God Remembered His Promise: Christmas Series Part 2 of 7.

Luke 1:5-7
“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. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.”

For 4 millennia, through the Law and the prophets, God promised over and over again to send His Messiah into the world. Then, 400 years after Malachi penned the final book of the Old Testament, there were no prophets, no word from God: Nothing. It was a very dark time.  But quietly, in the fullness of time, God’s plan began to take shape, just as He said it would. 💖 It began when an angel was sent to an unlikely couple, advanced in years, who had prayed for a very, very long time to have a child.

An Angel Appears To Zacharias.

Luke 1:8-12

“So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, STANDING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ALTAR OF INCENSE.  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.”

Zacharias was a priest of ancient Israel.  He had be chosen by sacred lot at this time of the year to minister before the LORD in the temple at the altar of incense.  This was a much-coveted priestly job because every priest who ministered at this altar always had all his prayers answered.  That would prove to be the case on this day for Zacharias, though there would be an important difference.  Something happened that changed his life, and that of the entire world, forever.

During the course of his duties, as he stood by the altar of incense, an Angel of the LORD (Gabriel) suddenly appeared to him. He told Zacharias that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would soon have a son.  To say that this was astounding news is more than understatement. Not only were they both very old but Elizabeth had never been able to have children.  She was barren. This boy would be a very special child; so special that they were not to name him after any of their relatives.  They were to call him, “John.”

The Angel went on in verses 15-17, “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. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 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.”
Zacharias Doubts Gabriel.
Being a very old man with a wife who was barren, Zacharias was so incredulous, he did not believe the angel’s message. How do you doubt an angel? 😲 They CANNOT lie!  
It isn’t that they can lie, but don’t:….. THEY CANNOT! 
Because of his unbelief, Gabriel said he would be struck dumb–unable to speak–until the boy’s birth.  I have no doubt that God wanted to prevent any more words of unbelief from coming out of his mouth that would mess up his miracle.
Mary visits Elizabeth
The Birth Of John.
Just as the angel foretold, Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant.  The time soon came for her to deliver her son. Let’s follow the story.
Luke 1:57-60
57 “Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
All those who came to circumcise the boy were dumbfounded that his parents were not naming him after his Dad or a close relative.  So they questioned his father about it.  Let’s continue the story.
Confused Emoji
Deaf AND Dumb?
Luke 1:61-66
“But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea
Tell me something: If Zacharias was only dumb, meaning “Unable to speak,” then why did they have to make signs to him to ask him what the child should be named?  BECAUSE HE WASN’T ONLY DUMB; HE WAS DEAF AS WELL!! 
Notice that the instant he wrote John’s name on the tablet, not only was was his tongue loosed, but his hearing was restored as well, just as the angel had said!
Secrets In The Hebrew And The Greek Languages.
There is more to this story below the surface than simply a story about John’s birth, however. You see, all names in the Bible have a meaning. God loves to hide secrets in them for us to discover so that we will be even more blessed.
John, “Iohannan” in Greek, means “Grace.”  Yep. That’s right; Grace opened Zecharias’ mouth.
The angel, Gabriel, had also told him that John would not only be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and turn the hearts of many back to the Lord, but that he would come “In the spirit and power of Elijah.”
😳 Why did he say that?  Why Elijah and not some other prophet? 🤔  Because Elijah was a type of John the Baptist in the Old Testament. His name is actually a conjunction of two abbreviated names of God: “Elohim” and Yahweh.”  His name literally means, “Yahweh is Creator God.”  Elishah, who came immediately after Elijah, was a type of Christ.  His name means, “God (El) is Savior (Y’Shuah)!” AWESOME!
Coat Of Camel’s Hair.
If you know your Old Testament well, you’ll remember that Elijah wore coarse clothing made of camel hair.  That probably sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  It should! 😁  John, many years in the future, would wear the same type of clothing. 
Now, both these men were no-nonsense kinda guys who told it like it was and preached the unvarnished truth to the people of Israel; no sugar coating.  John, however, had the greatest job of all time:  To prepare the way of the Lord Jesus!
(John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness.)
Jewish Tradition And The Altar Of Incense.
There is a very interesting, though perhaps little known, Jewish tradition which maintains that the Jewish priests kept the mantle of Elijah and preserved it down through the years.  Yep! The very the same camel hair coat that Elishah took from him when he was raptured and with which he struck the Jordan river.
They believe that the camel hair coat of Elijah is the very same coat worn by John the Baptist.  The Jewish rabbis assert it was kept in a compartment inside the altar of incense. Amazing! When Gabriel appeared to Zacharias that day, if the legend is true, it could very well be that he was holding the actual coat of Elijah and gave it to Zacharias for John to wear when he came of age.  It could be! 🤷‍♀️
Hebrew scroll
More Secrets In The Hebrew Language.
But that isn’t all. Our heavenly Father has hidden some other little goodies for us in this wonderful story in the meanings of the names of the main characters.  “Zecharias (Zachariah in Hebrew)” is derived from two Hebrew words: “Zachar,” which means “Remember” and “Ya,” which is the short form of “God.”  His name literally means “God remembers.”
Elizabeth’s name is from these two words:  “Eli,” which means “my God” and “Shevah,” which is the number seven (complete) means, “Oath or promise.” Beersheba (be-er shévah), for instance, means “Well of promse.” Her name means “God’s promise.” You already know that “Iohannan-John,” means “GRACE.”
For more on the meaning of numbers in the Bible, you may follow the link below to a short series on that topic:
God’s beautiful message to us is this:
“God remembered His promise and brought forth GRACE: JESUS!”   
no room at the inn
No Room At THE Inn.
Remember the inn where there was no room for Mary and Joseph?  Well, it wasn’t just any inn.  The Holy Spirit purposely made use of the definite article, “THE.”  Why it that so important?  You’ll have to read on. It’s the topic we’re going to study in Part 3.  You may follow the link below to continue this series and if you’d like to find the answer to that question. By the way, you’ll also learn some very interesting, though little-known, history as well:

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