known as “Herod the Great.” He was the vassal king of Judea by virtue of his relationship with the Roman government and the favor he found with Octavius. He was born in Edom (Greek “Idumaea”) and thus a descendant of Esau. His family converted to Judaism, and he referred to himself as a Jew. The main portion of his reign was from 37 B.C. to his death in 4 B.C.

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, is said in the same verse to be “of the division of Abijah.” The number of priests was extremely large, and they were organized into 24 divisions. Each division would have one of their priests serve in the temple twice per year – the question of who served being decided by casting lots. But none was allowed to burn incense more than once in their lifetime – some never at all. This was Zechariah’s once in a lifetime event – in more ways than one.

Imagine Zechariah’s excitement as he contained himself with the expected dignity and reverence when he entered the temple and approached the altar of incense to perform the task that he had likely been anticipating for a great length of time. But as he did so, there appeared an angel of the Lord, and his excited happiness was immediately changed to overwhelming fright! But the angel uttered words to put him at ease that would change not only his mood (once more), but his life – forever! Though he knew his wife, Elizabeth, to be barren, he was told that they would have a child, and that his name would be John.

Zechariah & the angel

Zechariah & the angel (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

John, the angel told Zechariah, would not drink wine or strong drink, and would be great before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” turning many people back to God and make them ready for “the Lord.”  Significant also in verse 15, the angel said that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” For us as Christians, this is just one of a few passages that should forever put to rest any question of whether an unborn baby is a person!

Zechariah’s doubt, when he asked how he could know this would really happen, knowing that Elizabeth was beyond child-bearing years, was met with a rebuke that would cause him to be mute until the child was born. The angel, who we learn here was named Gabriel, informed him that he stands in the presence of the Lord, and was sent by God to give Zechariah this good news. This is only the second of the angels we read about in scripture that is mentioned by name (the other being Michael, in Daniel 10:21 and Jude 1:1-9. Revelation 8:2 tells of seven such archangels that stand before God.

Zechariah finishes his service in silence, making signs to those who were inquisitive at his delay inside the temple for so long, and then went home. Elizabeth, we are told in verse 24, did conceive in the following days, and kept herself hidden from public view for 5 months.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Luke 1 – The Birth of John the Baptist

Luke, who also wrote the Book Acts, addressed this book specifically to Theophilus, who was likely a government official (note the way that he refers to him in verse 3).   As it opens, it has been 400 years since Malachi prophesied.  John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, was a priest.  In those days, the priests were separated in divisions, each of which served for a week – except during times of major feasts, such as Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles.    Zechariah was chosen by lot to serve in the Temple (verses 8-9).  Zechariah (as he and his wife Elizabeth were childless and advanced in years) had no doubt prayed often for a child.  An angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him they would have a son, and that his name would be John.  He was not to drink wine or strong drink, and would be filled with the Holy Spirit “even from his mother’s womb” (indicating he would then already be a human person), and would “make ready for the Lord” (verses 11-17).  Also, jumping ahead to (verses 41-44), upon Mary’s visit, Elizabeth’s baby leaped for joy in her womb.

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zecha...

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zechariah writing, “His name is John”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both as a rebuke for his unbelief, as well as the sign he asked for, the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he would be unable speak until his son was born (verses 18-23), and  Elizabeth did conceive.  The “sixth month” in verse 26 refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  At this time, the Angel Gabriel appeared to a virgin (Mary), who was pledged to be married to Joseph, who was of the house of David (verses 26-27).  The reference to Nazareth being a city of Galilee is confirmation that Luke’s intended audience was unfamiliar with the territory.  Mary is told that she would have a son and name him Jesus, that God would give him the throne of his father, David, and that “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (verses 28-33). He also tells her of her relative, Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Verses 46-55 are Mary’s praise to the Lord, and are known as Mary’s song.

When Elizabeth bore her child, the neighbors expected them to name him Zechariah after his father, but she insisted that he would be called John.  Not satisfied, they tried to get Zechariah to give them a sign (since he still could not speak).  He wrote on a tablet that “his name is John,” and immediately he could speak again – because then all that the angel of the Lord had said to him previously had come to pass.  Verses 65-66 indicate that the word of this miraculous birth and Zechariah’s change became famous very quickly.  Zechariah’s prophecy in verses 67-79 verify that the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people through Abraham – and the Messianic age – had indeed begun!

Side note: Excavations at Nazareth by archaeologists have located tombs, olive presses and other indications that it was a small agricultural community.  The most interesting discovery of the past few years is that of a first-century house there.  A very good article on this discovery can be found at this article at BiblePlaces.com.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.